While it was originally created to commemorate America's workers, Labor Day has gained many other meanings over the years: For children, it offers a final taste of freedom before school begins, and for traditional dressers, it's the last day on which one can wear white clothing. But for people who love to cook outdoors, it has another meaning entirely: It symbolizes the end of summer, a warning that the days of lighthearted cookouts are dwindling, soon to be replaced with the cozy warmth of winter stews and Christmas cookies.
Given its role as the herald of the dying days of grilling season, it seems like a shame to commemorate Labor Day with yet another boring barbecue. Mere hot dogs and hamburgers are all well and good for the fourth of July, when two months of summer stretch out in front of us. But by the time Sept. 5 rolls around, you should take the opportunity to build the kind of cookout memories that will keep you warm through the long, cold winter.
So this Monday, instead of settling for the same old cookout fare you've been grilling all summer, why not try something a little more elaborate? A Southern-style pulled pork barbecue like this one on KitchenDaily is not only a great way to bid farewell to the summer; it's also a bit easier on the wallet than the standard hamburger and hot dogs meatfest. Here's how it breaks down (prices courtesy of Fresh Direct for delivery in New York):
Traditional Hot Dog Cookout for 20 People
The price of hot dogs depends a lot on which brand you choose. Generally speaking, however, buying two dogs apiece for 20 people will run you between $23 to $36. Of course, this assumes that you are buying hot dogs from a respectable company that uses beef, pork or chicken meat: If you're willing to expand your definition of "meat," the hot dog price can slip a bit lower, although the cost of an emergency room visit may negate any savings.
Things get a bit cheaper if you go for hamburgers. Again, much depends upon the meat that you use, but five pounds of high-quality burger with a maximum 20% fat -- enough meat to make twenty quarter-pound burgers -- will probably cost at least $18. Regardless of whether you go with hamburgers, hot dogs, or some combination of the two, buns, ketchup, mustard and relish will add about $22 to the total, yielding a basic cookout price of between $40 and $58.
An Old-Fashioned Pulled-Pork Barbecue
Hot dogs and hamburgers generally cost less than whole cuts of meat, but a pork shoulder butt roast -- also known as a "Boston butt" -- can be surprisingly reasonable. Five pounds -- the amount called for in this North Carolina Pulled Pork recipe -- will probably cost under $13. Adding in roughly $5 for the cost of barbecue sauce and $15 for buns, this barbecue will still run a bit less than the traditional cookout.
Of course, there is a bit of a downside: Unlike burgers and dogs, which can be quickly grilled at a moment's notice, a pulled pork barbecue requires a bit of preparation and a few hours of cooking time. Then again, much of the roasting and grilling time is done at low temperature and requires minimal supervision, making it the perfect activity to accompany the slow consumption of beer with friends and neighbors. Best of all, while pulled pork may take a while to make, it is a meal well worth the wait.
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.