BBQing isn’t just for meat lovers — a BBQ is just as much a tool for those with a sweet tooth. Most utilize BBQs, smokers and grills alike for lunches and dinners — maybe breakfast if they are feeling daring. The reality is that you can put your desserts on the grill too!
Grilling sweet foods provides a unique tang that really brings out their flavour — especially when paired with a cool ingredient like ice cream. If you have some sweet items on hand at your next BBQ, you can opt to cook them on the grill. Desserts are perfect for grilling all year round, whether it be fall, winter or summer.
After you master cooking desserts on the BBQ, you’ll be ready to try your hand at some of our favourite BBQ dessert recipes. If you're not sure where to start, don’t fret. You’ve already got the best charcoal grill, now we’re here to share the best sweet items to grill, how to cook them, and what to add to them.
Fruit: If you can put vegetables on the BBQ, why not throw a fruit onto the grill? Like when you BBQ vegetables, if you are going to grill a fruit you need to make sure it has the right texture. Firm fruits ideal for grilling are:
It’s worth mentioning that grilled fruit isn’t just good for dessert — it can actually complement meal items like salad! When you grill the watermelon for watermelon and feta salad, the taste is completely elevated. The temperature contract between the fruit and the cheese will make all the difference.
Marshmallows: This one is a no brainer — you roast marshmallows on a campfire, so why not put them on a different kind of fire? This is a messier dessert option, so you are best off putting your marshmallows on a skewer in a tin foil to avoid a sticky mess.
Skewers: On that note, if you’re getting creative, you can grill dessert items using a skewer, which makes for a mess-free, easy and aesthetic presentation.
Pizzas: Dessert pizzas are a real thing, and they are delicious. Whether you grill fruit for the pizza or just grill up some dough as a basis to add layers of ingredients like Nutella spread and some fresh banana, you’re good to go.
Sandwiches: Blend dessert and dinner in the best way by throwing a sweet sandwich on the grill. This will not only toast your bread (preferably something delicious like sourdough) but will warm up all the delicious insides whether that be peanut butter and jam, Nutella and marshmallows, or a sweet spread of any kind. Think of it as an elevated, sweet grilled cheese.
Donuts: Donuts are one of those sweets that always taste better when warm. Grill donuts to create aesthetic grill lines and bring out their flavour. Grilled donuts are the ultimate cookout dessert.
Jam: Elevate any dessert with jam whether it be as a filling, or a decorative top layer. Why break out your favourite jarred jelly to make a filing when you can just grill strawberries on the BBQ to make your own, fresh jam?
Pies: You can cook a pie on a BBQ just as easily as in an oven — it just takes a slightly different strategy and gives off a different taste that’s equally delicious. The only thing you need to cook a pie on the BBQ (other than the pie itself) is a foil pie tin to place on the grill rack.
Anything You Can Bake: If you can bake it, you can grill it. Trade your oven rack for a BBQ rack for your baking needs. Try your hand at baking muffins, cakes and cookies over your grill — the results will surprise you!
Now you know all the sweet items you can throw onto your grill — but how exactly do you cook them? Here are some helpful tips:
When you grill fruit, want to be selective on what you’re grilling. Some fruits grill better than others, and need to be cooked and sliced in a specific way:
Ripe: According to Martha Stewart, when grilling a fruit, you want to make sure it's not too ripe. Fruit needs to be relatively firm so that it can hold together on the BBQ.
Your Base: You’ll need to use oil, spray or butter to prevent your fruit from sticking on your grill. Consider the substance that will best compliment the flavour of your fruit. For example, coconut oil is very flavourful and will totally change the flavour of what’s being grilled.
Slicing: Strategize how you are going to cut your fruit before you cook it. Fruits like pineapples can be cut into rings, whereas peaches and stone fruits can be cut into half. The most fun fruit to cook, however, is a banana — slice open the skin and stuff just about anything in from chocolate to marshmallows and graham crackers while the banana is cooking.
It’s also important to note that If you are going to cut your fruit, be sure that you don’t cut it too small. Cut sizeable chunks so that it doesn't fall through the rack of your BBQ.
Time: Because fruits are high in sugar (hate to break it to you), they cook pretty fast. To prevent burning your fruit, only grill them for 3 to 5 minutes. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about the fruit being “undercooked.”
Sandwiches: You can grill sandwiches on your BBQ the same way you’d grill a grilled cheese in a pan over a stove tap — just minus the pan. Use the spatula to flip your sandwich when it is grilled to your preference.
Pizzas: You’ll have to preheat your BBQ similarly to how you’d preheat your oven. Heat your grill up to 428 °F (220 °C) and place a baking sheet on top of it — you’ll want to cook your pizza a top of a tray to avoid a mess.
To turn your BQQ into a makeshift oven, you can place items like bricks on either side of the pizza (or any flour-heavy dessert for that matter.) This will help to provide more concentrated heat
Marshmallow: If you are cooking marshmallows on the BQQ, you will want to 1) Put them on a skewer and 2) Wrap them in tinfoil. That is unless you want to be cleaning marshmallow off of your grill for the foreseeable future.
S'mores: If you are going all out with s'mores (graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallow, the whole shebang) you will want to make individual s' mores sandwiches and put them in tinfoil. Let the s’mores cook in tinfoil and, after they cool down a bit, you can use the tinfoil to hold the s'mores. This will help you keep the s’ more together, and avoid getting the dessert all of your hands and clothing.
While the grill itself will bring out specific tastes, there are also things to add to your dessert afterwards — or even while it’s cooking — to enhance its flavour.
Chocolate: You can melt chocolate basically onto anything and it will taste good. Melt chocolate onto fruit, marshmallows, you name it. Just think of it like BBQ fondue.
Sugar: Some fruits like pineapple are sweet enough on their own, but fruits like apples are tart and can totally benefit from a little bit of sugar when being cooked on a BBQ to bring out the sweeter flavours.
Honey: Sometimes sugar is a bit too concentrated for sweet foods like peaches — which is where honey comes in to provide a different type of sweet taste.
Cinnamon: Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with cinnamon. It provides a unique taste that isn't too sweet but provides a nice kick of flavour to things like pineapple and banana.
Cheese: cheese is one of those things that compliment breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Grilling cheese like halloumi and ricotta makes for a tasty snack on its own but also makes for a great addition to other grilled desserts like fruit. Don't believe us? Just try grilled halloumi with peaches and honey.
Mint: Mint and chocolate pair well together, so it makes sense that mint is a good finishing element for other sweet items like watermelon.
Ice Cream: Grilled desserts taste best when paired with something at a contrasting temperature. Ice cream is cold and sweet, making it the perfect pairing for a grilled fruit that is warm and tangy.Graham: Pair your dessert with something that brings a different type of texture to the dish. For example, if you are opting for a banana with grilled marshmallows and melted chocolate, consider incorporating graham cracker crumbs to give it a bit of a crunch.
Keeping things neat and tidy when BBQing meat is hard enough as is — so you can imagine that grilling sugary foods can get sticky. For this reason, it's important to take some precautions:
Clean before grilling: You’re going to want to make sure your grill is ready to take your dessert. Especially if you are making dessert after a dinner of meat, you’ll need to give your grill a thorough cleaning. No one wants s'mores that taste like a perfectly marinated steak. Unless they do...in which case you’re in the clear.
Baking sheets: Just like you’d put a baking sheet in an oven to cook a pizza or cookies, you can put a baking sheet on your grill. Just be sure to preheat it adequately so that your dish cooks through properly. This prevents mess, and items falling through your grill rack.
Tinfoil: Wrap sticky items like bananas and marshmallows in tin foil to prevent them from making a mess of your rack.
Grease Adequately: Be sure to spray your grill with some sort of no-stick solution like oil. Alternatively, you can grease it with any kind of fatty substance like butter to protect your grill.
Use Skewers: Make desserts easy to grill and serve by putting them on a skewer. There are tons of desert skewer recipes — but you don't even need to get all that creative. Marshmallows and an assortment of fruit like strawberries and pineapple make for the perfect — and pretty — grilled dessert. Skewers are also a great way to ensure your items stay in one piece, especially when they are sticky like marshmallows or small like strawberries.
William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.