To start grilling fruits, first you have to decide which ones you want to grill. Pretty much any fruit tastes great after being charred, but ones with the greatest surface area and highest density work best. Tropical fruits such bananas and mangos, melons like cantaloupe and watermelon, and stone fruits like peaches and nectarines all are strong enough to stand up to the grill and give you great surface to get those beautiful grill marks. Chef Luis Bollo of Salinas always cuts his mangos to 2 inches thick to make sure they’re durable enough for the grill.
Grilling peaches quickly transforms a seasonal fruit into an exciting dessert. The crunchy toasted almond topping topping makes for a delicious filling, as well as a healthy granola treat the next morning, should there be any leftovers.
Because we love fruits so much all on their own, some chefs have found a way to grill fruits and still retain that fresh flavor. Chef Jeff Mahin of Stella Rossa Pizza Bar always "flash-grills" his fruit by searing the outside just enough to achieve a charred flavor, and then cooling them immediately so that it still tastes fruity and fresh.
While ripe is what you usually look for when shopping for fruits, it’s best to look for fruits that are almost there if you’re planning on grilling them. A sturdy, firm fruit will be less likely to turn to mush when grilled, and by heating it up, you’ll draw out all of the flavors that you wouldn’t get normally before they’re ripened.
So where does a grilled fruit’s unique, interesting flavor come from anyway? As we mentioned before, it’s all about caramel, in some regards. Cooking fruits with high, direct heat causes their sugars to caramelize, giving them a rich and decadent flavor that you wouldn’t get from any processed and refined sugars.
Meats aren't the only things that deserve the attention of marinating before grilling, because it’s worthwhile with your fruits as well. The best kinds of marinades for your fruits can be either sweet or savory, so long as they enhance the fruit’s natural sweetness. Balsamic vinegar is a great one to work with, along with other popular marinade ingredients such as citrus juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Our panel of experts recommend incorporating some sugars like brown sugar or sugar in the raw, too, to give the fruits’ flavors a boost.
Like with many other grilling projects, aluminum foil is your best friend when it comes to harnessing grilled fruits. While some chefs want their grilled fruit to retain their fresh flavor, chef Luis Bollo likes to char his fruits first and then wrap them in foil to continue to cook so that they get a mellow and sweet flavor.
If you’ve been practicing your grill marks for the summer, there’s no better food than to perfect them with than fruits. Their bright, beautiful colors are enhanced with fierce, dark, and perfect grill marks.
Fresh has been a common theme here, and that’s not a coincidence. When you’re finishing off your fruits, it’s important to keep freshness in mind then as well, and garnish your grilled fruits with fresh herbs like mint or cilantro, or freshly grated lemon zest. While there’s still going to be a bit of sweetness in your fruits, raw garnishes will help brighten the flavors.
For chef Michael Lomonaco, grilling is just the beginning. When he grills fruits such as strawberries and peaches, he then purées them and uses them as ingredients in cocktails and summer sauces. His favorite is to add a grilled fruit purée to sparkling wine as a base for sangria.
Chef Sean McPaul of Talula's Garden in Philadelphia likes to grill his grapes with wood chips, because he finds that it gives them a unique, smoky flavor. Grilling grapes whole allows them to take on the smoke better, and helps keep them intact while cooking. This recipe, by chef Jeff Mahin of Stella Rossa, with a creamy burrata and grilled bread for a dish that plays on both flavor and texture to excite your taste buds.