Verdict: You Can’t Grill Just Anything

When I was a kid, my mother baked a blueberry pie on the grill. I don’t remember if it was more than once or became a thing. I am pretty sure it had something to do with my father’s refusal to fix the oven, like the dryer that died in one summer’s heat and remained unfixed until late December when the laundry came in off the line in icy planks.

Then, recently a friend asked of his facebook companions, ‘can I grill pretzels?’ A variety of replies included ‘You can grill anything!’

Despite the fact that I am sober as I am 94 days away from giving birth, ‘grill anything’ has become a challenge, a la can you deep fry anything?

Can you grill anything?

The physics of the grill would say, “no.” The direct heat and instant cooling every time you need to check progress would render many things inedible. (Pretzels?)

But what about “grilled” as a qualifier on a menu? As a menu writer myself I experience the pressure first hand to make something sound extra delicious. Why say Tapenade when you can say Minted Tapenade?  Or Shallots when you can say Roasted Shallots or Melted Shallots or Shallot Confit or even better: Confit of Shallot.

This is an art, selling food to someone with words. There’s a company out there that pays me to edit what their food scientists and brand managers come up with. I get a list of flavor combinations and give insight into what works (Garden Veggie) and what doesn’t (Basil & Pesto.)

But relying on “grilled” as a qualifier has drawbacks. If using the grill isn’t exploiting the physics of the grill itself (think thick, parallel, black lines) or the food (turning the high sugar-to-water ratio of pineapple into caramel) then… don’t grill it. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Like maxing out your credit cards.

Last night we went out to dinner and I was seduced by the scallop special. Under normal circumstances I would never order scallops in a restaurant, not for $28 a serving ($7 a scallop!) but I couldn’t resist the lure of a Grilled Watermelon garnish.

In this restaurant, they know what they are doing in the kitchen and I thought – ooh! I’ve never had grilled watermelon before. So, I ordered it. Sadly, the rules were broken. There were no grill marks and due to the high water content of the fruit, there was no caramelization.

What I got was hot watermelon.

So, friends, go forth and experiment. I’ve had grilled eggs and grilled avocado and grilled cheese sans bread, all delicious, all mindful of the physics of grilling. And like evolution, science is here to help us understand the world around us and make wise decisions.

Don’t waste your watermelon!

Grilled Blueberry Pie
All that said, there are some things that you can grill, or rather, force the grill to work on your behalf. Its fruit pie season. And, like putting gestating babies on top of bladders, making pie indoors while 95˚ seems crazy. So disregard everything I just said and grill a pie.

1 double pie crust of your choosing
4 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
zest from 1 lemon
juice from same lemon
2 T butter, cut into about 10 little knobs

1. Line a pyrex (or other high heat resistant glass) pie plate with 1 pie crust.

2. In a bowl, gently stir together the blueberries, sugar, flour zest and juice. Try not to squish too many berries.

3. Pour berry mixture into prepared pie plate. Dot with bits of butter. Put the top crust on and crimp to seal. Martha has beautiful instruction and recipes.

4. Put pie on a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch overflowing juice and prevent it from catching on fire.

5. Put cookie sheet and pie on a gas grill heated to 400˚ for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350˚ and cook 50 minutes more.

6. Remove pie from grill and let cool before slicing. Enjoy with ice cream.


  • Aunt Terri

    I’m just catching up on emails and when I saw this I laughed.  I was in the store the other day and thought of your mom’s Blueberry Cake.  But now I have the PIE recipe… hmmm 4th of July, relaxing the backyard with the smell of bueberry pie cooking.  Works for me!

  • Jrplivben

    Just gets better and better!