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22 Surprising Things You Wouldn’t Think to Grill—But Should

Grilled watermelon, who knew? Spice up your next barbecue by tossing something unexpected—unexpectedly delicious, that is—on the fire.

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Bowl of watermelonPhoto: Shutterstock

Watermelon

Heat, smoke, and a hint of salt make this sweet fruit unexpectedly savoury, even meaty. Grilling “sobers it up and makes it lose its sloppy sweetness,” writes Mark Bittman in The New York Times; he brushes 1-inch-thick slices with olive oil, minced onion, salt, and pepper, then grills them for about five minutes per side until caramelized and beginning to dry out. Serve as a side, or top Bittman-style: with melted cheese and a bun for a “watermelon burger.” (Can’t get enough of watermelon? Try Graham Elliot’s watermelon and jalapeño ice pops!)

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Romaine lettucePhoto: Shutterstock

Romaine Lettuce

The greens take the heat surprisingly well, and grilling them creates a smoky flavour that’s perfect for a substantial salad, like this one from Food Network’s Alton Brown. Slice two heads of romaine lengthwise, then brush cut sides with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the lettuce halves cut-side down on a grill; cook over medium-high heat for one to two minutes. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and red wine vinegar. Place each half on a plate.

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Provolone cheesePhoto: Shutterstock

Cheese

No bread required! Placing cheese directly on the grill boosts richness and creates chewy texture. For perfect char marks, without melting and creating a mess, use thick slices like halloumi or aged provolone, says finecooking.com. Drizzle the cheese with olive oil, then grill over medium-high heat, turning once, until grill marks form (four minutes per side for halloumi, 1 minute per side for provolone). Serve with bread, grapes, and preserves.

Find out how to pair wine and cheese with ease!

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Pound cakePhoto: Shutterstock

Cake

Grilling gives cake a warm interior and caramelized crust, and the inherent sweetness balances out the smoky flavours. Cut an angel food or a pound cake into 1-inch-thick slices. Butter both sides, then grill over moderate heat until golden, turning once, about two minutes per side, says Food and Wine. Top with fruit, ice cream, or chocolate sauce.

Craving cake but don’t have a lot in the pantry? No problem! These easy cake recipes can be made with just a short list of ingredients.

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Sweet potatoesPhoto: Shutterstock

Sweet Potatoes

Barbecue evangelist Steven Raichlen, author of Best Ribs Ever, gives the orange tubers a treatment he calls smoke-roast-combining the two cooking techniques for a creamy, honeyed potato that’s not overly sugary. He recommends coating whole sweet potatoes with butter and placing over medium-high heat until the skins are browned and the flesh tender, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, slice lengthwise, and top with butter and brown sugar.

Make sure you’re avoiding these mistakes people make with sweet potatoes.

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Cooked bacon stripsPhoto: Shutterstock

Bacon

Skewer chunks of thick-cut bacon on wooden or metal sticks, and grill over indirect heat, says Fine Cooking. Toss into salads, serve atop burgers, or add grilled pineapple and eat straight-up as an appetizer.

Beware of these common mistakes people make with bacon.

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AvocadosPhoto: Shutterstock

Avocados

Iron Chef Cat Cora gently grills avocado halves, then scoops the flesh into guacamole that’s extra smoky and savoury. (The healthiest part of the avocado is probably not what you think.)

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gem lettucePhoto: Geo-grafika/Shutterstock

Gem lettuce

“Grilling is the best way to prepare food because it highlights the simplicity and versatility of the product,” notes Casey Burchfield, Chef de Cuisine, Linger Longer Steakhouse at The Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds, Lake Oconee in Georgia. “The food picks up hints of beautiful smoke flavour from the char as well as the wood used. It imparts a glorious texture due to the intense heat creating a nice char, aroma, and visual effect.”

One of his favourite picks? Gem lettuce. To make, cut the gem lettuce in half lengthwise, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Next, lay the gems cut side down on the hottest part of the grill until they get some beautiful char—it should only take about 20 seconds—then quickly take them off and cool them down in the refrigerator.

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potatoesPhoto: Oksana Mizina/Shutterstock

Potatoes

Blanch the potatoes first, advises Burchfield, because “they would burn on the grill before they are cooked if you didn’t.” He recommends steaming them in heavily salted water with some herbs and garlic tossed in. “Grilling adds a nice smokiness to the potato,” he says.

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peachesPhoto: Johnny Lemonik/Shutterstock

Peaches

“Grilling a peach adds notes of smokiness and caramelizes the sugars adding depth in flavour,” says Burchfield. He likes to serve grilled peaches with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, fresh, cold peach slices, crushed pecans, and a small drizzle of sorghum.

These infographics show when fruits and vegetables are in season!

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lobsterPhoto: Linus Strandholm/Shutterstock

Lobster

New Englander Gregg Brackman, owner of G Bar and Kitchen in Swampscott, Massachusetts and Culinary Fight Club National Champion likes to grill lobster. Take a live lobster and cut it in half down the middle. “Then season it lightly with olive oil, butter, and a sprinkle of thyme and garlic, before placing it face down on the grill,” he says noting that the light seasoning won’t overpower the delicate flavour of the lobster.

A professional chef reveals the proper way to eat a lobster.

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melonPhoto: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Melon

One of Brackman’s favourite grilling sensations starts with a melon. Before placing the melon on the grill, be sure that it is peeled, cleaned properly, and oiled. “Give the melon a nice seer to bring out the sweetness,” says Brackman who cuts the grilled melon into thick slices and serves with Prosciutto.

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flatbreadPhoto: FrauTori/Shutterstock

Flatbread

Another way Brackman celebrates his love of cooking with fire is to grill flatbread. He says to place the pizza dough on a cleaned grill making sure the grates are oiled and the temperature is not too hot. After the bread is cooked remove from the heat, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs and Parmesan cheese.

You won’t be able to resist these pizza topping ideas!

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cucumbersPhoto: IZZ HAZEL/Shutterstock

Cucumbers

Grilling cucumbers lifts them out of the salad category and turns them into an elegant side dish for grilled or seared fish, chicken, and lamb, says Tyler Kinnett, executive chef at Harvest in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “After the cucumber gets flavorful char marks on the grill, dress it with chopped herbs of your choice (my preference is mint and dill), drizzle on some olive oil and either lemon juice or some high quality, sweeter vinegar, like apple cider vinegar or Moscatel wine vinegar,” he says.

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cauliflowerPhoto: YanaG/Shutterstock

Cauliflower steaks

For a vegan main dish, try cauliflower, a fiber-filled vegetable. Bane recommends starting with the biggest head of cauliflower you can find. “Cut inch-wide steaks from the outside moving into the middle, then rub each piece with a little coconut oil for sweetness, and add a sprinkle of paprika for color and cumin for flavor,” she says. Cauliflower may need to grill a little longer than other vegetables, she notes.

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Grilled oystersPhoto: HuanPhoto/Shutterstock

Oysters

Throw some oysters on the grill at your next barbeque for a quick way to impress your guests. Cook them until their shells start to pop open.

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PolentaPhoto: Ana Photo/Shutterstock

Polenta

This one probably comes as a surprise since polenta is typically served as a creamy dish. Allow it time to set and then you’ll be able to slice it up and throw it on the grill. This will give it a crispy, golden exterior and smoky flavour.

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Mexican quesadilla with spinach, beans and cheddar cheese close-up on the table. horizontalPhoto: AS Food studio/Shutterstock

Quesadillas

Instead of heating up your quesadilla in the microwave or on the stove top, throw it on the grill. This will give the outside of your tortilla a crispy evenly toasted look and the cheese on the inside will be warm and gooey.

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baked carrots on a baking sheet, food close upPhoto: Olha Afanasieva/Shutterstock

Carrots

Cooking carrots on the grill brings out their sweetness. Mix that with the char and smoke of the grill and you’ll never cook your carrots any other way.

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grilledpineapplePhoto: TravnikovStudio/Shutterstock

Pineapple

Slice up a pineapple and throw it right on the grill. When you cook pineapple on the grill it takes away some of the acidity so it will taste sweeter.

Find out how to eat a pineapple the correct way.

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artichokePhoto: Vincenzo Di Dio/Shutterstock

Artichokes

Adding a charred edge to artichokes gives them a whole new flavour. Cut the artichoke in half and remove the choke. Then, brush some oil on it and place it on the grill.

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mushroomsPhoto: FashionStock.com/Shutterstock

Mushrooms

For a tasty appetizer or side, skewer washed baby bella mushrooms then marinate them in a mix of avocado oil and balsamic vinegar before grilling. “The rich and delicious flavour is amazing!” she says. Burchfield prefers to grill hen of the wood mushrooms which he prepares in a bit of soy and sesame oil before grilling. He starts grilling low and slow until the mushrooms are 80 per cent cooked and starting to wilt, then finishes on high heat to caramelize the soy.

Hosting a backyard bash? These summer grilling recipes—covering everything from baby back ribs to seafood to vegetables and fruits—are sure to satisfy every guest’s appetite.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest