Somewhere in between the temperature hitting 80℉ and reading this interview with grill expert Genevieve Taylor, I was sufficiently inspired to get off my butt, clean my Weber Kettle and throw some shrimp on the barbie. Actually, it wasn’t shrimp. It was flanken cut short ribs, but I did use the marinade from our Grilled Gochujang Shrimp with Scallions. The spicy-salty-sweet and slightly funky fermented chili paste is great on anything, especially when combined with savory sesame oil and soy sauce. Start with the shrimp, then branch out to whatever protein strikes your fancy.

Wade into grilling season with low-effort, high-impact recipes

Once I finish cleaning my grill, I’m ready to cook and eat, so my first recipe of the season is something I can cook hot and fast, like the aforementioned shrimp (or short ribs)—the combination of high-impact gochujang paste and char from the heat of the grill delivers big flavor with very little work.

If I can get my hands on some jumbo shrimp, I’ll butterfly them and grill ‘em up in a big cast iron pan for even browning (plus I don’t have to worry about them falling through the grill grates). They don’t need a super elaborate sauce. I like this camarones zarandeados recipe from Paola Briseño-González. With a little lime juice, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce, she was able to replicate the deliciously briny, savory shrimp she had at Restaurante Bar Fernando (and I’m reaping the benefits).

If I’m only willing to exert a “hot dog” level of effort, I’ll make these Fried Halloumi Sandwiches on the grill. If you’re not familiar, halloumi is a semi-firm Cypriot cheese traditionally made from sheep and goat’s milk, though these days cow’s milk also is used. It has a uniquely high melting point, which allows you to grill it without it seeping down through the grates. Slide it between some crusty rolls—either with juicy peach slices or pickled onions and pomegranate molasses—and you have a truly grilled cheese sandwich.

Coax out big flavor from humble vegetables

You don’t have to kick off grilling season with meat. A bit of char does marvelous things to a humble head of white cabbage. Slice it into wedges, brush it with olive oil, and grill it for four minutes on each side until the exterior is charred and the inside is tender. Season with salt—that’s really all it needs—or dress it with spicy, garlicky shallot-butter sauce.

Broccoli is another underrated griller. We parcook ours in the microwave to ensure the stalks are tender throughout, then toss it on the grill to coax out smoky, nutty flavors. The brassica is best when flavored boldly with an almost aggressive dressing. Try it with a smoky harissa vinaigrette, or a combination of pistachio-infused oil and citrus.

Eggplant is an easy win. Its creamy, spongy nature soaks up the flavor of whatever ingredients you throw at it. We halve the eggplant and grill it until it’s charred and tender, then finish with nước chấm (the ubiquitous Vietnamese dressing made with fish sauce, lime, sugar, chilies, and garlic) along with quick-pickled vegetables, chopped peanuts, and plenty of fresh herbs.

And speaking of low-effort, high-impact, the easiest way to add unexpected dimension to your potato salad is to grill the potatoes first—but be smart about it. Potatoes soak up smokiness and crisp so well under high heat, it’s tempting to toss them raw on the grill. But even small potatoes tend to scorch outside before becoming tender inside. Parboiling small skin-on potatoes—about 1½ inches round—prior to grilling is key. And for best flavor and texture, the parboiling water should be salted and acidulated. The salt enhances flavor, while the acid (in this case white vinegar) helps the potatoes hold their shape while the insides become at once fluffy and creamy. Hot off the grill, we toss the potatoes in a simple dressing of grainy mustard (for texture) and Dijon mustard (for clingability), plus another splash of vinegar and green herbs for bright, fresh flavor.

Or plunge right in with big, meaty projects

Not everyone needs to wade in the kiddie pool before diving into the deep end. If you want to kick down the door of grilling season with something stunning, you should do so with our Pakistani-Style Grilled Marinated Leg of Lamb. Based on the charred marinated mutton served to us by cook Naveed Gill at Bagh Restaurant in Lahore, Pakistan, we use a marinade that actually works—a trio of tenderizing ingredients: papaya puree, yogurt and lemon juice. Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that’s an effective meat tenderizer, while the acidity of the lemon juice and the calcium in the yogurt enhance papain’s effect.

Or make inihaw na manok—what we affectionately refer to as “7 Up chicken.” Filipino chicken barbecue commonly includes multiple sweet ingredients, the most intriguing being lemon-lime soda tempered with tangy vinegar, salty soy sauce and savory garlic and black pepper. The mixture lacquers the skin, which caramelizes and chars over the hot coals. (Chris Kimball BBQ tip: Cook the chicken over fairly low heat, so the skin doesn’t burn before the inside is done.)

And while skewers are a simple concept—put meat on sticks and cook it—the best ones require slightly more prep time. Partially freezing the meat, like we do for these moo ping-inspired Thai Grilled Pork Skewers, lets you slice it super thinly, increasing the surface area for better flavor. It all comes down to ratios: There are roughly 25 millimeters in an inch, and most marinades can only penetrate as far as two or three. In a 1-inch thick piece of meat, that translates to 12% of your meat flavored. Slice it down to 1/4 of an inch, and that number increases to 48%. Slice it even thinner—let’s say 1/8 of an inch—and the marinade can almost fully permeate the meat. It also increases the amount of available surface area for browning, adding even more flavor and lovely textural contrast.

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