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Side for Smoked Brisket & Ribs? Help!

I'm hosting a barbeque this weekend and my lovely husband is smoking both a brisket and Memphis style ribs. I'm on deck to provide a side (I was thinking a potato gratin of some sort and maybe a beet/ goat cheese salad). These sides may not complement the homey goodness of the smoked ribs and I thought I'd throw it out the the chowhounders to see if you had any suggestions/ sides that you've made that you absolutely loved.

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  1. My standard side for barbecue is a corn salad. Get one large bag of extra sweet corn kernels, cook until barely done, drain and let cool. Take one large red pepper, one large green pepper, and one small or one-half large red onion, and dice them all into pieces about the size of the corn kernels. Mix the veggies together, and dress with a raspberry vinaigrette made of 1/3 cup good olive oil, 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon or more of sugar (it should taste noticeably sweet but still tangy).

    Serve at room temperature. It's even better if you make it in advance and let the flavors meld for a hour or two before serving.

    This is not only delicious and a perfect complement flavorwise to the spicy barbecue, but it's also quite pretty to look at. I usually serve it in a black ceramic bowl to enhance the color effect.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BobB

      bobB, i love your corn salad idea. i've seen it done as a heartier dish, too, by adding black beans -- maybe a more sw style dressing and cilantro. but the key is the beautiful "confetti corn"!

      and i concur with all those who say that coleslaw of some sort is an absolute requirement to go with smoked meats like ribs and brisket. typically, in the south, we'd also have a potato salad.

      the sweet-sour of the slaw (in whatever proportions), the crunchiness, and the vegetal quality of the cabbage (or cabbage plus green bell peppers, carrots, onions) all are a great contrast to the smoky, heavy meat. and the potato salad is more or less a neutral, fatty foil for the rich smoky flavors (plus, who doesn't like potato salad?).

    2. We love spicy pinto beans cooked to a creamy consistency, with warm tortillas and bbq sauce, along with a fruited cole slaw.

      1. Both Paula Deen and Ina Garten have recipes for a corn souffle type dish that use both whole kernel and cream style corn. It comes out like a spoon bread. We kick it up a notch by adding Tabasco sauce. BBQ seems to want "comfort food" side dishes.

        I think cole slaw really goes with BBQ as well. You don't have to do "ordinary" cole slaw, try one that has both red & green cabbage, some scallions, a little cider vinegar, a dash of sugar, some buttermilk and a little mayo.

        A lot of people serve mac & cheese with BBQ. You can elevate it a level or two by using several kinds of cheese and perhaps cavatelli or other interesting pasta.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Diane in Bexley

          Oooh, Ina's corn souffle looks wonderful, I see she calls for fresh corn and we're seeing "fresh" corn in the stores here (being in Minnesota it is definitely not local corn:) but wondering if I do a corn and black bean salad or the corn souffle if I should take my chances with "fresh" or go with the frozen?

          1. re: MNkateo

            Go with frozen. Unless or until you can get local produce picked fresh, the frozen product will be better. Not so sure you need to saute the frozen kernels though. When I use them in my favorite Chicken Chili Verde recipe, I skip the saute step. Seems to me the frozen kernels are already blanched, but I'm not sure about that.

            You're looking at the Sagaponack Corn Pudding recipe, right? I gotta hear how this comes out. I'm curious how the fresh basil works out. Sounds interesting and a lot different from any cornbread corn pudding I've ever had.

        2. We love black bean and corn salad, mac n' cheese, or good ole baked beans

          1. I always feel like coleslaw is an absolute necessity for barbecue. If I have time, I do baked beans, roasted or au gratin potatoes, and corn bread as well- but the coleslaw is non-negotiable in my family.

            1 Reply
            1. re: happybellynh

              Yep, we do, too! Barbecue has to include some kind of slaw for us!

            2. In keeping with the "homey goodness"... I really think you can't go wrong with deviled eggs. Everyone loves them and they are typically the first thing to disappear at a cookout. Nothing fancy, but I do love me some deviled eggs. :) Also, a vinegary cole slaw pairs well, as do hush puppies.

              1. or the potato salad posted in the thread Bon Appetit Y'all, part 1 - yummy! See also in Recipe Redux: Favorites You've Made 3 or more times, my recipe for grilled potato salad with vinaigrette blue cheese/bacon dressing. But love coleslaw and beans with bbq.

                1. In another recent post looking for sides for smoked brisket, I suggested a tangy black-eyed pea salad, lovely with barbeque. There are a couple other responses in the thread you may be interested in:


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: janniecooks

                    I love this kind of salad with bbq. I do a salad of corn, halved cherry tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Just squeeze a little lime juice, salt and pepper, and your set.. Throw some black eyed peas in there and that's a great side.

                    1. re: hollyd

                      sounds good - nice additions to a basic bep salad.

                  2. I think you've got it right on looking for something more down home - beet and goat cheese salad or potato gratin are too wintery and a bit more upscale than what a barbeque demands. Go more down home, think southern style sides, that you can maybe pimp with herbs, special vinegars, or the like, if you are aiming for a step up from traditional bbq sides. A new potato salad made with a sour cream dressing instead of mayo, and with red onions or scallions and dill, is a nice change of pace from a southern style potato salad. A bean or corn salad as already suggested would be nice.

                    Another nice salad for spring/summer is one of my all time favorites that I've posted here before: rice and vegetable salad. The name sounds humble and hum-drum, but it's a great salad. Rice, red and green peppers, red onions, scallions, shallots, currants (i prefer golden raisins here), parsley, dill and black olives (which I usually omit), tossed in a simple red wine vinaigrette. This salad gets raves when I've made it. It is seriously good and looks great too. Here's a link to the salad:


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: janniecooks

                      I love beet salads but would stick closer to home on the sides for a BBQ. One can step it up a notch and smoke corn for the corn souffle or corn pudding as I call it. I've made a smoked corn soup to go with smoked brisket that was wonderful and different. Basic baked beans can also be placed on the smoker to impart some wonderful smoked flavor. Potatoes can be smoked or grilled to go into a potato salad. You can take the most basic side and elevate it a notch in some way to make it stand out

                    2. we love to serve cheese grits with bbq also slaw is a must.