Grilling can and should be a year-round endeavor. But summer seems to be when we up the ante, becoming self-proclaimed barbecue masters seemingly overnight. We get saucy with new marinades and rubs, boost burgers by experimenting with different meats and accompaniments, and work in our farmers market finds, putting everything from berries and stone fruits to vegetables and cheese over hot coals.
There’s no rule stating that grilling is just for the main meal of the day. Rise and shine with breakfast; grill up a midday salad; slice a loaf of crusty bread, slather with oil and after a few minutes over hot goals, you’ll have the perfect vessel for happy hour bruschetta. Dessert? You could go old school with s’mores, but there’s so much sweet territory to explore that it would be a shame to limit yourself.
This seems like a fine time to don our “Kiss the Cook” apron and try recipes with a little more flair, so we called on expert authors and a local chef to help fuel our ideas. Whether your preferred method is charcoal, gas, fire pit, flat-top or smoker, here are five recipes to get you started on a smoky, delicious summer adventure.
Grilled French Toast
Breakfast outdoors spells adventure, no matter where you’re cooking and eating it. This hearty French toast (yes, cook it right on the grill) is a cinch to prepare. Serve with butter, maple syrup and fresh berries and it’s a sure bet that everybody will be talking about breakfast for the rest of the day. From “The Outdoor Cook: How to Cook Anything Outside,” by America’s Test Kitchen (2023, $30). The book is a great resource for beginner outdoor cooks or those who want to learn more about cooking al fresco. It covers gas and charcoal grills, flat-tops, fire pits and more, in the typical no-detail-is-too-small fashion that’s an ATK hallmark.
• 2 large eggs• 1½ cup whole milk• 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted• 1 tsp. almond extract or 2 tsp. vanilla extract•
tsp. ground cinnamon•
tsp. table salt• 8 (¾-in.-thick) slices challah• 4 tsp. sugar
Lightly beat eggs in shallow dish. Whisk in milk, melted butter, almond extract, cinnamon, and salt (butter will clump slightly).
For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter half filled with charcoal briquettes (3 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high; cover; and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium.
For a flat-top grill: Turn all burners to medium-high and heat griddle until hot, about 10 minutes. Turn all burners to medium.
Open fire: Prepare medium-hot single-level fire in open-fire grill. Set cooking grate at least 6 inches from coals and flames and heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
Clean and oil cooking grate (or griddle). Place bread on grill and toast until light golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Working with 1 bread slice at a time, soak in egg mixture until saturated but not falling apart, 10 seconds per side. Using firm slotted spatula, pick up bread slice, allowing excess egg mixture to drip off, and transfer to rimmed baking sheet.
Using spatula, transfer soaked bread to grill and cook (covered if using gas) until bread is deep golden brown on first side and releases easily from cooking grate, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle top of each toast with ½ teaspoon sugar, then flip and cook until deep golden brown on second side and sugar begins to caramelize, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve.
Steakhouse-style Grilled Denver Steak
Note: Who better to provide grilling recipes than a steakhouse chef? We consulted with chef Wyatt Evans, of P.S. Steak in Minneapolis. His steak of choice for this recipe is a Wagyu-Angus crossbreed, such as those from Idaho’s Snake River Farm. Denver-cut steaks come from the shoulder area, and are known for their tenderness, marbling and rich, beefy flavor.
• 2 tbsp. kosher salt• 1 tsp. sugar• 1 tsp. paprika•
tsp. ground turmeric•
tsp. onion powder•
tsp. garlic powder• 2 (10-oz.) Denver-cut steaks, at room temperature(see note)
In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, sugar, paprika, turmeric, onion powder and garlic powder until incorporated.
Season the room-temperature steaks to taste and grill over medium-hot coals, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature registers 80 degrees. Remove steak from the heat to rest for 10 minutes. Return to the grill and cook to your desired temperature. (Rare: 110 degrees, medium-rare: 125 degrees; medium: 135 degrees; medium-well, 155 degrees.)
Grilled Cabbage Steak
The humble cabbage is having a moment and gets the star treatment in “The BBQ Companion,” by Oscar Smith (Smith Street, 2023; $24.95), a handy 50-recipe deck that covers everything from seafoods to sides with vegan options, too. Its portability — a little bigger than a deck of cards — makes it easy to keep in the cabin or camper or to pack up to go wherever the barbecue winds take you.
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• ¼ cup lime juice
• 2 tbsp. fish sauce
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• ½ green cabbage, cut into thin wedges
• ¼ red cabbage, cut into thin wedges
• 2 tbsp. peanut oil, plus more for greasing grill plate
• 2 red Asian shallots, finely diced
• 1 long red chile, thinly sliced
Preheat grill to medium and lightly grease a grill plate with oil.
Combine brown sugar, lime juice, fish sauce and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reduced by a third. Remove from the heat.
Brush the cabbage wedges with the peanut oil and cook on the grill plate for 6 to 8 minutes on each side, allowing the edges to blacken slightly.
Transfer to a chopping board and remove most of the core from each wedge, leaving a sliver behind so that the wedges still hold together. Place the cabbage wedges in a serving bowl and pour the dressing over.
Garnish with the shallots and chile.
Dry Rubbed Pork Blade Steaks
You’ll need to give the pork steaks at least four hours to marinate, so plan accordingly. Season the meat liberally, and store any leftover dry rub in an airtight container. From chef Wyatt Evans, of P.S. Steak in Minneapolis.
• ¼ cup cumin
• ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
• ½ cup sweet paprika
• ¼ cup chili powder
• 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
• ¼ cup kosher salt
• 2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 4 pork blade steaks
Prepare the dry rub by whisking together cumin, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper until well incorporated.
Thoroughly rub the pork steaks with the spice mixture, coating well. Place meat in a zip-top plastic bag or a glass bowl with a tightfitting lid. Refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.
Prepare the grill to medium heat and cook pork steaks, turning frequently, until well-grilled on the outside (be careful not to burn the sugar, only char it a bit). Transfer pork steaks to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking; cook until tender when pierced with a skewer or thin-bladed knife.
Barbecued Mediterranean Pizza, with Basil Oil and Ricotta
This vegetable-heavy pizza recipe uses a pizza pan on the grill. A pizza stone also works great, and we’ve also cooked pizzas (with pre-baked crusts) right on the grates. From “The BBQ Companion,” by Oscar Smith (Smith Street, 2023; $24.95), a handy 50-recipe deck that covers everything from seafoods to sides with vegan options, too.
For the basil oil:
• ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• ½ cup basil leaves
• 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
For the pizza:
• 2 zucchini, cut diagonally into ½-inch slices
• 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
• 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
• ½ red onion, sliced into wedges
• 5 mushrooms, sliced
• 7 oz. ricotta cheese
• ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 prepared pizza crusts
Prepare the basil oil: Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the basil leaves and garlic and swirl the pan until the leaves are wilted and the oil has become fragrant and turned a rich green color. Set aside.
Preheat grill to high and lightly grease the grates with oil.
Prepare the pizza: Brush the zucchini, peppers, onion and mushrooms with half of the basil oil. Grill, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and have defined grill marks. Set aside.
In a bowl, mash the ricotta and Parmesan together with a fork.
Lightly grease two round pizza trays, and place one crust on each. Divide the remaining basil oil over the two bases and brush on, adding the basil leaves and garlic. Scatter spoonfuls of the cheese over the crusts, and arrange the grilled zucchini, peppers, onion and mushroom over the top.
Place the trays over the grill and close the lid. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
Nicole Hvidsten writes for the Star Tribune.