Can AI Help You with Your Summer BBQ?

My obsessions over the years have been barbecue (BBQ) and AI. I thought that I would combine them this year to get ready for my Fourth of July celebration.

AI Generated Smoker (designed with Stable Diffusion)

What is BBQ?

BBQ means something specific for me. BBQ means that I fire up the smoker and go low and slow to cook pork, beef, or even some vegan options. BBQ could also mean grilling out to make some burgers and hot dogs using high heat.

Southern BBQ often refers to a cooking method in which meat is slow-cooked over low, indirect heat, typically with wood smoke. The specific type of wood used can vary by region and can significantly affect the flavor of the meat. Common choices include hickory, mesquite, oak, and fruitwoods like apple or cherry.

In the United States, there are even significant regional variations within BBQ:

  1. Carolinas: In the Carolinas, pork is often the main focus. Eastern North Carolina is known for “whole hog” barbecuing and a vinegar-based sauce, while Western North Carolina (or Carolina Piedmont) style typically uses a “shoulder-only” approach and a vinegar-and-tomato-based sauce. South Carolina also has a unique mustard-based sauce known as “Carolina Gold.”
  2. Kansas City, Missouri: Kansas City BBQ is characterized by a sweet, thick, tomato-based sauce and ribs.
  3. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis is known for both “wet” and “dry” ribs. The wet ribs are brushed with sauce before, during, and after cooking, while dry ribs are seasoned with a dry rub.
  4. Texas: Texas BBQ often centers around beef, particularly brisket, cooked over post oak. There are actually several distinct styles within Texas, including East Texas style (meat is slowly cooked to the point that it is “falling off the bone,” typically marinated in a sweet, tomato-based sauce), Central Texas style (“meat market style,” typically involves rubbing the meat with spices and cooking over indirect heat), West Texas style (“cowboy style,” involves direct heat cooking), and South Texas style (features thick, molasses-like sauces that keep the meat very moist).

My favorite style of pork is North Carolina pulled pork made from a pork shoulder with a tangy vinegar sauce. My favroite beef is a Texas Brisket. I have spent a decade learning how to make a brisket like I found in my travels through text.

Plan Your BBQ Menu

This is where we can turn to AI for some ideas. Let’s ask ChatGPT to plan a menu for our BBQ.


  1. Classic Deviled Eggs: A staple in southern cuisine. You can add a bit of flair by garnishing with paprika or bacon bits.
  2. Vegan Stuffed Mini Peppers: Mini bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of quinoa, black beans, corn, and salsa.


  1. Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Slow-cooked pork shoulder, shredded and served with a tangy Carolina-style vinegar sauce.
  2. Texas Style Beef Brisket: Tender brisket seasoned with a spice rub, slow-cooked over post oak and mesquite wood.

Vegan Main

  1. BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches: Tender jackfruit makes a surprisingly effective meat substitute and pairs perfectly with a smoky BBQ sauce. Serve with coleslaw on a soft roll.


  1. Classic Coleslaw: Great as a side or on top of the pulled pork or BBQ jackfruit sandwiches.
  2. Collard Greens: A southern classic, cooked until tender and flavored with onions, garlic, and a hint of vinegar.
  3. Vegan Baked Beans: Use a plant-based protein instead of traditional bacon for a vegan twist on this classic dish.
  4. Cornbread: A must-have at any Southern BBQ. Make a traditional version and a vegan version using plant-based milk and a flaxseed egg substitute.
  5. Potato Salad: Creamy and tangy, this dish can be easily made vegan by using a plant-based mayo.


  1. Peach Cobbler: This sweet, fruity dessert is a Southern tradition. Serve with vanilla ice cream (or a vegan alternative) for a real treat.
  2. Vegan Pecan Pie: A Southern staple, make this vegan-friendly by using a flaxseed mixture in place of eggs and coconut oil in place of butter.


  1. Sweet Tea: A must-have for a Southern BBQ. You can also offer unsweetened tea and a sugar substitute for guests who prefer less sugar.
  2. Lemonade: A classic, refreshing drink for a hot summer day.
  3. Assorted Craft Beers and Wines: Offer a variety of local craft beers and wines for your guests to enjoy.

This menu is pretty solid. It is a bit complicated, but it has some ideas that I am sure that you can borrow to take your barbecue up a notch.

Going Next Level on Your Sauces and Sides

I have hosted about 20 parties that featured BBQ. I have learned that sauces and sides are what people will remember about your event. You need a range of sauces to please the masses and you need to have a surprising side.

AI Generated BBQ Sauces

I let my guests add the sauce to their food and offer three styles: a sweet Kansas City sauce, a vinegar North Carolina sauce, and one signature sauce. This is where we could use AI’s help. Let’s generate a bunch of ideas for sauces and maybe we will find an idea that people will remember.

  1. Bourbon and Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce: A rich, sweet and smoky sauce featuring the complex flavors of bourbon.
  2. Smoky Chipotle BBQ Sauce: A smoky, spicy sauce using chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a kick.
  3. Pineapple and Mango BBQ Sauce: A fruity, tangy sauce with a tropical twist.
  4. Maple and Mustard BBQ Sauce: A sweet and tangy sauce featuring the unique flavors of maple syrup and mustard.
  5. Blackberry and Jalapeno BBQ Sauce: A sweet, spicy, and tangy sauce that pairs the fruitiness of blackberries with the heat of jalapenos.
  6. Sriracha and Honey BBQ Sauce: A balance of spicy and sweet flavors, great for those who love heat.
  7. Balsamic and Fig BBQ Sauce: A rich, deep flavored sauce that balances the tanginess of balsamic vinegar with the sweetness of figs.
  8. Ginger and Sesame BBQ Sauce: An Asian-inspired twist on BBQ sauce, great for a unique flavor profile.
  9. Apple and Cinnamon BBQ Sauce: Sweet and slightly spicy, this would be especially great for a fall barbecue.
  10. Cherry and Ancho Chili BBQ Sauce: A sweet and smoky sauce, with a hint of spice from the ancho chili.
  11. Roasted Garlic and Onion BBQ Sauce: A classic flavor combination, resulting in a sweet, savory sauce.
  12. Coffee and Molasses BBQ Sauce: A rich, dark, and complexly flavored sauce.
  13. Tamarind and Agave BBQ Sauce: A sweet and tangy sauce with a unique flavor profile.
  14. Cranberry and Orange BBQ Sauce: A fruity and tangy sauce that would be especially fitting for a holiday barbecue.
  15. Lime and Cilantro BBQ Sauce: A fresh and tangy sauce with a Mexican twist.
  16. Peach and Bourbon BBQ Sauce: A sweet and tangy sauce that uses ripe peaches and a splash of bourbon.
  17. Lemongrass and Coconut BBQ Sauce: An exotic, Southeast Asian-inspired flavor combination.
  18. Tequila and Lime BBQ Sauce: A zesty, tangy sauce with a boozy kick.
  19. Pomegranate and Honey BBQ Sauce: A sweet and slightly tart sauce that’s sure to impress.
  20. Raspberry and Chipotle BBQ Sauce: Sweet raspberries balance the heat of chipotle in this unique sauce.

There are definitely some good ideas here. The idea is to use ChatGPT or the like to generate some ideas that might surprise you and help you find your trademark sauce.

Ancho Cherry Bomb Sauce

I was quite take with the cherry and ancho chili sauce idea. Let’s use AI to the idea further and see where it goes.


  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
  • 1-2 dried ancho chilies, seeds removed
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for sautéing


  1. First, you’ll want to rehydrate your ancho chilies. Place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for about 15-20 minutes until they’re soft. Once rehydrated, finely chop the chilies.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, add a bit of olive oil and sauté your onion until it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for another minute or so until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add the cherries to the saucepan. If they’re fresh, you’ll want to cook them down until they’re soft. If they’re frozen, just heat them through.
  4. Add the chopped ancho chilies, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper. Stir until everything is well combined.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. You want the flavors to meld together and the sauce to thicken slightly.
  6. After the sauce has simmered, use an immersion blender or a regular blender (in batches if necessary, be careful with the hot liquid) to puree the sauce until it’s smooth.
  7. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add more honey. For more tang, add more apple cider vinegar. If you’d like it smokier, a bit more smoked paprika could do the trick.

Keep tweaking and you will hit the bullseye.

AI Generated BBQ Sides

Now, let’s create a new slide for a menu that folks will compare other sides to for years to come.

  1. Fried Green Tomatoes with a Spicy Remoulade: A Southern classic with a spicy twist, perfect for a summer barbecue.
  2. Grilled Corn with Lime and Chili Butter: The sweet corn gets a boost of flavor from tangy lime and slightly spicy chili.
  3. Bourbon Baked Beans: Give the traditional BBQ baked beans a fun, boozy twist with a splash of bourbon.
  4. Honey Jalapeno Cornbread: Add a bit of kick to sweet cornbread with some diced jalapenos.
  5. Sweet Potato Fries with a Smoky Aioli Dip: Oven-baked sweet potato fries served with a smoky, creamy aioli.
  6. Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey: Swap out the usual pork for smoked turkey in this traditional Southern dish.
  7. Cajun Grilled Okra: Give okra a bit of a kick with some Cajun seasoning and a quick turn on the grill.
  8. Pimento Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos: A Southern favorite, pimento cheese, stuffed in jalapenos and baked until golden.
  9. Charred Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint: Add a touch of smoky flavor to sweet summer watermelon by charring it lightly on the grill, then pairing with salty feta and fresh mint.
  10. Southern Style Coleslaw with a Tangy Mustard Dressing: A bit tangier and less creamy than the traditional mayo-based coleslaw, this can be a refreshing change.

A lot of this ideas could work. I wish I could try all of them, but I think Grilled Corn with Lime and Chili Butter and Sweet Potato Fries with a Smoky Aioli Dip would hit well for your party.

Final Thoughts

You can definitely use AI to help you plan your BBQ and generate some novel ideas for BBQ sauces and sides. As you can see, we can create a menu, lots of ideas, and even recipes to try. Use ChatGPT as your BBQ copilot. And, make sure you enjoy having your friends and family sharing food, drinks, and laughs.

CJ Enjoying My Trademark BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich: The BBQ Mirage

Happy 4th of July!

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