I think one of the biggest obstacles people have in getting creative with their grill is not understanding the incredible range of foods that can be cooked on it. Hot dogs and burgers are great, but they only scratch the surface of what a grill can do. One of the tastiest things I ever cooked on a grill wasn’t even meat! Last summer, as part of a weekend grilling spectacular, my friends and I seared big, flat watermelon “steaks” on the grill. The results tasted great. The heat toned down the fruit’s natural sweetness, allowing the other nuances of its flavor to shine. There was a nice caramelized char all along the grill lines and a pervasive smokiness throughout. We served it with mozzarella cheese and some balsamic vinegar—fantastic!
To help inspire your backyard creativity, here are some delicious, unexpected foods you can cook on the grill.
1. Artichokes: Artichokes are most often served steamed, but grilling them adds a smoky dimension to their flavor. If you can get them, baby artichokes will yield extra-tender results. They’re easy to prep and cook: First, halve and scoop out the choke if it’s prickly. Brush with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or canola oil) and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and tender, about 8 minutes total.
2. Pineapple: Because of its bright, sweet flavor, pineapple is great on the grill. Try throwing on a few rings for about 3 minutes right before you’re ready to eat (flipping once) for a caramelized, tangy treat.
3. Romaine lettuce:
In the May/June issue of EatingWell Magazine, we explored the amazing and delicious world of grilled salads. Believe it or not, romaine lettuce cooks up wonderfully on the grill, the crinkly edges of the leaf taking on a nice char and the flavor gaining a certain delicious brightness. You can find amazing recipes for grilled salads like the Chimichurri Grilled Steak Salad pictured above here.
4. Squid: Fried calamari fans will flip for tender, tasty grilled squid. You can get squid frozen or fresh in the seafood department of your grocery store (just double check to make sure it’s been cleaned). Cook it tossed in olive oil on the hottest part of the grill, turning once or twice, until just cooked through—2 to 4 minutes.
5. Potatoes: Is there anything potatoes can’t do? You can actually cook your spuds on the grill in two different ways: First, try cooking halved Yukon Golds right on the grill rack, turning occasionally, for 10-12 minutes. Second, try cooking potatoes in foil packets—what could be easier?
Once you’ve tried pizza on the grill, you’ll find it hard to go back to having it any other way. The smoke from the barbecue infuses the crust with an amazing earthy flavor that’s just impossible to get in the oven. Find step-by-step instructions for cooking pizza on the grill here.
7. Angel food cake: Strange but true: you know how you can toast your hot dog buns to a light golden brown just before serving them? Well, you can do the same thing with angel food cake. Try it before serving with a light strawberry sauce. Delicious!