Our 12 Best Memorial Day Cookout Recipes

For the unofficial start of summer, these dishes with fresh, bold flavors give you plenty of time to spend with friends and family — and won’t leave you stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun. Many of the recipes are meant to be prepared ahead and simply set out, while others are best grilled as you chat with guests.

1. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times

This stunner from Millie Peartree bursts with the tang of pineapple caramelized in buttery brown sugar. Made from a simple batter that uses both milk and thick Greek yogurt, the cake is simultaneously sturdy and light, perfect for toting anywhere and enjoying after a big meal.

Recipe: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

2. Tajín Grilled Chicken

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

For a spicier spin on classic barbecued chicken, try this dish from Rick Martinez. Sauced with a sweetened chipotle blend, the chicken develops a smoky char. His version calls for quick-cooking boneless chicken thighs, but you can apply the glaze to any cut and grill accordingly.

Recipe: Tajín Grilled Chicken

3. Broccoli Salad

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times

Hetty McKinnon turns quick-pickled red onion and raisins into a vinaigrette to take the place of the usual mayonnaise dressing. It gives the blend of broccoli, fruit and almonds extra zing and means the salad can be made a whole day ahead of time and sit out on hot days.

Recipe: Broccoli Salad

4. Reverse-Seared Steak

Credit…Andrew Purcell for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Carrie Purcell.

It can be tricky to nail the timing on steak when you have a crowd coming over. Steven Raichlen shows us the foolproof way to perfect steak (which includes how to prepare it ahead!) with reverse-searing on the grill. If you’re cooking indoors, you can oven-roast tri-tip instead.

Recipe:Reverse-Seared Steak

5. Strawberry Galette

Credit…Chris Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Frances Boswell.

Berries are at their best now. Maybe you’re already planning a strawberry shortcake, but this galette really makes the fruit shine. Naz Deravian shares a forgiving dough recipe made flaky and flavorful with almond flour and yogurt.

Recipe: Strawberry Galette

6. Grilled Hamburgers

Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

Sam Sifton gives us the formula for thick patties charred outdoors and offers the pleasures of indoor-griddled smash burgers. For a combination of the two, you can try J. Kenji López-Alt’s thin-but-juicy chargrilled burgers.

Recipe: Grilled Hamburgers

7. Walnut Picadillo

Credit…Chris Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Frances Boswell.

If you want a meatless main dish, you’ll love this hearty one from Jocelyn Ramirez. Nuts and potatoes are paired with the traditional bold blend of tomato, onion, garlic, olives and capers, and the flavors only deepen over time. You can make it ahead, then reheat to stuff into tortillas or serve with cilantro rice.

Recipe: Walnut Picadillo

8. Lemon Bundt Cake

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Victoria Granof.

Designed for lemon lovers, this cake-for-a-crowd from Yossy Arefi combines zest and bits of fruit in the batter, and uses the juice to make a crackly glaze. It’s as perfect at the end of a big dinner as it is set out for brunch.

Recipe: Lemon Bundt Cake

9. Grilled Marinated Swordfish Steaks

Grilled marinated swordfish steaks.Credit…Michael Kraus for The New York Times

Published nearly 30 years ago, this recipe from Pierre Franey remains timeless. A just-right mix of spices, vinegar, soy sauce and herbs thoroughly seasons swordfish in the time it takes to heat the grill. The broiler option works just as well.

Recipe: Grilled Marinated Swordfish Steaks

10. Browned-Butter Rhubarb Crisp

Credit…Dane Tashima for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Rhubarb’s short season is here, and the tart stalks stars in this easy dessert, rich with butter and almonds, from Yossy Arefi. (Try this recipe if you prefer pecans.) To make it taste really special, top it with homemade ice cream, using Melissa Clark’s delicious formula.

Recipe: Browned-Butter Rhubarb Crisp

11. Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Nothing is simpler — or more satisfying — than making a huge heap of pulled pork for guests to pile into soft rolls and top with coleslaw. This recipe from Margaux Laskey is all that and more: The slow cooker is especially convenient, but you can use the grill or a pressure cooker too. Set out a side of classic potato salad to make it a party.

Recipe: Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

12. Root Beer Rickey

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

The Dirty Shirley may be the drink of the summer, but this whiskey spritz, which Ali Slagle adapted from the bartender Jim Meehan, is refreshing with lime and a little spicy from root beer, and tastes great with anything barbecued. Set up a D.I.Y. bar with the three ingredients and lots of ice.

Recipe: Root Beer Rickey

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