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The complete guide to grilling fruit

While that little bit of heat and char is what makes juicy burgers taste so good, it also does wonders for your fruit

Throughout most of the year, there are five main tastes to play with: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. But during the summer, when the grill fires up, an unofficial sixth taste busts its way into the flavor game: smoky. And while that little bit of heat and char is what makes juicy burgers taste so good, it also does wonders for your fruit — just imagine the potential ambrosia makeover.

Why grill fruit? For one, it means that you can cook an entire meal, from appetizer to dessert, in one place, which minimizes cleanup. But more importantly, grilling will caramelize the natural sugars in fruit, and lock in its flavor.

So save room on the grill and use these tips to fire up your summer produce. Because your fruit deserves more than a salad bowl.

What fruit to use
Honestly, anything fresh and in season will work. Just make sure to pick produce that's just slightly ripe; firmer fruit stands up better to the heat.

How to prep fruit
It's best to leave the peels on your fruit — this will help hold its shape.

As for knife work:

  • Cut larger fruit — like watermelon, mango, pineapple, and cantaloupes — into wedges.
  • Cut medium-sized, rounder fruit — like avocados, bananas, apples, figs, citrus, peaches, and pears — in half and remove pits, cores, and seeds. (Then fill up those pockets with everything from couscous to ice cream.)
  • For small fruit — like berries, tomatoes, and grapes — or slices of fruit, use skewers or a grill basket.

Then, be sure to brush the fleshy side with neutral oil (coconut, grapeseed, canola) or melted butter before hitting the grill.

How to give fruit flare
Fruit loves a good marinade or a glaze. Go sweet (citrus juice, maple syrup, honey); go savory (vinegar, herbs, and even barbecue sauce); go spicy (chili powder, smoked paprika, a curry blend); or go off the wagon with a splash of bourbon or Grand Marnier.

Just remember: If you're using sugary rubs or glazes, apply them towards the end of grilling to prevent burning.

How to cook the fruit
First things first, make sure your grill is super clean. Then, place the fruit flesh-side down on the grates (here's where that brush of oil is so important). Cook over medium to medium-high heat for a few minutes, or until it's as done as you want it. If you're looking for a smoky flavor with minimal cooking, place your fruit on a cool part of the grill, over indirect heat. And remember: For softer, smaller fruits, keep a watchful eye to avoid a blackened, mushy mess.

What to do with grilled fruit
If you're nervous about grilling fruit, start with sturdy cantaloupe, pineapple, or watermelon. Not only will they hold up well on the grill, but they'll pair with sweet and savory creations. (We brushed ours with coconut oil, then sprinkled it with cumin and flaky salt, and served it with a squeeze of lime.)

Once you have your confidence, go bananas. Or avocados. Or peaches.

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: All about grilling fruit

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