5 Unexpected Foods to Grill This Season

These dishes will up the ante of every backyard gathering

June 29, 2023 6:11 am
Pasta salad with grilled vegetables
Pasta salad is just one summertime dish that's deserving of the grill
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Grilling and summertime hangouts go together like peanut butter and jelly. That said, eventually burgers, brats and pasta salad all grow tedious. Luckily, there are a handful of party-friendly foods that are unexpected stars of the grill and benefit greatly from a little smoke and char. Plus, these recipes keep the chef outside with the party and not stuck inside over a hot stove.

Tongs turning heads of romaine lettuce on grill
Grilled romaine is an excellent base for a BLT salad
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There’s nothing like a cool, refreshing salad on a warm summer day. Likewise, the BLT is undefeated as a summertime sandwich. So combining the two just flat-out makes sense, producing one of the greatest salads in existence. Using the grill to gently char both the bread and the lettuce adds a wonderful depth to the dish, complimenting the smoky bacon. Additionally, blistering the tomatoes will enhance their sweetness, providing a contrast to the other wonderful flavors in the salad.

Grilled BLT Salad

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 20 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

Servings: 4

  • 1/2 lb. bacon, chopped into ½” pieces
  • 2 romaine hearts, halved
  • 1/2 loaf French bread, halved lengthwise
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
    1. Preheat your grill over a medium flame. Using a cast iron pan, render and crisp the bacon for 10 to 12 minutes. Once the bacon is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan. Pour the bacon drippings into a heat-proof cup for future use.

    2. Add the pan back to the heat along with a tablespoon of bacon fat. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, tossing often.

    3. As the tomatoes cook, place the bread and lettuce directly on the grill. Cook for 2 minutes per side to lightly char.

    4. For the dressing, combine two tablespoons of reserved bacon fat, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk or blend thoroughly to emulsify.

    5. Once everything is cooked, roughly chop the bread and lettuce and toss with the tomatoes, bacon and dressing. Serve immediately.

Caramel and Crisp Stuffed Baked Apples
Apples aren’t just for the fall
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Dessert and grilling never seem to coincide, which is truly a shame. The hot, dry, direct heat of the grill can bring out some wonderfully complex flavors, especially in fruits. The best example of this is “baked” apples, prepared on the grill. They can be prepped ahead of time, require little maintenance and are very forgiving. Start them as the burgers and dogs come off, and you’ll have a show-stopping dessert ready in no time.

Grilled "Baked" Apples

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 40 mins

Servings: 4

  • 4 medium-sized apples (such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and/or caramel sauce (for serving)
    1. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, rolled oats, softened butter, cinnamon and pecans. Mix well until the ingredients are evenly combined.

    2. Using an apple corer or sharp knife, remove the core from each apple, leaving the bottom intact. Make sure to create a well in the center to hold the filling. Spoon the filling mixture into each apple, packing it gently until the well is filled.

    3. Prepare the grill to low heat. Wrap each apple in aluminum foil and place them, filling side up, directly on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender when pierced with a fork.

    4. Once cooked, remove the apples from the grill and let them cool for a few minutes. Carefully open the foil, taking care of the hot steam that may escape. Serve the baked apples as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, dollop of whipped cream or drizzle of caramel.

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Baked potato and mushroom slices on wooden table
Potatoes are even tastier on the grill
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There’s no better example of culinary BFF’s than burgers and fries. Sadly, while burgers shine in backyard barbecues, the fries are oft left at home. This is a shame because potatoes love high heat, smoke and parties. This recipe for steak fries on the grill is a perfect side dish; it can largely be prepared in advance, lowering the amount of work in crunch time. The high heat and smoky flavors from the grill complement the fries wonderfully, creating a perfect (and quick) side dish. This recipe is also very easily scaled up to serve a crowd.

Grilled Steak Fries

Total Time: 40 mins

Servings: 4

  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 4 Tbsp. canola oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
    1. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Add a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and let cool completely.

    2. Slice the potatoes into 6 to 8 wedges each. Toss in the oil and ½ teaspoon of salt.

    3. Prepare your grill for medium-high heat. Grill the steak fries for 3 minutes per side directly on the grates. Serve immediately.

Beef Skillet Nachos in a cast iron pan on a wooden table
Grilled chorizo elevates skillet nachos
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Nachos are the ultimate party food. This recipe for preparing them on the grill is otherworldly. Not only does it provide an appetizer for a backyard party, but the grilled flavors take an already perfect dish to new heights. The low heat will gently marry the chips, cheese and toppings, and the smoky flavors from the grill will be captured in the cheese, creating a queso-like experience with none of the work.

Grilled Nachos

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 35 mins

Servings: 4

  • 4 links fresh chorizo sausage in casings
  • 4 cups corn chips
  • 2 cups Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups nacho toppings (onions, tomatoes, rice, beans, olives, avocado, guac etc.)
    1. Preheat the grill to medium. Grill sausages until cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the grill and chop into bite sized pieces. Lower the grill heat to low.

    2. In a large cast iron pan, assemble the nachos: chips, cheese, onion, chorizo. Place the pan directly onto the grill grates and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the chips are just brown.

    3. Once the nachos are done cooking, finish with your preferred toppings and serve.

Pasta salad with grilled vegetables, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus and tomatoes
This one makes for a great vegetarian main course
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There is, in my opinion, no better way to prepare vegetables than grilling them. The high heat brings out the complex, sweeter flavors of asparagus, tomatoes, peppers and the like. Combining this magic into a pasta salad allows for a wonderful backdrop to the grilled veggies, and it makes for a wonderful side dish or vegetarian main, which can be tricky to find at most barbecues.

Grilled Pasta Salad

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 25 mins

Servings: 4

  • 1/2 lb. short cut pasta
  • 1/2 lb. asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
    1. Cook pasta according to package directions, minus 2 minutes. Strain and move pasta into a very large bowl to cool slightly. Preheat grill to medium.

    2. Combine asparagus, bell pepper, shallot, tomatoes, salt, pepper and olive oil. Grill on a grill pan or cast iron pan for 10 to 12 minutes or until soft.

    3. Once veggies are cooked, add to the pasta along with the arugula and Parmesan cheese. Toss to combine and serve.


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