Looking for a sweet way to end your Labor Day BBQ but boycotting the oven? Grill dessert! Grilled dessert is a great way to celebrate the summer, pairing fruit with ice cream or cake for a perfectly sweet treat. Keep the grates hot throughout the meal to prepare the last course when you’re ready for it—and whatever you choose to make, chances are it’ll be even better served piping hot with melty ice cream! Read on for tips on how to go about grilling dessert, including some fantastic recipes to get you started.
Pick & Prep the Perfect Fruit
Fruits that work best on the grill tend to be heartier varieties with firm surfaces and higher sugar content for good char and caramelization (a.k.a. where the flavor is!). Fruits with a high water content (such as watermelon) don’t grill as easily, taking more time to develop a good char while becoming mushy in the process. Instead, opt for fruit like sliced and cored pineapple, halved stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc.), pitted cherries, or citrus.
Try to pick fruit that is ripe, but still firm. Soft, bruised fruit will grill just fine, but may stick to the grill more easily. Coat the flesh more heavily with nonstick cooking spray.
Related Reading: How to Grill Fruit for Sweet & Savory Summer Recipes
To pair with your fruit, certain types of cake also do well on the grill; try angel food cake and grilled pound cake. They’ll get lightly toasted and a little smoky, and pair wonderfully with fruit, whipped cream, and ice cream (or all of the above).
Related Reading: 15 Things You Never Even Knew You Could Grill
Prepare the Grill
Fruit naturally has a lot of sugar, so the grates of your grill must be extremely clean and well-oiled to prevent pieces from sticking to the grill. Use a grill brush to gently paint a layer of oil onto the grates. If you don’t have a grill brush, dip a paper towel in oil and use a pair of long tongs to apply to the grill.
Outset Sop Mop, $14.10 from Amazon
Use this heat-resistant brush to oil your grates.
The heat of your grill should be at a relatively medium heat; extreme flame will burn the fruit faster than it can cook through. Adjust the heat to the thickness of your fruit—thinner slices of pineapple will require faster, more direct cooking whereas thicker peaches will need lower heat to soften all the way through.
Grilled Dessert Recipes
Ready to fire things up? Here are 11 sweet ways to end your next cookout while the grill is still hot:
The classic combination of peaches-n-cream is complemented by the intense, caramelized flavors of grilled peaches. Creamy ice cream will melt beautifully on the hot peaches, creating a delicious (and gluten-free!) summertime treat. Get the Grilled Peaches with Ice Cream recipe.
And substitute peaches for other stone fruit as the season progresses; plums, apricots, pluots, and nectarines work just as well. Our Grilled Nectarine recipe with Mascarpone and Brown Sugar Crumble is particularly great if you’re not near a freezer.
The marshmallow isn’t the only component in a decadent s’more that benefits from the kiss of a flame! Grilled bananas are stuffed with mini marshmallows and melty chocolate chips, then grilled (or cooked over a campfire) until gooey. Use graham crackers to scoop it up for a deconstructed s’mores experience. Get our Grilled Banana Boats recipe.
Stuffed Puffs Chocolate Filled Marshmallows, $3.98 from Walmart
These chocolate-filled marshmallows cut out the middle man—but we're not against adding even more chocolate to them.
Related Reading: Easy Grilled Banana Recipes
Forget the oven—this Triple Berry Crumble takes in all of the smoky flavors of the grill and cooks alongside the rest of your dinner! A cast iron skillet is perfect for cooking outside, holding lots of heat to cook the crumble all of the way through. Check out this Triple Berry Crumble recipe.
As easy-going as a crisp, a cobbler can also be built in a skillet and cooked on the grill. This one marries ripe peaches and blueberries, but you can use whatever fruit you like. Get the Grilled Blueberry Peach Cobbler recipe.
Related Reading: How to Make Fruit Crisps, Cobblers, and Crumbles without a Recipe
Along the same lines, our Grilled Coconut-Apple Crisp recipe gets cooked on the grill, but in a disposable aluminum pan, so it’s great for those who don’t have cast iron (or just don’t want to lug it along to a friend’s BBQ or on a camping trip). With cinnamon, cloves, coconut, and ginger, apples take a summery tropical twist, and the grill makes for intense caramelization (i.e., more flavor).
Cherries have a rich, dark sweetness that only gets better with smoke and heat. Pair these decadently grilled cherries with sweet, delicate cream and sip with a straw—a beautiful way to end summer fruit season! Also consider substituting grapes for cherries in their off-season. (And have eco-friendly reusable straws on hand for sipping.) Check out this Grilled Cherry Milkshake recipe.
Grilling slices of sweet pineapple kick-starts the rich caramelization of the sugars in this upside-down cake. Plus, charred and smoky flavors pair beautifully with super sweet fruits like pineapple. A hint of chili flake in the topping is cooled down with a fragrant, lime-spiced pound cake base. Check out this Grilled Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe.
Lodge Chef Collection Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, $39.95 from Sur La Table
Your cast iron skillet will be your new favorite grilling tool.
Grilling pound cake slices toasts the cake in a delightfully crispy way. The flavor combinations are simply magic—cooling whipped cream, tart citrus, and toasty cake are perfect way to end a late summer cookout. For an added grill element: Place a halved orange, flesh side down, on the grill and char until dark marks appear. Allow to cool slightly and squeeze the juice into the whipped cream for more citrus flavor. Check out this Grilled Pound Cake recipe.
Figs are great grilled too; for a sophisticated yet simple dessert, brush them with honey and orange blossom water before grilling, then spoon over vanilla ice cream with another drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chopped roasted pistachios. Get our Grilled Fig Sundae recipe.
A banana split gets a summer makeover when you caramelize the fruit first on the grill (our recipe calls for roasting but when it’s hot out, the BBQ works just as well); they’re also spiced up with cinnamon and cayenne. Combine with your favorite ice cream and toppings for a cool treat that’s totally hot. Get our Grilled Banana Split recipe.
For something truly different, try this trick: Sandwich bittersweet chocolate between slices of crusty bread, brush it with butter, and grill it, pressing and sprinkling the outside with cinnamon-sugar so it caramelizes near the end. Serve it with ice cream, of course! Get our Grilled Chocolate Sandwich recipe.
Everything Else You Need to Know
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