No vacations, no picnics, no concerts: Last summer left much to be desired. This year, let’s make up for it by spending as much time outside as possible, grilling great foods with good friends. (Safely, of course.) These 16 tried and true recipes are easy and versatile, and there’s something here for every palate at the picnic table.
“Shockingly good.” “Loved it!” “Absolutely incredible.” Everyone who tries it raves about this grilled salmon and zucchini dish from Kay Chun, which can be made on the grill or on the stovetop. A salty-sweet marinade of soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, garlic and ginger doubles as a glaze and serving sauce. Serve it with Melissa Clark’s lemony-mint potato salad or rice.
This gorgeous recipe is from Melissa Clark, the reigning queen of simple yet spectacular. Drizzling a platter of burrata and simply grilled vegetables with a sweet and spicy dressing made with raisins, vinegar, honey and fish sauce makes it first-cookout-in-more-than-a-year-worthy. Serve with good bread, of course.
Ali Slagle’s ginger-lime chicken, one of our most popular recipes, was one of the better things to come out of 2020. It’s so simple it’s almost silly: Stir together ⅓ cup mayonnaise, lime zest, ginger, salt and pepper, then toss with boneless chicken breasts or thighs. Let marinate for up to eight hours, then grill or pan-fry. Double up on the ginger and lime, if that’s your thing.
Recipe: Ginger Lime Chicken
Grilled corn, but make it Baltimore-style. Emily Fleischaker’s recipe for grilled corn with Old Bay — a seasoning blend of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red-pepper flakes and paprika — is a revelation. As per the photo, don’t be stingy with the butter.
This Melissa Clark recipe has been a summer favorite of readers since it was published in 2013. The marinade, which doubles as a salad dressing, is inspired by nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce, and is made with fish sauce, brown sugar and garlic. It’s tangy, salty and sweet, which is to say, delicious.
For this peak summer recipe from Sue Li, grilled zucchini is chopped and tossed with a lively marinade of garlic, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and red-pepper flakes, then piled on top of grilled bread with chunks of salty feta. To make it picnic-ready, toss the grilled squash with the spice oil in a resealable container, wrap the grilled bread in foil and assemble the open-faced sandwiches when you get to your destination.
Recipe: Grilled Zucchini and Feta Toasts
Intimidated by the thought of grilling fish? Don’t be. This Martha Rose Shulman recipe is incredibly simple, and the bright salsa verde goes great with any grilled fish. Keep the leftover sauce in your fridge to liven up any meat, chicken, eggs or vegetables.
Recipe: Grilled Fish With Salsa Verde
We bet if you zoom in on the sticky-sweet caramelized edges in this photo, you won’t be able to resist making this delightful chicken recipe from Sam Sifton. The Sriracha-roasted cashews add a little heat and crunch, but be warned: They are impossible to put down. Invest in your future happiness by making a double batch for snacks.
On its own, oven-baked garlic bread is a thing of beauty, but hit it with a little fire as Julia Moskin does here, and it becomes a smoky, crunchy side to summer-ripe tomatoes, juicy steak or chargrilled chicken. As one reader wrote, it’s “one of those dishes where you would cancel the rest of the meal and settle for several servings of the first course.”
Recipe: Grilled Garlic Bread
Huli means “turn” in Hawaiian and refers to how the original version of this recipe is prepared: grilled between two racks and turned halfway through cooking. You can make Alana Kyser’s adaptation, which features a simple marinade of ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar and ginger, on a standard grill. It works with bone-in or boneless chicken, but cut back on the cooking time if you use boneless.
Recipe: Huli Huli Chicken
11. Grilled Broccoli
Sam Sifton tosses broccoli florets with a tangy and sweet mix of tamari, balsamic vinegar and olive oil before cooking them on a grill pan over high heat to crisp and char on the edges. Readers love it with cauliflower, too, and if you don’t have a grill, use the oven at 450 for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Use a cast-iron griddle or two cast-iron skillets on the grill for this magic trick of a recipe that Sam Sifton adapted from Francis Mallmann, the Argentine chef. What you are aiming for on the edges of the meat and fruit is a burnished brown that is almost black, but not bitter or burned. It’s not hard, but it requires attention, and the results are transcendent: tender, crisp-edged garlic-rosemary pork and soft, juicy peaches kissed with brown butter. Try this recipe with plums or apricots, if you’re so inclined.
Recipe: Grilled Pork and Peaches
This vegetarian recipe from Melissa Clark is so easy and so satisfying, you might just find yourself making it weekly and eating the leftovers for a happy work-from-home lunch. Grill the eggplant, scoop out the flesh, add chopped tomato, then season everything with red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, herbs and a few capers for oomph. To make it a complete meal, add cooked lentils or crumbled feta and serve with pita.
Recipe: Grilled Eggplant Salad
The ginger-and-cumin yogurt marinade in this recipe from Clare de Boer involves gently seasoning the chicken to prevent it from drying out when it cooks. They’re basted over the coals with a simple lime-herb butter while scallions char and pita toasts on the side for an all-on-the-grill meal. For ease, use uncut boneless thighs or breasts, but adjust cooking time accordingly.
When you want the hamburger experience minus the meat, this five-star recipe from Melissa Clark is here for you. Mushrooms, tofu, beans and beets are roasted to amplify their flavors, then combined with beans, cheese, tempeh, rice and spices. It’s a long ingredient list, but the assembly is simple, and it lends itself well to improvisation: Cooked steel-cut oats or farro work in place of the rice, tofu for the tempeh and Parmesan or mozzarella for the queso blanco. And pretty much any cooked or canned bean will do.
Recipe: The Ultimate Veggie Burger
When the zucchini you planted at the start of the summer have taken over your garden and the bins at the farmers’ market, here’s a great way to use them up: Cut each squash lengthwise or diagonally — long and thick enough so they won’t fall through the grill grates — toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grill until tender. Sprinkle with red-pepper flakes and drizzle with fresh lemon juice.
Recipe: Spicy Grilled Zucchini