Grilling brings out the yeasty, toasty essence of bread. Crusts get crustier, warmed insides get a lovely chewiness to them, and the flavor of the flames adds its own touch of yummy. Think of it like toasting all grown-up. Plus, if you have a grill going anyway, it could hardly be easier, and it's a great way to bump up the impact of your dinner a notch or two.
What Bread to Grill
Hearty, crusty breads respond particularly well to grilling, becoming more flavorful and even crustier. Levain bread, in particular, flourishes for some time over the flames. Artisan sourdough loaves, hearty ryes, and cheese-or-nut-laden breads all taste great after a wee bit of time on the grill. While pre-sliced bread can certainly be used, thicker slices fair better.
How to Grill Bread
Grilling bread works over gas or charcoal flames. Ideally, you want a medium-hot grill (you should be able to hold your hand about an inch over the cooking grate for 4 to 5 seconds before pulling it away), but if you're working with a hotter grill, just be sure to put the bread to the sides.
- Cut bread into about 1/2-inch-thick slices.
- Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil, canola oil or melted butter.
- Put the bread slices on a medium-hot grill and cook covered until grill marks form and the bread slices are lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the slices over and cook them on the other side until grill marks form there another 2 to 3 minutes. (Note that large grilling tongs are especially good for turning over bread slices.)
- Remove the bread from the grill. Serve it hot or warm.
Grilled Bread Variations
This is where things get super yummy. You know that oil or melted butter you brush on in step 2? You can add all kinds of things to bring more flavor to the bread:
- use a flavored oil like lemon-infused olive oil
- minced garlic
- fresh or dried herbs
- a drizzle of vinegar (balsamic or sherry vinegar are great choices)
- a few dashes of soy sauce
- freshly grated ginger
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- minced lemongrass
- mix in a bit of chile hot or a sprinkle of cayenne for hot bread
Another way to mix things up is to sprinkle a little something-something on the bread after it's been grilled on one side:
- cheese is the obvious choice, grated cheese
- a dash or two of a spice mix like za'tar or garam masala
- fresh herbs work here, too
- a smear of pesto (the heat from the grill will help it soak in a bit)
Go forth and experiment! All you risk is losing a piece of bread and you have all the fabulous flavor in the world to win.