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    23 Classic Summer Recipes That Everyone Should Master

    The key to perfect summer food is not to overthink it.

    Design by Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

    1. The perfect CHEESEBURGER.

    Victor Tatum /

    The secret to perfect patties? Plenty of salt and pepper, really good beef, and nothing else. As for the bread, nothing beats a potato bun.

    Recipe: The World's Best Cheeseburger

    2. A BLUEBERRY PIE with filling that isn't too thin or too thick.

    James Ransom /

    There are so many smart things about this recipe. It's open-faced, which means that the fresh blueberries don't get overpowered by massive amounts of crust. And, fresh blueberries are cooked with water, cornstarch, lemon juice, and sugar on the stovetop before they're poured into a blind-baked crust, which means the blueberries get really sweet and soft, and extra moisture gets cooked out before it sogs up the crust.

    Recipe: Rose Levy Beranbaum's Open-Faced Fresh Blueberry Pie

    3. A MARGARITA made with freshly squeezed lime juice.

    Anyone who's tasted a proper, shaken margarita made with fresh lime juice knows that bottled sour mix is basically a crime against your taste buds and also all of humanity. In addition to fresh lime juice, use good quality orange liqueur — I love Cointreau, which is what this recipe suggests — and silver tequila. If you find that it's too sweet for you with the liqueur and the extra sugar, go ahead try one with just tequila and agave.

    Recipe: Perfect Margaritas

    4. A creamy POTATO SALAD.

    The combination of mayonnaise and tender white potatoes is undeniably delicious, but potato salad can go wrong when things get too complicated or, worse, over-dressed. For best results: peel the potatoes and cook them perfectly, then cut them big enough to give the salad texture but small enough so that there's plenty of surface area for the dressing to cling to.

    Recipe: Potato Salad

    5. A VINEGAR-BASED POTATO SALAD, for everyone who "doesn't like mayonnaise".

    Mayo haters abound, so there's definitely room (and need) on your summer table for a salty, tangy, mayo-free potato salad. The rules are similar — cook the potatoes perfectly, cut them in big enough pieces, etc. — but the dressing should be a little more abrasive, and the potato skins are best left intact.

    Recipe: German Potato Salad

    6. Perfectly crunchy COLESLAW.

    Green cabbage is best, and you'll do best to draw some of the water out first (here's how and why). Also, a little sugar in the dressing is a good idea.

    Recipe: Creamy Coleslaw

    7. A no-frills PEACH COBBLER.

    Summer peaches are something worth looking forward to all year, so why mess with them more than you need to. A little extra sugar, a simple biscuit topping, and maybe some ice cream is all they need.

    Recipe: Classic Biscuit-Topped Peach Cobbler

    8. A simple GAZPACHO.

    Removing the peels and seeds of the tomatoes before blending leads to a perfect texture and deep flavor.

    Recipe: Gazpacho


    Don't overthink the strawberry shortcake; the simple biscuit should take a back seat to sweet, bright red strawberries.

    Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake

    10. Citrusy FISH TACOS with just the right amount of spice.

    Grilled fish tacos are pretty much the ultimate beach food, but they're also great at home on the porch. Don't overthink things — citrus, spice, avocado, and maybe a spoonful of mango salsa

    Recipe: Grilled Fish Tacos with Lime-Cabbage Slaw

    11. Tender, messy, saucy BABY BACK RIBS.

    Marcus Nilsson /

    The goal of baby back ribs is to cook the meat so that it falls of the bone when you bite into it, not when you pick a rib up off of the serving platter. Also, there should be plenty of barbecue sauce but not so much that the ribs are drowning.

    Recipe: Best-Ever Barbecued Ribs

    12. Rich, buttery CORNBREAD.

    I first made this recipe for a shrimp boil a couple of years ago, and I haven't strayed since. Don't be scared by the amount of butter; that's what gives the cornbread such an addictively moist crumb. If you don't have cast iron skillet, you really gotta get one.

    Recipe: Cast-Iron Skillet Cornbread

    13. Beautifully grilled CORN ON THE COB.

    Peden and Munk /

    When you start with fresh, sweet summer corn, it's actually pretty hard to go wrong with corn on the cob. Grilling the corn in the husk makes for beautiful presentation and less work for the cook, and you can still get perfectly caramelized kernels.

    Recipe: Whole Corn On The Grill

    14. Basic SALSA.

    Alton Brown's salsa recipe calls for no fancy ingredients and no cooking. Let the salsa sit in the fridge overnight before serving, so that the flavors really have a chance to shine.

    Recipe: Salsa

    15. GRILLED CHICKEN good enough to compete with burgers and steaks.

    Peden Munk /

    Bland, boring grilled chicken stands no chance against summer grilling favorites like burgers, dogs, and big ol' cuts of meat. But chicken can be delicious in its own right, if you do it up properly, with enough flavor to compliment the meat but not overpower it, and enough wherewithal not to overcook it.

    Recipe: Grilled Citrus Chicken

    16. A next-level PASTA SALAD.

    When it comes to pasta salad, you want to pair al dente pasta with strong but classic flavors like cheese, cured meat, and very ripe tomatoes.

    Recipe: Emeril's Macaroni Salad

    17. A classic Old Bay SHRIMP BOIL.

    A real shrimp boil is a great way to feed a big group of people, and eating with your hands is FUN.

    Recipe: The Original Old Bay Shrimp Boil

    18. Freshly brewed SWEET TEA.

    Sweet, strong iced tea is a southern favorite, but it has a place in everybody's summer rotation.

    Recipe: Southern Sweet Tea

    19. A pared-down CUCUMBER SALAD.

    Todd Coleman /

    Cucumber salad is meant to be a side, not a star. The best cucumber salad is one that's crunchy, tangy, and just slightly pickled, and it's best served alongside ribs or another kind of barbecued meat.

    Recipe: Cucumber Salad

    20. BAKED BEANS from scratch.

    Canned beans are... well, fine. But making your own baked beans with bacon (and rendered BACON FAT), aromatic vegetables, barbecue sauce, and brown sugar is so much better. Truly, you'll forget what the canned version even tastes like after you've tried the homemade kind.

    Recipe: The Best BBQ Baked Beans

    21. A CAPRESE SALAD with truly great ingredients.

    22. A quick and easy SANGRIA.

    The best sangria is a perfect balance of red wine, brandy, orange juice, and chopped fresh fruit. Any other strong ingredients or substitutions change things pretty dramatically, and why mess with a good thing?

    Recipe: Easy Traditional Red Sangria

    23. A great STEAK, grilled to exactly the temperature you want it.

    A great cut of steak just needs to be seasoned liberally with salt and pepper — like, douse that baby in salt and pepper — and left alone to do their thing on a very hot grill. Get an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure you're cooking your steak exactly how you like it.

    Recipe: Perfectly Grilled Steak