Dining & Entertaining

It's Grilling Season! Unique Ideas and Tips for Serving Up Grilled Goodness

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Steak, burgers, hot dogs, chicken: We can't get enough of these summertime favorites. There's something so welcoming about the scent of fired-up grills. You can do more with the grill than meat dishes alone: It's the perfect spot to cook up your vegetables, sides, drinks, and desserts. Explore these ideas for delicious (and easy) grilled meals—from meats and veggies to appetizers and cocktails.

And, because food just looks better on a great serving platter, we've included some serveware inspiration. Whether it's a family dinner or a big backyard gathering, each dish and drink deserves a beautiful, inviting display.

Serve up colorful grilled main dishes

Liven up the table with bright, colorful grilling season favorites and new recipes that are also feasts for the eyes. The simplicity of grilling is what makes it a favorite: Olive oil, marinades, herbs and spices, salt and pepper—just a few ingredients pack big flavor.

Grilled meat and veggie kabobs

Meat, veggies, marinade, grill: done. Chicken, beef, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, onions—mix and match favorite ingredients for a ton of flavor. A simple marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, torn basil, parsley, and oregano. Brush, salt/pepper, grill.

Serve it up: A brightly hued ceramic platter enhances the already vibrant colors of this grilled favorite.

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Grilled shrimp tacos

Marinate shrimp in a mixture of olive oil, lime juice, cumin, chipotle, and cilantro. Use skewers or a grill basket and cook the marinated shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve it up: Clear glass bowls for the grilled shrimp, and matching dip bowls for the toppings: shredded lettuce or cabbage, roasted corn, diced tomatoes, sliced red onions, guacamole, and sour cream.

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Cedar plank salmon

It's a dish that looks more difficult than it is and always impresses. Soak your cedar planks for two hours, place the salmon skin-side-down onto the plank, then season to your heart's content.

  • Use your favorite seasoned salt or make your own with a blend of salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, and a pinch of pepper.
  • Brush the salmon with a maple-soy glaze.
  • Brush the salmon with olive oil, sprinkle maple sugar, garlic salt, and fresh cracked pepper over the top, then grill.

The salmon is done when it's flaky but not dry—usually about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet. Use grippy tongs at each end of the filet so it doesn't fall apart.

Serve it up: Salmon looks beautiful on a black ceramic serving platter. Or, continue the plank theme with a wood serving platter lined with romaine lettuce leaves.

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Put new twists on classic favorites

Sometimes, all you want are the classics—hot dogs and beans, sausages and peppers, or a big, juicy steak. But we've lined up some updates to grilled faves to consider adding to the menu.

Grilled boneless Buffalo chicken

Marinate boneless chicken thighs in your favorite Buffalo sauce, or go for a smokey BBQ sauce instead for a boneless, less-mess version of chicken wings. The higher fat content means chicken thighs stay juicy and tender and don't overcook easily—they're a perfect dish for a first-time-griller. Use a thermometer to check that they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit, which is the proper temperature for chicken

Serve it up: Toss the chicken thighs in a rectangular ceramic serving bowl and serve alongside condiment bowls filled with bleu cheese crumbles, sliced veggies, and a variety of dips.

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Stuffed burgers

Caramelized onions, cheddar, and diced peppers. Bacon, onion, and a smoky-sweet BBQ sauce. Ricotta, garlic, white wine, and fresh shredded herbs. Jalapenos, cream cheese, and cheddar. Gooey American cheese for an inside-out cheeseburger. Choose your stuffing, grill the burgers, and then contain the goodness with hearty rolls.

Serve it up: Place the cooked burgers on a wood platter for a rustic presentation. On a second wood serving tray, line up bun-sized lettuce, and thin-sliced tomatoes and red onion. A condiment server holds colorful homemade coleslaw, roasted red peppers, charred sweet onions, and zesty pickles for a rainbow of options.

Grilled pizza

When the summer haze sets in, it's too much for a high-heat oven. Take your pizza to the grill instead. Brush the grate with olive oil, shape your dough (store-bought is fine!), and grill the crust directly on the grate—flip it after a few minutes. Grill the dough until it's browned on either side. Remove it from the heat, spread your sauce, scatter your cheese and toppings, then grill for another few minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve it up: A pizza peel is a natural fit. Divvy up the slices while another pie grills. No doubt it'll be cleared by the time the next pizza is ready.

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Put your veggies on the grill

Grilling vegetables is an excellent way to cook up some healthy sides for your burgers and hot dogs. Anything goes, as long as you prep the grate with a bit of olive oil and keep the right tools on hand. Grill veggies until they're tender, not mushy, and move them as little as possible to achieve those gorgeous grill marks.

Balsamic grilled vegetable medley.

Use a basket to grill halved baby red potatoes, red onion chunks, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and artichoke hearts tossed with a blend of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and garlic. They're ready when they are tender-crisp.

Serve it up: Present in a large glass bowl to show off the gorgeous colors and textures.

Stuffed grilled peppers.

Slice peppers in half, remove the seeds and ribs, and grill them for a blistered, delicious side dish. Turn them into a meal: Fill the pepper halves with thin-sliced, grilled top round steak and top with caramelized onions and provolone.

Serve it up: Red peppers look beautiful in contrast to the antique white of a rustic rectangular ceramic platter.

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Grilled veggies

Toss onion halves, cherry tomatoes, carrots, zucchini halves, asparagus, or beets in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then grill until tender.

Serve it up: Use tongs to place your grilled vegetables on a brightly colored ceramic platter or in two ceramic serving bowls—one at either end of the table within reach of everyone.

Grilled salad

Really. Cut a washed romaine heart vertically, keeping the base attached so the leaves don't fall apart. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill the lettuce cut-side-down over medium-high heat for about two minutes. Flip, and grill until the lettuce begins to wilt.

Serve it up: Plate individual salads on narrow serving trays or platters, lightly drizzle on your favorite caesar dressing, squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top, sprinkle with parmesan, top with croutons, and crack a bit of fresh pepper over the top.

Grilled bruschetta

Brush a halved baguette or french loaf with olive oil and garlic, sprinkle with salt, then grill the bread crust-side-up. After it's lightly crispy and golden brown, remove it to a cutting board. Slice into pieces and top each with diced tomatoes, shredded basil, and a sprinkle of salt.

Serve it up: Keep the bruschetta on the cutting board or move to a wooden boat dish. Offer a bowl of fresh mozzarella pearls alongside; they make a wonderfully creamy addition to any warm bread dish. Finally, a cruet set lets everyone add an extra splash of balsamic vinegar or olive oil to taste.

Don't forget your summer cookout drinks and desserts

The grill may be the main attraction, but these beverages and sweets are good enough to steal a little thunder. Serve your grilled drink creations from vibrant pitchers to add an extra burst of summertime color to the table.

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Grilled lemonade

Wow your barbecue guests with a twist on the refreshing summertime classic: Halve lemons, dip them in raw sugar, and grill them directly on the grate. They're ready when the sugar caramelizes and the lemons are lightly browned. After they cool, use the 'grilled' lemon juice in your favorite lemonade recipe.

Serve it up: Lemonade in tall, clear pitchers is the classic summertime image. Pour the grilled lemonade into your favorite drinkware garnished with grilled lemon slices.

Grilled fruit smoothies

Grill watermelon, pineapple, mango, peaches—anything goes as long as the fruit can stay on the grate. Toss in the blender and put a grilled spin on your favorite smoothie recipe.

Serve it up: Smoothies look beautiful in any glassware from highballs to rocks glasses to mason jars.

Smokey Old Fashioned

Grill the orange slices before muddling, then measure the rest to your liking.

Serve it up: Old fashioned glasses, of course!

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Grilled piña colada

Grill fresh coconut meat, cherries, and pineapple. Whiz up with ice, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and rum for a perfect piña colada. Skip the rum for a frozen mocktail version.

Serve it up: These look lovely in chunky martini/dessert glasses.

Grilled donuts

Make or buy your favorite donuts—puffy glazed donuts, moist cake donuts, cinnamon and sugar-dusted donuts—brush them with melted butter, grill for about a minute per side. They're ready when they're warm and lightly browned. Enjoy immediately.

Serve it up: A round, textured platter complements the dessert's golden grill lines.

Grilled peaches and cream

Grill peach wedges and serve topped with vanilla ice cream.

Serve it up: A rustic serving tray with handles makes it easy to carry bowls of peaches and ice cream to people gathered around the fire pit.

Grilled pie

Warm a baked or store-bought summer pie (apple, blueberry, or rhubarb) over the grill's indirect heat.

Serve it up: An aluminum pie stand gives the dessert a nostalgic elegance. Cake stands are perfect substitutes.

Grilled s'mores

Grill individual s'mores over indirect heat—foil-wrapped packets minimize the mess.

Serve them up: A tiered dessert stand set on your outdoor dining table will draw a crowd.

The grill is the perfect tool for summertime meals—from sides and main dishes to drinks and desserts. Give your unique grilled dishes a presentation that's a feast for the eyes, with beautiful bowls, platters, and glasses.

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