When orchards and berry farms burst with fresh fruit, it’s time to clear space on the grill. Grilled fruit makes for novel desserts, appetizers, and accoutrements to savory proteins. Heat from the grill draws out a fruit’s sugars and caramelizes them, while smoke and char add unexpected flavor and aroma.
Setting Up the Grill for Fruit
Grill grates should be kept clean and oiled. This is especially important for sugary fruits that will stick to the grate. Invest in a quality metal wire grill brush for cleaning. You can purchase one at any good hardware store. Scrubbing the grates clean is easiest with a warm grill, so heat it up with the lid closed for a few minutes before scrubbing. Once the grates are clean, use a long pair of tongs and a folded up paper towel dipped in oil to grease the grates.
Arrange your coals, or set your gas burners, so that the grill has a hot and cool side. This allows you to sear and char fruits on one side before closing the lid and baking them on the other. Fruit cooked over high heat should be done quickly as their sugars can burn and become bitter.
What Fruits are Good for Grilling?
Any fruit you already enjoy gets better on the grill. Pineapples, peaches, oranges, grapes, watermelon, strawberries, starfruit, and kiwis are popular choices. While creativity is your limit, firmer fruits work best. Anything too soft or ripe can turn to mush or burn easily. Avoid canned fruits as they can be too sugary and soft. If you do use canned fruit, pat them dry and brush them with oil before grilling.
Smaller fruits like cherries or grapes can be skewered for easier handling. You can alternate diced fruits on skewers for dessert kebabs too. As with meat or vegetable skewers, make sure you pair ingredients that have similar cooking times. A grilled banana—yes, you can grill bananas!—will cook at a different time than an apple would. The same goes for sugar content; a juicy peach will caramelize faster than a firm pear.
Garnishes and Pairings for Grilled Fruit Desserts
Fresh off the grill, fruit is delicious on its own. However, there are always extra ingredients to push its flavor further. Popular garnishes that go well with grilled fruit are mint leaves, basil leaves, thyme sprigs, honey, toasted nuts, citrus juice, citrus zest, hot peppers, caramel sauce, infused syrups, and balsamic reductions.
Cheese and dairy are delicious with grilled fruit. Start with the obvious ice cream before experimenting with mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and whipped cream.
Spice pairings will vary fruit by fruit, but you can always try barbecue blends for general purpose seasonings. West Indies Barbecue Rub and Chinese Five Spice are especially versatile with fruits. Also, don’t be afraid to salt your fruit before throwing it on the grill. Salt augments the fruit's natural flavor and helps draw out more juices.
Grilled meats are amazing with fruit. The recipe for grilled stone fruits below would make an excellent garnish for smoky pork chops, kielbasa sausages, or a spicy salmon filet. (Skip the ice cream of course.) The spicy pineapple wedges below would also be good diced up and served over homemade chorizo tacos.
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Grilled Stone Fruit Sundae
Peaches are believed to originate from China, so seasoning it with Chinese Five Spice was a given. We threw a few plums into the mix for good measure. Any large stone fruit will work for this recipe and method. Nectarines, apricots, and even cherries are excellent choices.
Stuffed & Grilled Figs
Try this recipe the next time you need something simple and sophisticated to serve before dinner. Herbes de Provence whipped into goat cheese makes the perfect filling before hitting the grill. You could also finish this recipe with balsamic vinegar instead of honey.
Spicy Grilled Pineapple with Tequila Caramel Sauce
If the corner fruit vendor had a grill, this pineapple would be their best selling item. Grilled pineapple already has a deliciously caramelized flavor. This recipe goes an extra step with the tequila caramel.
Article and recipes by Geoff Marshall, Staff Writer