Published: February 4, 2017
Follow Grilling With Rich:
A Guide to Grilled Desserts
By Brian Johnston
We all know the backyard grill is a great tool for whipping up tasty appetizers and entrees, but your fire-fueled fun need not end with dinner. Many home chefs are discovering that a grill can be used for all stages of a meal—including desserts.
From cakes to chocolate and even campfire classics (s’mores, anyone?), let’s dig a little deeper to find new favorites and add delicious twists to old classics.
Grilling fruits over low heat is a great way to finish a meal. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to grilled peaches, pineapple or cinnamon spiced gala apples and you’ll be the envy of your family and friends.
The natural sugars in fruit are a perfect pair for the smoky caramelized taste of the grill. Fruits can be eaten as-is, added to homemade ice cream and sorbet, and even added to cakes and pies before baking.
Pears, peaches, apples, oranges, mangos, pineapple, watermelon and even lemon are all given a unique flavor boost by grilling. Remember, just char the fruits slightly. There is no need to cook them down to mush!
These tasty bites are available year-round, not just while around a campfire. Here’s how to make them on the grill.
- Set your grill to medium heat on one side of the grill, leaving a cool zone for warming.
- Lightly toast graham crackers over the fire, turning occasionally.
- Once the graham crackers are toasted, slide them to the cool side of the grill and top with pieces of chocolate.
- Skewer a few marshmallows and strawberry pieces and grill directly over the fire, allowing the marshmallows to char lightly.
- Once the marshmallows are cooked to your liking, grab a warm graham with melting chocolate and assemble your s’mores for the perfect way to end your day with a gooey treat.
Grilled pizza is not a new idea. It gives home cooks an easy way to prepare classic pizza recipes at home and provide restaurant quality results. Charring the crust over direct heat gives a crunchy exterior and soft, chewy interior. But did you know you can eat pizza for dessert?
You can make your own dough easily, and many stores now offer a variety of premade dough options. Just make sure to have everything ready to go before the crust hits the grill.
- Cream Cheese Dessert Pizza
Spread softened cream cheese and chocolate on grilled dough, then top with chunked peaches, mango or pineapple and a few sprigs of mint for a dessert that you’ll come back to again and again.
- Chocolate Dessert Pizza
- Stretch your dough gently and grill your crust directly over the coals. The grill should be set up for medium heat.
- Allow one side of the crust to char slightly for two to four minutes, depending on the heat of your grill.
- Use heavy duty tongs to flip the crust.
- Spread your favorite chocolate topping on the crust and sprinkle with fresh fruit.
- Top the pizza with sliced strawberries and toasted almonds for a simple dessert that your whole family will love.
Dense cakes, such as Bundt and pound cakes, are easily sliced and grilled before serving. The grilled cakes are both uniquely flavored on the grill and also warmed before serving, transforming store-bought cakes into semi-homemade classics.
- Charred Citrus Glazed Pound Cake
- Store-bought pound cake
- 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ cup orange or lemon juice from fruit that has been grilled
- 1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest
- Pinch of salt
- Combine the sugar, orange or lemon juice and zest in a saucepan on your grill.
- Slice pound cake into individual servings, then place on a grill over low heat. Once the slices are grilled lightly, gently flip to char the other side.
- Brush the glaze on the cakes as they are flipped. Allow the glaze to soak into the cake for one or two minutes before serving alongside fresh fruit.
Turn Your Grill into an Oven
Your backyard beast does much more than just add grill marks to food. Any grill can be converted into and outdoor baking station. Baking a cake or cookies outdoors requires no extra equipment—just a little extra practice for controlling temperature.
Gas grills: Leave half of your burners turned off and place your dessert over the unheated area. It’s really that simple. Most grills have an easy to read temperature gauge that allows the chef to monitor the internal temperature of the grill chamber with a simple twist of a dial.
Charcoal grills: Similar to gas grills, a charcoal grill can easily be converted into an oven by arranged the coals on one half of the grill, leaving a cooler zone for baking on the other side. Just remember to rotate your desserts occasionally to ensure even cooking.
Blueberry Crumble on the Grill
- 3 ½ pounds fresh blueberries
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice (charred if possible)
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1/8 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into chunks
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- Mix blueberries and sugar in a bowl and allow to sit for 30-45 minutes. Drain the mixture, reserving ¼ cup of the juice.
- Whisk cornstarch, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the blueberry juice and blueberries, then gently stir to combine.
- Transfer mixture into an aluminum foil pie tin.
- Prepare your grill for baking by turning on half of your gas burners, or by arranging all charcoal on one half of your grill chamber. Allow the grill to reach 350 degrees inside the chamber. You may need to adjust your propane controls or add or remove briquettes.
- Combine dry ingredients and toss.
- Drizzle dry ingredients with vanilla extract. Add butter chunks and loosely mix to combine. Add almonds.
- Transfer topping to your pie tin evenly. It’s okay if there are both large and small chunks.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes, rotating the dessert in the “oven” to bake evenly. Bake until the topping is crispy and golden brown.
- Serve with your favorite scoop of ice cream.
For more small-space and outdoor cooking inspiration, check out this vacation rental cooking guide from Tripping and The Home Depot. With a little creativity and practice you can turn any of your favorite baked desserts into outdoor treats. Your dessert masterpieces are only limited by your own imagination, so crank up that grill for a sweet and fiery treat.
Brian Johnston lives in Fort Worth, Texas, where he continually seeks to sharpen his expertise in outdoor grilling. Brian’s interests include pushing his grill and grilling techniques to the limit in order to produce superior tasting experiences. To view styles of grills and accessories mentioned by Brian, you can visit the Home Depot website.
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