ILLUSTRATIONS BY JIAQI WANG/THRILLIST

Why Peaches Deserve a Place at Your Barbecue This Summer

From the salads to the drinks, make way for Georgia’s state fruit this season.

Few things feel more like “summer” than taking a bite out of a perfectly ripe peach — but this year, we’re all about elevating peaches beyond just eating them over the kitchen sink. Be it grilling them for a charcuterie board, pairing them with pork belly, or mixing fresh peaches with bold flavored spirits like Smirnoff Peach Lemonade, we’re advocating for going big with peaches this season. To get an expert take, we tapped Daniel Diersen, executive chef of Atlanta-based Wood’s Chapel BBQ, to share eight ways you can combine Georgia’s state fruit and ’cue.

Pork and peaches

Pork belly and pork shoulder on the barbecue will compliment the flavors of peach the best, be it with grilled peaches, a peach cocktail, or even a peach-based barbecue sauce, Diersen says. “I think down here in the South, pork and peaches are practically married,” he says. “The peaches bring that acidity to the richness of the meat.” In fact, one of Diersen’s favorite kebabs is a simple combination of peaches and pork belly, that he chars on the grill (live fire, rather than gas, will add a smoky element, too).

Peach salads

No one complains about eating salads when they’re full of peak season vegetables and incorporate a few flavorful additions, like fresh fruit. When peaches are at optimal ripeness, keep them cold and use them in a salad with arugula, or red and green lettuce. The lightness of the dish will complement heavier meats from the grill, especially with the addition of fresh herbs like mint and tarragon. If your peaches are a little on the softer side, Diersen recommends tossing them (after they’re pitted) into a food processor or blender along with apple cider vinegar and salt for a simple dressing.

Alongside summer vegetables

Peaches are generally in season from May through September, depending on your region. Produce that comes into season together generally compliment each other well, so if you’re looking for a plant-based barbecue, put peaches on the grill with tomatoes, then toss with cucumbers and herbs. Diersen has even paired grilled peaches with green beans, another summertime staple, before — he recommends topping those with almonds for a little extra crunch.

On the grill

The simplest way to elevate peaches to a side dish or dessert is to just give them a quick char on the grill. Halve them, remove the pits, then place them cut side down over medium heat. They only need a few minutes there before they’re ready to serve — you’re just trying to get some grill marks and a hint of smoky flavor, not fully cook the peach. Once they’re done, you can pair with burrata and mozzarella for a fancy cheese plate, or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.

In a cocktail

Even if you didn’t pick up actual peaches, your cookout or barbecue doesn’t need to go without this summertime staple. Peach cocktails will compliment ribs and brisket similarly to the actual fruit. Smirnoff Peach Lemonade, for example, is a bold peach-flavored spirit that makes mixing up peach-inspired cocktails simple. For example, combine it with a bit of peach, mint, and lemon juice for a “smash”-inspired Peach Georgia. Or, for something a little simpler, combine Smirnoff Peach Lemonade with iced tea in a mason jar, garnished with a lemon wheel, for an adult Arnold Palmer. You can also serve it with soda water, simple syrup, and a little mint.

For garnishes

Speaking of simple syrup, fruit-infused options are easy to make at home, and instantly level up a cocktail. Add a little bit to a Smirnoff Pink Lemonade and club soda, then garnish with peach slices for a photo-worthy cocktail. Frozen peaches can double as ice cubes for drinks, and wedges can work as garnishes, too.

With tacos

The grill isn’t just for burgers and hot dogs. Diersen recommends using it for tacos, as you can grill the tortillas and protein all on one cooking surface. Plus, peaches compliment the flavors of Mexican dishes perfectly: especially the heat of jalapenos and the citrus notes of cilantro. He recommends using peaches with both in a salsa, then serving with grilled chorizo tacos for even more heat.

In desserts

Maybe you were a little too eager at the farmers market and bought more peaches than you knew what to do with… and now they’ve gone a little soft. That doesn’t mean it’s time to toss them in the compost bin. Leverage these for cookout items where the texture is broken down: think cobblers, pies, or even jam for a charcuterie board. Summer isn’t the season to let a good peach go to waste.