Whatever the style of your barbecue, Northern, Southern, theme or vegan, everyone needs side dishes to complete and complement the basic cookout fare. These dishes may range from the traditional American to the experimental, but they are a must at any cookout.

Most summer barbecues will feature at least one of these all time favorites: cole slaw, barbecue beans, and potato salad. One of the reasons why these dishes have endured is that they can be prepared beforehand, freeing the host to concentrate on the main dish when the grilling starts. This is not the only reason why these dishes remain popular, though. They have been found to go well with traditional barbecued dishes and people love the taste. Dwelling on one of the favorites, the cole slaw, we can see what makes it tick, as well as ways to play around with this traditional dish without sacrificing its authenticity.

A must have with the pork barbecue of the American South; the simple cabbage salad goes back to a Dutch ancestry. The trick to doing a good cole slaw is to cut the cabbage correctly. Chopping cabbage too fine or grinding it will make the slaw runny. The best way to cut the cabbage is to chop it with a sharp knife that doesn't crush it. Add other similarly dry vegetables to the slaw, such as carrots, celery, and onions. Then add enough dressing to coat the vegetables. The commonest dressing used is mayonnaise, though you could use vinegar, fruit juices, and oils as well. For seasoning, add black pepper, salt, herbs, or spices that could range from fennel, parsley, dill, oregano, and basil. To do a slaw with a difference, try these variations of the traditional cole slaw: 

Apple Slaw: A twist on the ubiquitous cole slaw, the apple slaw can have a bite to if Granny Smith apples are used. Since it has no cabbages, it cannot be called a cole slaw, but it works just as well

The All Slaw: Add your favorite vegetables to the slaw to make a colorful and flavorful slaw with your main dish. Again, adding the Granny Smith apples will add a welcome tartness to the dish.

Red Slaw: This uses the red cabbage for color and a dramatic effect.</ul>

There is no counting the number of variations you could try with the cole slaw. Just remember the crispness of the vegetables or fruit complements the meat perfectly, so just pick your ingredients to keep that intact. Happy grilling!