While you may be excited to fire up the grill for the first time this Memorial Day weekend, burgers and hot dogs can get old pretty darn fast. 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, there are plenty of foods to throw on the grill this summer yet many alternative options are overshadowed by traditional go-tos. We think it’s time to think outside the bun and get a bit more creative with your cooking.
Here, we share some of the tastiest and most unusual ingredients that are worth throwing on the grates this season. Some picks (such as spinach and avocado) are healthy and can help you reach your weight loss goals, while others—such as 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. And if you want healthy recipes, supermarket shopping guides, and essential nutrition tips at your fingertips, subscribe to the new Eat This, Not That! magazine now! For a limited time, you can save 50 percent off the cover price—click here!
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 or romaine 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 the leaves drizzled with balsamic; dress with a Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette; or anoint 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 on the grill and cooked until nicely charred, they become a whole different animal—or plant, rather. 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 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. As one of our best foods to throw on the grill, charred watermelon can be eaten right off the barbie (sprinkled with a bit of coarse sea salt), or put to use in a salad of arugula, goat cheese, feta, and toasted almonds.
Halloumi, a Middle Eastern cheese famous for its ability to stand up to high heat, but plenty of other cheeses also fare well over a 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 a half-cup of butter with a half-cup of brown sugar. When sticky and dark, stir in a half-cup of coffee. Top the banana bread with a scoop of cool Greek yogurt and a few spoons of the coffee caramel.
Corn on the cob that’s been seared on the grill is one of the most flavorful ways to eat the yellow veggie. Corn is full of fiber and carotenoids, antioxidants that are responsible for the veggie’s yellow pigment. Grilling the stuff will bring out the natural sweetness and make it extra juicy. Looking for a recipe? Three words: Mexican street corn.
You’re probably already drooling thinking about sweet, sticky grilled peaches baked into a cobbler and topped with ice cream. The sweet fruits from Georgia contain 10 different vitamins, including the essential vitamins A, C, E, and K, which promote healthy vision, boost immunity, increase weight loss, and more.
Eggplant is the perfect pick for those looking to find a healthy substitute for carbs. The sturdy veggie holds up well to a flame and is versatile in all types of cooking. Make it the base of a Mediterranean flatbread or dice it up and serve with your favorite spaghetti and meatballs. However you choose to serve, you won’t regret tossing it on the grill for a few minutes until it’s warm and seared.
Like eggplant, the flavor of your pizza will be amped up exponentially if you cook it on the grill. Just put the dough in a cast iron skillet, sprinkle the toppings of your choice, and let the flames do the talking. Cooking pizza on the ol’ Webber may sound unconventional, but it will add a smoky flavor that will have you drooling and will crisp your crust to the perfect crunch. And since it’s possible to lose weight eating pizza, there’s really no reason not to give it a try.
For those looking to cut carbs, grilled zucchini will become your new best friend. You can hollow out the middle, fill it with sandwich toppings, and throw it on the coals for a tasty, grain-free alternative. It also makes the perfect side dish. Zucchini adapts to fit the flavor profile of the food it’s served with, so this delicious veggie can be consumed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner—or all three!
Summer is almost upon us, and that means it’s s’more season! The classic chocolatey marshmallow treats are best when made over a roaring campfire in the woods. But if you want to bring the party back home, wrap your graham cracker sandwich with foil and place under the cover of your barbecue for a perfect ending to dinner.
Oysters are like in-laws: you either love them or hate them. But for those who adore the slimy seafood, consider cooking it on the grill for a smoky flavor boost. Oysters contain lots of zinc, which has been shown to contribute to weight loss. One study found that obese people who consumed 30 milligrams of zinc per day—the equivalent of just six raw oysters—had lower BMIs, weighed less, and showed improvements in blood cholesterol levels. You can get grilled oysters at most restaurants that serve the mollusks, but feel free to try your hand at home as well.
The sweet sensation that’s sweeping the nation, sweet potatoes are just about as readily available as their white cousins these days. A large sweet potato contains about 4 grams of belly-filling fiber and tons of Vitamin A, which is essential for eye and skin health. You can hash the taters up and press them into patties or julienne them into a tray full of fries.
Since grocery store granola is one of the worst sugar-filled supermarket traps, we recommend that you make this crunchy treat at home. Wrap your granola concoction in foil and grill with berries for a warm, toasty yogurt topper that’s sure to impress even the pickiest eaters.
If we’re being honest, grilling veggies isn’t that surprising. But pickles are a truly rare food to find sizzling next to a rib-eye. Don’t knock it until you try it because grilling the green spears increases the tang and makes them extra juicy! A study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine showed that pickle juice helps relieve muscle cramps, so don’t be afraid to toss tour favorite kosher dill on the flat top post workout.
If you’re not already sweating while you’re heating up the grill, you will be after you eat a grilled jalapeno. The little green peppers are delicious when seared over a flame and will be extra spicy after a few minutes of cooking. Studies show that the capsaicin in spicy peppers boosts metabolism and promotes weight loss. So if you’re looking to lose your gut by summer, grilling some jalapenos is a weight loss double whammy.
This trendy, cruciferous veggie has a reputation as big as Taylor Swift’s these days. It’s often riced, diced, and used to trick children into eating vegetables—and now, it’s one of our top foods to throw on the grill. Charring cauliflower makes it crispy and the perfect palate balancer for tangy sauces and intense flavors. The fiber packed into every bloom will provide your body a detox, and there are dozens of ways to use it both on the grill and off. Looking for more delicious eats that’ll get you beach-ready in no time? Don’t miss our 25 Best Carbs That Will Uncover Your Abs.