Sure, hamburgers and barbecued chicken are backyard grill staples. But for a special side dish—or even an unexpected main course—you can put your gas or charcoal grill to work! From a crispy sandwich to “grilled guacamole,” we’ve got a bunch of unique grilling ideas to help you make the most of your next cookout.
Here’s what we’re thinking…
By now you probably know you can cook a pizza on your grill. (Seriously—it’s so good. These 15 ways to make pizza on the grill will prove our point!) But have you ever made a flatbread? Here’s a recipe for Grilled Cheese & Tomato Flatbread that brings together the best of smoky grilled pizza with creamy cheese and bright garden-fresh tomatoes. Yum!
Test Kitchen Tip: Keep your eyes on your flatbread at all times. It will go from lightly browned to burned faster than you can say “Parmesan.”
2. Grilled Cheese
Let’s say you’re craving a grilled cheese—you know, something like our Best-Ever Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Did you know you can make grilled cheese, literally on the grill? (It’s called a “grilled” cheese after all!) Simply build your sandwich, and place it directly on the grill grate to toast, the same way you’d toast a hamburger bun. Be sure to use thick slices of bread and plenty of butter.
Test Kitchen Tip: As with flatbread, this baby browns up rapidly. Keep your eyes on the grill; don’t let it cook for more than a minute before lifting it up with a spatula to check on it. You might even want to consider using a copper grill mat since the cheese gets good and drippy.
If you think about it, what are quesadillas but a Mexican-style grilled cheese? It stands to reason that you can grill up a classic quesadilla just like you would a traditional grilled cheese sandwich. Here’s a recipe for Grilled Caprese Quesadillas to get you started, but once you get the hang of grilling quesadillas, you can improvise with the ingredients!
Test Kitchen Tip: You can place the quesadilla directly on the grates, but might consider using a copper grill mat. You could also consider using a parchment paper sheet. Just make sure the temperature on the grill doesn’t go higher than 400° F.
It’s no surprise that you can cook the meat for your fajitas on the grill. But you can cook your veggies over an open flame, too. Simply slice ’em into one-inch strips (so they won’t fall through the grates), toss with oil and grill over direct heat for six to 10 minutes (or until crisp-tender and slightly blackened). For skinnier vegetable slices, you can place an oven-safe skillet over direct heat, and with the grill cover open, sauté those peppers and onions as you would over the stove.
Test Kitchen Tip: You might lose fewer veggies if you place them on a…wait for it…cooling rack! Just place a cooling rack like this one directly on the grill. It needs to be all metal, oven-safe and able to withstand the heat of your grill. It will keep those veggies from falling through, and when you’re done cooking, pick the rack up (wearing an oven mitt, of course) and serve!
5. Anything in a Cast Iron Skillet
Literally anything you can make in a cast-iron skillet can be made in that same cast-iron skillet on your outdoor grill. For example, how about this Southwestern Spaghetti? Or a tangy Lemon Pepper Tilapia? It’s also easy to use your grill for baking, especially when it has a temperature gauge. Both the Fudge Brownie Pie and German Apple Pancake are real crowd-pleasers!
Test Kitchen Tip: When using your cast-iron skillet on the grill, you’re getting the best of both your oven and your stove. When a recipe calls for pre-heating your cast-iron, simply do so on the grill with the cover closed (as if it were your oven).
6. All the Fruits
Maybe you’ve tried grilled peaches and realized how wonderfully sweet the fruit gets on the grill. Just about any summer fruit can benefit from a little heat. Start by grilling pineapple with brown sugar (it’s heaven!) or mangoes for a Grilled Mango & Avocado Salad.
Test Kitchen Tip: Fruit is another great opportunity for using a cooling rack or grill basket. Be sure to spray it lightly with oil to keep things from sticking.
But wait…there’s more! Why stop at the grilled mango for your Mango & Avocado Salad? Go ahead and grill up that avocado, too. Just cut them in half, remove the seed, brush with fresh lemon or lime juice and olive oil and grill them cut-side down for two to three minutes. For anyone who loves avocados, you’ll want to give this recipe for Grilled Guacamole a whirl.
Test Kitchen Tip: When grilling avocado, keep in mind that it’s a delicate fruit. It’s important to brush it (or spray it) with oil to prevent sticking.
To make outdoor cooking even easier, it helps to have grill grates that are spic n’ span before you get started! Here’s our expert guide on cleaning your grill.