7 Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Grill

Get out of the burger and hotdog rut: These recipes and grilling tips will take your cookouts to the next level.
By Dana Blinder, Rodale News

Are you using your grill to its fullest potential? Even if you've mastered burgers, dogs, veggies, and salmon, you've only scratched the surface, says David Joachim, coauthor of Fire It Up: More than 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything (Chronicle Books, 2011). "My whole philosophy is that you can grill almost anything," he says. Rethinking your grill's potential and using the right tools (such as grill pans for smaller items) opens up a multitude of options, enabling you to cook as you've never cooked before. "You can really build flavor in ingredients on the grill that you can't by cooking them in any other way," says Joachim.

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#1: Sardines. Maybe you've had grilled salmon, but sardines are also full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A sweet bell pepper sauce adds some extra flavor in this recipe for Grilled Fresh Sardines. Or simply grill them for 3 minutes on each side and squeeze some lemon juice on top. When grilling smaller foods like these fish, Joachim suggests using some specific gear, such as a grill tray.

#2: Pizza. Make the switch from traditional oven to outdoor grill for your pizza, and you'll wonder why you never tried it before. The technique is simple; throw the raw dough on the grill and build your pizza from there for a smoky, crunchy texture. Because of the dry high heat, you get a nice and crispy, dehydrated crust, says Joachim. "[Oven] pizza stones absorb the moisture for you to create this in your oven, but it happens on its own on the grill." Check out this bare bones Grilled Pizza Recipe for details.

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#3: Caesar Salad. Who would think to introduce this crisp, cool side dish to flame? Grilled Caesar Salad isn't as crazy as it sounds (check out our recipe for the right way to do it). Tossing your greens on the grill opens up new flavors unattainable through any other method. For the texture you lose when grilling vegetables, you get a return in developed flavors, Joachim says. "Grilling caramelizes the natural sugars, which boiling, steaming, or microwaving doesn't," he adds. "Particularly with grilled vegetables like radicchio, the natural sugars released with grilling balance the bitterness."

#4: Doughnuts. Doughnuts are a great anytime treat, but char-marked glaze makes these fried cakes even more addicting. "When you taste a doughnut that's been grilled, it's so different-tasting because the glazed sugar caramelizes instantly," adds Joachim. Make your own, or bring a pre-bought box grill-side. About 15 seconds of flame time on each side is enough. "The heat puffs out doughnuts like they just came out of the fryer, and the carmelization is unexpected and delicious," he says.

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#5: Oysters. Oysters may not be your first thought when it comes to grill time, but Joachim has an open-flame Cajun approach to cooking these shellfish. He suggests topping half-shelled oysters with Romano cheese, parsley, garlic, butter, and Creole seasonings. The cheese will quickly start to brown around the outside of the shell. "It doesn't cook all the way though, it just warms up", he says.

#6: Oatmeal Cookies. For an outdoor-dinner-party dessert, why get stuck in the kitchen when you can grill up a batch of homemade cookies? Joachim uses a perforated baking sheet and drops raw dough down for a quick bake. "Since grilling enhances a little bit of smoke flavor, we add to that by incorporating bacon," he says. The fat, sugar, and salt flavor trifecta creates multidimensional layers of flavor to this dessert. Your grill can go from dinner to dessert cooking by shifting the coals for heat control. "Adjust the temperature, and leave the half of the grill where your food sits unheated," Joachim says. "This allows for heat circulation much like a home oven." Try it with your own favoritecookie recipes, or see Flavor First to get Joachim's precise cookie/bacon alchemy.

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#7: Goat Cheese. Grilled goat cheese is another strange yet delicious addition to your backyard cooking repertoire that you'll wish you'd tried sooner. Since, amazingly, this cheese won't melt, Joachim suggests heating it in a grill pan, and taking it off heat as soon as a light char starts to form. Pair the cheese with crackers and fruit for a new take on a favorite appetizer; dress it with a spicy sauce and balsamic vinegar syrup for a real kick.

Want more? Check out hundreds of grilling recipes in the Rodale healthy recipe finder.