It’s official now: we’ve hit the season where all we want to do is cook and eat (and swim and cannonball) outside. And—nothing against burgers and steaks—but with so much summer still stretched out ahead, we could use a few more genius ways to work our grills.
On the grill, we can cook entire dinners, and anything from whole beasts (within reason) to quick skewered bits. Our grill will make stars of the parts of vegetables you’d normally throw out. And don’t forget, the charcoal sort will give us not just smoke and a hot grate, but coals to cook in down below.
Here are 28 Genius recipes to help you get friendly with fire.
What do you get when you mash up 1) garlicky grilled bruschetta, 2) creamy, herby, tomatoey caprese, and 3) crisp and crunchy panzanella? This absolute dynamo of a salad—grilled panzanella caprese. Marcy Ragan of Relish Your Chef one-ups these classics by combining them in a harmonious, if not a little untraditional, way. It’s one of the best ways we know to utilize those juicy, sweet, impossibly ripe summer tomatoes.
Leave it to Kenji to find an easy, almost no-effort way to make any shrimp dish better, like this grilled scampi: air-dry them really well in the fridge; dry-brine them in a mixture of salt, sugar, and a little bit of baking soda; then nestle them together closely on skewers to keep them very juicy as they cook. Then, stick them on the grill for just a few minutes, toss them in a buttery, garlicky, herby sauce, and feel like a genius.
More sweet summer tomatoes, this time marinated in an herby dressing and tossed on smoky, chewy grilled flatbread. To mellow out some of the sharpness and bitterness, there’s also a generous dollop of ricotta between the flatbread and marinated tomatoes, and a shower of flavor-packed herb-infused oil.
This Genius barbecue chicken solves all the problems we’ve ever had with barbecue chicken: it cooks through and stays juicy on the inside while charring and caramelizing perfectly on the outside. It’s continually basted in a creamy, punchy Alabama-style white barbecue sauce, adding tons of flavor as the chicken gets going on the grill. And if you make up some more of that barbecue sauce for serving, after the chicken’s grilled, you win.
A mixture of fennel, radicchio, and red onion—all so-flavorful in their own right—get even more remarkable once they’re tossed on the grill. After getting a good char, the veg is then then chopped up into bite-size bits and combined with fruity olive oil, sherry vinegar, and fresh herbs. Last step: the dressing gets spooned on everything, from a salad to a steak with crumbled blue cheese on top. No two bites will be the same, and that’s a good thing, in our book.
These ribs defy all rib-cooking traditions—no low and slow, all “fast and reckless”—which lets you have better ribs, and quicker. First, they’re marinated, then roasted and essentially steamed in a ripping hot oven. They’re glazed a sharp, sour, sweet, sticky glaze before heading to the grill, where they park for a mere six minutes until caramelized and delicious. Glaze a bit more for the greatest effect.
In this make-ahead, low-maintenance, good-after-it’s-been-out-all-day-at-the-party salad, cornbread and grilled sausage links get tossed with ripe summer tomatoes, hefty cubes of avocados, and a chipotle–lime dressing. You’ll find yourself picking at the bowl all day, wondering how it somehow became even more delicious since you last snuck a bite. We understand.
Bold claim, but we stand by it: This is probably going to be one of the best burgers you’ve ever had. And it’s worth the relatively long ingredient list (Manchego cheese, chiles de arbol, chorizo, bacon, shallots, cumin, parsley to name just a few items) and the extra effort (homemade aioli and romesco, anyone?) for that fact alone. Trust us.
Tender young favas were practically made for the grill—they char and caramelize and get outrageously sweet and smoky. And as if they aren’t good enough as-is, Ignacio Mattos has you toss the grilled favas in an herby, lemony, anchovy-y vinaigrette, with heaps of crispy bread crumbs on top.
Mark Bittman, who’s taught the world how to cook just about everything, teaches us how to do more by doing less: simply salt and grill chicken wings until crispy, coat them in a classic butter–vinegar glaze, then grill them some more once they’ve been glazed. As ever, blue cheese and celery are a good idea.
A summer barbecue isn’t really complete unless there’s grilled corn at the party. This Genius rendition, by community member lisina, cleverly plays up corn’s sweetness by slathering it with a basil compound butter and a lot of flaky salt after it’s charred to perfection.
This traditionally Colombian method of cooking beef tenderloin, “normally a pretty boring piece of meat,” according to cookbook author Steven Raichlen, involves two impactful methods: salt-crusting the meat before wrapping it in cheesecloth, then grilling the heck out of it in direct heat. What results is a tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned piece of rare meat.
While grilling bread requires marginally more effort than simply toasting it (although we’re talking about 30 seconds, here, once the grill is hot), the effect is significant: a smoky, earthy char envelopes each slice, readying it for all manner of zingy toppings. Here, goat cheese, briny Castelvetrano olives, walnuts, and bright parsley are smeared and scattered on thick-cut country bread, an easy appetizer that looks way elegant. This is a great recipe for when you’re just starting to fire up the grill at your gathering and want to give your guests something to munch on.
Sugar steak is just what it sounds like: a steak that’s hung out for a while in a sugar-based dry rub before being grilled. It gets an upgrade in this recipe with some warming, vanilla-y bourbon and red pepper flakes, and requires just three minutes of grilling on each side to get to a juicy medium rare. Make sure the grill is screaming hot.
Swiss chard stems are as mineraly and slightly sweet as their leaves (a good thing!), but are a bit stodgier and more fibrous and tougher to eat (ah, darn). But Chef Anna Klinger, faced with mountains of leftover stems, has a solution—blanch them in salty water, grill them to glory, and douse them in a savory anchovy vinaigrette.
Grill master, cookbook author, and bonafide Texan, Paula Disbrowe, took a cue from Venice Beach hotspot, Gjusta, with this grilled green harissa—then pours it all over thickly cut, beautifully charred cauliflower steaks. As Paula says, the harissa in particuar is “bound to be your new favorite condiment: Leftovers are delicious on sandwiches, with soft-cooked or crispy eggs, and as a marinade for chicken or shrimp.”
Our co-founder, Merill Stubbs, has learned a number of recipes from her very Genius friend, Guillermo, but these simple fish tacos are the ones she comes back to time and again. Firm white fish fillets are briefly grilled to add a whiff of smoke, then nestled into grilled flour tortillas and topped with anything you please: citrusy cabbage slaw, avocados, pickled onions, tomatillo salsa, you name it.
Sweet beets take a walk on the dark side in this smoky, earthy preparation by Jamie Oliver. The best part is, you don’t even need a smoker—just a charcoal grill and a large-ish piece of foil. After getting charred and delicious with rosemary and beet greens, the beets land in a light and bright herb salad with a couple dollops of creamy cottage cheese.
More creamy cheese, this time rich and buttery burrata. It’s the perfect companion to jammy grilled grapes (yes!), lots of sweet fresh basil, and toasted fennel seeds. All it needs is a loaf of crusty bread (consider grilling that, too) with a swipe of garlic while the bread’s still hot.
The ripest summer peaches and apricots are halved, pitted, and planted face-down on the grill to become their sweetest, caramelliest selves. They’re then combined with crunchy dinosaur kale, funky goat cheese, and—in a truly genius move—salty, meaty proscuitto.
This super-flavorful take on a Southern favorite (fried okra!) employs a smartypants trick to bring it to the next level: a smoky, citrusy Sriracha salt topping. As recipe author Beth Kirby says, these skewers are “sure to convert even the most skeptical okra doubter.” And we agree. They’re crispy, charred perfection.
With a bit of cooked brown rice, this dish comes together in about 15 minutes, thanks to really high heat (thanks, grill!) and big-flavored condiments (XO sauce and fish sauce, we love you). Pro tip: With a sturdy cast-iron skillet, you can even stir fry the rice and long beans on top of the grill.
James Beard Award-winning chef, Golby Garrelts, extols the virtues of the grill: “You get flavors from grilling that you don’t get from roasting. Smokiness, first and foremost. Direct cooking gives a distinct char, and that char adds a lot of taste. Grilling is just really convenient—it’s outside, there’s less mess, and it’s simple.” All these reasons and more are why he puts lean, flexible pork loin on the grill to imbue it with all kinds of deep flavor. A crunchy green bean salad is an ideal foil, adding some freshness to the plate.
A gingery, lemongrassy marinade does double duty as a sweet and sticky glaze on grilled bone-in chicken thighs. Even on a roaring-hot grill, the meat remains juicy and chock-full of flavor, in part because of this very marinade. The resulting chicken goes great with white rice, deboned and stuffed in a sandwich, or atop sturdy greens and bold herbs in a salad. You can’t go wrong, any way you slice it.
The most popular burger on Food52 is this black bean and corn veggie burger! Yep, you heard that right. That’s because this black bean and corn number is so packed with flavor, texture, and as it cooks, stays tender on the inside without getting dry or falling apart. A real winner, in our book (especially with a smear of creamy avocado on both sides of the bun).
Grilled dessert! Yes, you can and should. Sticky-sweet figs take on the smoky essence of the grill and get even richer and jammier. Recipe author Beth Kirby also teaches us how to make a slightly sweet lavender crème fraîche, which takes two days to culture. But if you’re in need of your charred, figgy dessert sooner than that (we totally understand), consider serving them with honey or lavender ice cream.
Every week, Food52’s Creative Director Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius. Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what’s so smart about it) at [email protected].