Advice for the charred fruit-curious and proof that there’s more to a barbecue than just grilling meat. Grilled fruit is not just for dessert, either. It can be used as side dishes, in fresh salsas, and as part of delicious appetizers.
Choose Fruit That’s Ripe-But Not Too Ripe
You want to grill fruit right before you’d normally eat it as is. The raw fruit should be slightly firm so that it holds up on the grill. The heat caramelizes the sugars in fruit and weakens the structure, so something overripe or mushy will be more likely to fall apart.
Patience Is Key
The particular joy of grilled fruit comes from the caramelization of the sugars, and that takes time. While it might seem like a great idea to just toss slices on alongside the protein, you’ll just end up with hot, charred fruit. For larger, heftier fruit, wait until after you’ve pulled the mains and sides off the fire, then thoroughly oil the grate and place the halves, slices, and skewered chunks (make sure to soak those skewers) over the slightly cooler coals, or a flame that’s been lowered to medium-high, between 350°F and 450°F.
Then close the lid. The all-over heat will allow those gorgeous flavors to develop while the face-down side can pick up some slow sear from the metal. For particularly thick fruit, like peaches, plums, pineapple, sturdy melon, and apples, flip them over after a few minutes to make sure that they get cooked evenly without burning on one side.
Grill fruit for about 6-8 minutes. The larger fruits may need an extra few minutes in order to really caramelize the fruit.
Use the Top Rack
If you’re working with more delicate slices, or something small like cherries or berries, move the whole operation to the top rack if you have one, or in a perforated grill basket or sheet—even a foil pouch or boat if that’s how you’re rolling. The lid still goes down, but you’ll need to check more frequently.
Choose Your Fat
Brush fruit with a neutral oil that can stand up to high-heat, such as safflower or grapeseed oil. Melted unsalted butter or clarified butter also works well.
Give It a Bath
The natural sweetness of fruit is fantastic on its own, but if you want to add a little more fun, give it a bath in rum or bourbon, or add a splash of vanilla or balsamic vinegar. This will add depth and delight to all kinds of fruit. A touch of sweetness from brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey also does wonders. It might seem like overkill, but it’s probably not—so long as you keep an eye out to make sure nothing burns.
Get Creative with Pairing
Some of our favorite fruits to grill include bananas, watermelon, peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, pears, pineapple, and mango, but let your imagination run wild!
Grilled fruit is equally delectable in sweet and savory applications-the possibilities are endless. Try peaches alongside pork chops or chicken. Watermelon makes a refreshing summer salad when combined with feta cheese, mint or basil, olive oil, and flaky sea salt.
If there’s a banana on hand, slit the inner curve lengthwise, gently score the flesh of the banana, and pour in as much rum or vanilla as you find reasonable. Sprinkle in a little brown sugar, and close the slit. On the top rack or away from the heat, balance the banana on its back as best you can—skewer a few of them together or place a pan or foil-wrapped brick on either side to balance it—and let it cook until the insides are browned and heavenly. Scoop it onto ice cream, or straight into a dish.
Sliced and pit a few peaches oil them, and set them face-down over the still-warm embers of fire while you are eating dinner, and close the lid. By the time you are ready for dessert, they will be ready. Plop each soft, char-streaked peach half into a bowl, scoop some vanilla ice cream on top, and for a coup de grace, ground fresh black pepper over it all.
Put It in Your Drink
If you have an afternoon to spare and you’re smoking a pork shoulder or a brisket, toss in a foil pan of cherries or halved lemons on the top rack or away from the heat and flip them after about 30 minutes. Keep checking them until the fruit is softened and soaked with smoke, then plop those in your drinks until they’re gone—which won’t be long.