But that doesn’t mean you should turn your back on backyard cooking—summer is practically synonymous with grilling after all. Luckily, there are plenty of other foods that can benefit from the smoke-and-fire treatment. Believe it or not, practically anything can cook on an open flame, yet many alternative options are overshadowed by traditional go-tos. But it’s time to think outside the bun and get a bit more creative with your cooking. Your taste buds will thank you!
Here, we share some of the most tasty and unusual ingredients that are worth throwing on the grates and tell you exactly how to cook them. Some picks (like spinach and avocado) are healthy and can help you reach your weight loss goal, while others—like cake and bacon—are best reserved for a cheat meal. Read on to get in the know and then head outside to heat up the coal. Happy grilling!
Both full-grown spinach and arugula can be cooked directly on the grill grate. Thoroughly clean the leaves and leave the stems intact (it will make them easier to handle on the grill). Place over a medium fire and grill for 3 to 5 minutes, until the leaves begin to wilt and crisp around the edges. Dress the greens with a drizzle of olive oil, the juice of a lemon and some shaved Parmesan cheese.
Firm heads of lettuce like iceberg, cabbage, or—our favorite—radicchio, take well to the transformative powers of the grill. Halve or quarter the heads and drizzle with olive oil. Grill over high heat until the outer leaves are blackened and wilted and the center is softened. Serve radicchio drizzled with balsamic, dress cabbage with a Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette and anoint iceberg wedges with crumbled bacon, fresh tomatoes and blue cheese dressing.
Most people only know edamame as those green little pods they pick at before their sushi arrives, but tossed onto the grill and cooked until nicely charred, they become a whole different animal. Grill them over medium heat directly on the grate or in a grill basket for about 10 minutes, until the pods begin to blacken. Toss with coarse sea salt, sesame seeds, chili powder, or any other spice that gets you going.
Grilled guacamole? Absolutely. Halve the avocado lengthwise and remove the pit. Place directly on the grate of a hot grill, cut side down, and grill for about 5 minutes, until nice grill marks have developed. From here, you can cube the avocado for salad, mash it for a smoky guacamole, or fill each half with tuna or chicken salad for an incredible twist on the classic.
Nothing wrong with a hunk of juicy watermelon as is, but like with all fruit, the grill helps to concentrate its sweetness and intensity. Cut thick watermelon steaks, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and grill over high heat, turning once. Your mission is to sear the outside while keeping the center close to raw, creating a lovely hot-cold contrast. This should take about 8 minutes. Grilled watermelon can be eaten as is right off the grill (sprinkled with a bit of coarse sea salt), or put to use in a salad of arugula, goat cheese or feta and toasted almonds.
Halloumi is a Middle Eastern cheese famous for its ability to stand up to high heat, but plenty of other cheeses also fair well over fire. Provolone, mozzarella and even a wheel of Brie can be grilled until hot and gloriously gooey. Keep the cheese cold until the grill is ready to go, and then place it on the grate.
Yes, grilled bacon. It’s best to use thick-cut bacon, as it stands up better to the heat than the scrawny stuff produced by most national brands. Grill over a low flame, turning, for about 12 minutes, until the fat renders and the meat crisps up. Use grilled bacon in a BLT or as a burger topping, or turn it into pig candy: Rub the bacon with brown sugar and a bit of cayenne before going on the grill; during the final 5 minutes of cooking, brush on thin coats of maple syrup. Mmmm, candied bacon.
Angel food cake, biscuits and banana bread all benefit from a turn on the grill, not just because they come off hot, but also because the grill crisps the surface while keeping the interior warm and moist. Grill slices of banana bread over medium high heat, turning, for 8 minutes, until crisp. While the bread grills, make a sauce by simmering ½ cup butter with ½ cup brown sugar. When sticky and dark, stir in ½ cup coffee. Top the banana bread with a scoop of cool Greek yogurt and a few spoons of the coffee caramel.