Grill Your Baked Goods, Bask in Summer Dessert Glory

July 13, 2018

We know grilled desserts are pretty, well, sweet. Caramelized, grill mark-patterned fruit—good (these are good, too). Marshmallows for s'mores—great. Grilled chocolate sandwiches—even better.

So, we wondered, what would happen if we brought some of of our other favorite desserts to the charcoal party—you know, all those cookies, brownies, and quickbreads we love so much? Turns out, they have a place on the grill, too! Day-old baked goods crisp up to their toastiest, best selves when you grill them. They then become the perfect landing pad for all manner of toppings: that same grilled fruit we know and love, a cool or creamy sauce or spread, a drizzle of something bright and acidic, and a crunchy doodad or two for surprise and flair.

In our love letter to all things cooked over coals—our latest book, Any Night Grilling—author Paula Disbrowe gives a handy equation for standout desserts with a smoky-sweet charm. It's as simple as this:

grilled base + grilled fruit + creamy sauce + sweet or acidic accent + crunchy topping

Sounds like a cinch, right? Right! Below, you'll find some ideas on what parts of the dessert to grill and how to put them all together.

1. Make your Grilled Bread Bed

Grilling up baked goods is easy, and brings a rich, caramelly undertone to the table. Take slices of sturdy, sweet-ish breads, like cookie bars, enriched loaves (like brioche or pan de mie), quickbreads, pound cake, muffins, or even biscuits, and put them on the grill the same way you would grill bread (that is, toast 'em for just one minute on each side, until grill marks form and things are smelling really great).

2. Pile on all things Fun & Fruity

The key to grilling fruit is to consider its density and how well it will hold up on the grates. This will affect the way you cut them before putting them on a (medium-high heat) grill. Juicy fruit like plums, peaches, figs, and apricots will soften quickly; these should be halved so they hold together and are easier to remove from the grill. Firmer fruits that benefit from a sear on two sides, like pineapple or star fruit, should be cut into slices or long spears. Larger pieces of fruit are generally preferable, because small, bite-size chunks tend to break down.

In a bowl, toss fruit with enough olive oil to lightly coat (or brush the fruit slices to coat if you’re worried about them breaking down). Grill until charred in spots (anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes). To limit the amount of crumble between the grates or your luscious peach tasting like the steak you just grilled, use an oiled and preheated grill basket set over direct heat (or even a grill pan) to grill your dessert components.

not grill-able, but still smoky & sweet

3. dollop on something Creamy & Cooling

When your bread base and fruit are grilled and sitting pretty on the plate, spoon on a generous amount of of ice cream, crème fraîche, whipped cream, and the like, to cool things down while also luxing them up. Salted caramel, toasted marshmallows (see above), and even softened cream cheese would not be unwelcome.

4. drizzle a little of the zippy, tangy, Sweet stuff

Next, add a few dashes of something sweet and/or acidic, like jam, maple syrup, or a honeyed vinegar.

5. Top things off with a satisfying crunch

Nuts, granola, toffee shards, crumbled-up cookies—the ones with a little bite, this time!—all work here.

And voilà! Dessert is served. These formulas don't really require a recipe, but just call for a bit of imagination and resourcefulness. Since your grill's already hot, why not make the most of it with something sweet?

What's your favorite dessert to fire up on the grill? Let us know in the comments!

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Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.

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    Brinda Ayer
Brinda is the Director of Content at Food52, where she oversees all site content across Food52 and Home52. She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants and at least one foster pup (sometimes more). Find her at @brindayesterday on Twitter and Instagram.


Nancy July 16, 2018
I find bbq dry rubs enhance grilled fruit, applied before grilling or before serving. Plain or with ice cream or whipped cream.
Brinda A. July 16, 2018
That's a wonderful idea, Nancy—I can't wait to try it out! Do you have a specific dry rub/spice blend you like to use?
Nancy July 16, 2018
Brinda -

I find this works with almost any rub.
There are two recipes I like most, however.
One, which includes the idea for using it on fruit, is Texas all-purpose barbecue rub by Chef Ari White, originally from El Paso.
The other is a recipe from The Spice House, which includes cacao nibs, and which gives a nice depth of chocolate beef for main dish, or fruit for dessert.