It's not that there's anything wrong with throwing burgers, brats, and steaks on the Weber—it's that you can do better. Take a page from cutting-edge chefs who are using the grill to make sophisticated dishes that bring a charred edge to sweet fruit, fresh seafood, seasonal greens, and hand-rolled pizzas—even cocktail mixers and desserts. No, the reasons to reject red meat this summer have nothing to do with health, and everything to do with taste.
Here are nine unexpected chef-endorsed ingredients to make your next cookout free of meat—and full of sophistication. See all the recipes—and more.
The archetypal summer fruit is improved after a few minutes on the grates, which caramelizes the sugars, bringing a smoke-tinged contrast to its juicy sweetness. Try it in an herbaceous chili-spiked salsa, like the one Graham Elliot makes at his eponymous Chicago restaurant.
At Lucy's Fried Chicken in Austin, James Holmes cooks shucked oysters topped with habanero butter over an open fire long enough to make them smoky and warm but keep their salty bite, then finishes them with jalapeños and Parmesan.
For the succotash at his namesake L.A. eatery, Quinn Hatfield simmers octopus into submission the day before grilling. Overnight in the fridge it becomes succulent; a sear over coals leaves it slightly crisp.
Paper-thin kale leaves seem all wrong for the flame, but under the deft touch of Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco—who brushes them with oil and cooks them over low heat—they're transformed into the centerpiece of an earthy salad.
5 More Surprising Options
Place halves cut-side down on a hot grill, flip, then top with toasted walnuts, honey, and Greek yogurt.
-Courtesy of Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill
Trim outer leaves, cut in half lengthwise, and coat with olive oil and salt before grilling until tender.
-Courtesy of Seamus Mullen at Tertulia
Quarter, sear over fire, and dice, then toss with grilled honeydew, onion, mint, Feta, and vinaigrette.
-Courtesy of Kevin Sbraga at Sbraga
Split lengthwise, coat with canola oil, grill each side, and serve with herb-lemon butter.
-Courtesy of April Bloomfield at The John Dory Oyster Bar
Grill whole and finish with olive oil, sea salt, and strips of grilled bell and poblano peppers.
-Courtesy of George Mendes at Aldea