Magic happens when fruit meets flame. Flavors intensify as the natural sugars caramelize, juicy fruits can get even juicier, and the smoke from the grill gives everything a woodsy, hanging-around-the-campfire flavor. And the grill marks — gorgeous, right? But before you go flinging fruit on the fire, here are some tips to help you get the best results.
How to Grill Fruit
I recently grilled a whole farmstand’s worth of fruit to make grilled cocktails, and talk about learning by doing! It was a little trickier than I anticipated, but after a few fiery fails, I got the hang of it. Here’s what I learned about grilling fruit:
1. Best Bets for the Grill
Just about any fruits can go on the grill as long as they are fairly firm and not overripe. Peaches, melons, pineapple, pears, avocado, tomatoes, bananas, and figs are just some of the fresh fruits that will hold their shape over the coals.
2. Go Big
Most fruit is fairly fragile, so cut fruit into large chunks, slices, and wheels to help it maintain its structure as it heats up and breaks down. Larger pieces are less likely to fall between the grates, too, depending on how far apart your grill grates are. Small fruits such as strawberries can go on skewers so you don’t lose them to the flames.
3. A Hot Grill Minimizes Sticking
Heat your grill to medium high for at least 10 minutes, then scrape and oil the grates before laying down the fruit. Use a neutral-tasting oil that’s suitable for high heat, such as safflower oil.
4. You Don’t Always Need to Oil the Fruit
This tip applies to fruit you’ll use for cocktails and desserts to avoid winding up with an unwanted oil slick. If you’re grilling fruit for a savory recipe such as fruit salsa, oiling the fruit won’t be a problem. I also found that sometimes you get better grill marks with unoiled fruit. Of course, your results may vary.
5. Sugar-Coat Your Citrus
Dusting the cut side of citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit with granulated sugar before putting them on a hot, oiled grill keeps the rinds from sticking and gives the surface of the fruit a truly gorgeous caramelized finish. This tip is especially useful when you want to use grilled lemon and lime wheels to garnish cocktails and desserts. (In case you’re wondering, this grilled citrus turned into a pitcher of Grilled Lemon Limeade.)
6. Leave It Alone
Let the fruit sit on the hot grill for a few minutes before checking for grill marks; the surface of the fruit needs time to sear so it won’t stick. But know this: Some sticking could happen no matter what you do. It’s not the end of the world and the fruit will taste fantastic anyway.
7. Denser Fruit Takes Longer to Grill
Pineapple needs more time to cook than peaches and citrus fruit do. To help dense fruits heat all the way through, you can put the lid on the grill for a few minutes at a time, checking for doneness every 5 minutes or so. How do you know when it’s done? Take a sample slice and see if it’s hot in the middle, if that’s what you’re going for. For some recipes, you might just want surface grill marks.
8. Don’t Waste the Juice
High heat causes some grilled fruits to give off a lot of juice. Of course, some of that will drip through the grate. But you can place grilled fruit on a rimmed baking sheet to hold all that juicy goodness after it comes off the grill. In this recipe for Grilled Gazpacho Bloody Mary, you want to capture as much juice as you can while the tomatoes caramelize, so you grill them in a pan or on heavy duty aluminum foil.