Can you bake on the grill? Learn how to make grilled banana splits, strawberry shortcake and more outdoors

·8-min read
Chef Gemma Stafford says it's a great idea to bake on the grill this summer. (Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)
Chef Gemma Stafford says it's a great idea to bake on the grill this summer. (Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)

Summertime belongs to the grill. Year after year, decade after decade, the same classics — from hot dogs to cheeseburgers — have been made over an open flame. This season as the weather heats up, it may be time to bring baked goods to the grill racks.

Can you bake on the grill? And how? Gemma Stafford, the chef behind Bigger Bolder Baking, has over two million subscribers on YouTube alone and shares that this summer, your grill can become an important tool to step up your baking game.

Can you bake on the grill?

"The grill is just an extension of your kitchen," Stafford tells Yahoo Life. "And during these hot months, what better way to utilize that even more?" Stafford shares that in her family, baking on the grill has always been a way to add a sweet treat to the meal, as the grill was already warm from dinner.

"Growing up in Ireland, one thing that we did a lot — it's very, very simple … before we sat down to eat, as the coals were going out, we would all put a banana in its skin directly on the grill, on the bars," says Stafford. "And by the time you finished dinner, the bananas would be black. We would open them up and have them with vanilla ice cream and still, to this day, it's one of my absolute favorite desserts!" This dish inspired Stafford's popular grilled banana split — a grilled twist on the ice cream classic.

While baking fruits may be a more simple form of baking on the grill, other dishes take a little more precision and require turning your grill into an oven.

How to bake on the grill

"When you're doing something a little bit more involved — more of baking like a batter or a cobbler — you'll want to keep the hood down to create that oven effect," she says. "You want a nice char on your steaks and your sausages, but you do not want that on your fruit or baked goods. So it's a little bit about knowing your grill, manning it with a little bit of confidence and with control — you can do a lot of what you do [inside the oven] on the grill, as long as you create the proper environment for it."

Gaining confidence and control can take time, but Stafford shares that it stems from knowing your grill, as each outdoor grill type makes a difference in the final baked good when using the grill as an oven.

Which types of grills — and tools — are best for baking?

"I'm sure everyone who mans a barbecue is different, but I grew up on charcoal, that's all I knew there was," says Stafford. "That really gives you a fantastic flavor, but the thing about gas and newer grills today is control: You don't always get the same flavor, but you get more control, so it all depends on what you prefer."

While gas grills can be set to a specific temperature, charcoal grills, or even grills utilizing wood as a heat source are a little bit different, so it's important to have a grill-rated thermometer handy when baking on the grill, especially when making something like Stafford's brownie baked on the grill inside an orange, to ensure the perfect temperature.

Stafford says with the right tools and some practice, anyone can learn to use their grill for baking. (Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)
Stafford says with the right tools and some practice, anyone can learn to use their grill for baking. (Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)

"It's a little bit like your regular oven: It can be off," she says. "You can also have hot spots — you can put [the thermometer] in one corner of your grill and it's 350 F and in another spot and it's hotter, so it's a nice extra tool to have."

Once the grill is set and ready to go, the next step to be able to bake on the grill like a pro this summer is the perfect pan. Stafford suggests having a wide variety of heavy-duty pans and dishes on hand that can take the heat.

"A cast iron pan is great for baking," she explains, "a pizza stone is great because it's a great conductor of heat. For some baked goods, you want to get it raised up off the grill, so that can be your in-between from the direct heat of the grill and your baking dish."

Tips for baking on the grill

In addition to the must-haves, Stafford shares some tips to ensure that using the grill as an oven goes as smoothly as possible. "My experience says to stay away from any sheet pans that are not heavy-duty. The cheaper pans will buckle from the difference in the heat. [Sheet pans that are not heavy-duty] go from outside in the garden on to a very hot grill and they will buckle and warp, so you want to stay away from those for sure."

Once pans are in place, it's important to keep safety in mind. Stafford shares that heavy-duty heat-safe gloves are a must in protecting your hands while placing pans on the grill, or removing them from the heat.

"Silicone on your oven mitts is really fantastic," she says. "They have a really high temperature [resistance] so they don't melt on your hands."

Other top tips when baking on the grill? Stafford explains that as much as the grill can be used as an oven, it's a little different in that it can cook food so much more quickly. With items like her grilled strawberry shortcake kebabs, it's important to keep your eye on your baked goods.

"Check on it regularly," she says. "Don't walk away for too long. On an oven, you can set it and forget it, but on the grill, you need to check on it."

"Food will tell you when it's ready," she adds. "If you're yanking that fruit kabob off the grill and it's sticking, it needs more time. When it's ready, it will come right off the grill."

Feeling inspired to create some grilled sweetness of your own? Try these grilled dessert recipes from Bigger Bolder Baking.

Grilled Chocolate Brownies in Oranges

Courtesy of Gemma Stafford at Bigger Bolder Baking

(Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)
(Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups (15oz/427g) all-purpose flour

  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 16 ½ oz (465g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 1 ½ cup (12oz/337g) unsalted butter

  • 2 ¼ cups (18oz/ 510g) granulated sugar

  • ¾ cups (6oz/168g) packed light brown sugar

  • 7 eggs at room temperature

  • 3 tsp vanilla extract

  • 6 oranges

Instructions:

  1. To make the brownies: Put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water or place in the microwave. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.

  2. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.

  3. Add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined. The mixture should be room temperature.

  4. Whisk the eggs and vanilla in a jug together.

  5. Add a little of the eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

  6. Sift the flour, salt and cocoa over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Set aside.

  7. To prepare your oranges: Carefully take a serrated knife and take out the center of the orange.

  8. Once you take a bit out, you can go in with a spoon and scoop the rest out. You don't have to take out all of the pulp.

  9. Pour the batter into your orange 3/4 of the way. Place it's lid on and wrap in tin foil

  10. Place directly on the grills on medium heat (350 F/180 C) and bake for roughly 35-45 minutes.

  11. Enjoy straight away with vanilla ice cream.

Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs

Courtesy of Gemma Stafford at Bigger Bolder Baking

(Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)
(Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf (shortcake, sponge cake, brioche, angel food cake)

  • 1 pound package strawberries, washed

  • 8 wooden skewers

Instructions:

  1. Soak your wooden skewers in water for at least two hours. This prevents them from burning on the grill. Preheat grill, medium high setting (roughly 300 F/150 C)

  2. Cut the cake into 2-inch cubes.

  3. Take the hull out of the strawberries.

  4. Thread alternating strawberries and cake on each wooden skewer.

  5. Place on the grill and cook for roughly 4-5 minutes, rotating them during the cooking. They are done when the cake is toasted.

  6. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

  7. Enjoy.

Grilled Banana Split

Courtesy of Gemma Stafford at Bigger Bolder Baking

(Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)
(Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking / Carla Choy)

Ingredients:

  • Whole bananas

  • Vanilla ice cream

  • Your favorite ice cream sauce (caramel, chocolate, strawberry)

  • Toasted almonds

Instructions:

  1. Heat a grill to about 300 F (or as the barbecue is cooling down or dying out).

  2. Put the bananas in their skin straight on the bars. Close down the lid and grill for 10 minutes on each side. They will turn black on the skin — and that is exactly what you want to happen.

  3. Using a knife, cut out a small strip of peel from the top of your banana, leaving one end intact. Pull back the strip and use a knife or spoon to carve a shallow "canyon" down the center of your banana.

  4. Fill with ice cream, sauce and almonds and enjoy straight away.

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