It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes getting the most flavor and texture from tender green vegetables requires breaking out the cast iron and cranking up the heat.

That’s because a quick high-heat char can deliver flavorful browning while simultaneously preserving the natural crunch and freshness of delicate produce.

The best tool for the job is a cast-iron skillet. Unlike other pans, cast iron can hit and maintain high temperatures evenly across its surface. This becomes especially advantageous for searing vegetables, which quickly caramelize when they come in contact with the ripping-hot pan, unlocking depths of flavor that are harder to get with lighter pans.

Cast iron makes for more efficient cooking, too: While other types of pan typically experience a temperature drop when ingredients are added, cast iron’s extraordinary heat retention means that you can pack more items into the skillet without losing the sizzle. And all before the tender produce has time to overcook and lose its crispness.

This technique yielded particularly great results with sugar snap peas—a sweet, crunchy variety of pea with an edible pod. We first took a cue from Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, chef-owners of Los Angeles restaurant Bestia, who blister sugar snap peas in a cast-iron pan before showering them with ample fresh mint.

We found that just five minutes in the pan is enough to char and caramelize the peapods in spots while retaining their vibrant green color, the tender exterior giving way to a burst of sweet freshness inside. Once the peas are cooked, we move the pan off heat and stir in thinly sliced radishes and a handful of fresh mint. The residual heat of the pan helps the flavors meld—the mint suffuses the dish with cooling herbal flavor, while the radishes soften slightly without losing their peppery bite.

To finish, we pile on even more fresh mint, for bursts of refreshing brightness that hasn’t hit the heat, drawing two flavors and textures from the same ingredient; lemon juice and zest deliver a bright acidity that balances the charred sweetness of the peas.

This quick, high-heat charring method also works with other vegetables, including zucchini and summer squash, fennel, even heads of romaine lettuce (usually halved and seared on the cut side). The quick sear imparts deep flavor, while the vegetables retain their crunch.