A grill can be utilized for a lot more than simply grilling steak. Have you ever browsed through Pinterest and laid eyes on those picture perfect meals? Watched Bobby Flay on Food Network grilling away? Well, I am here to tell you it’s a lot simpler than you might imagine. With a little prep work and some creativity, you can cook full four course meals on your grill. Taste and presentation do not have to be compromised by not cooking in a full kitchen, and these meals are all friendly food options for the outdoors.

Four courses to make on your grill:

  • Flatbread with goat cheese and pepper jam
  • Mexican street corn
  • Chimichurri chicken
  • Bananas foster 

Time to Explore Our Menu

Above, I listed the four courses that we will be making. Each course has a little prep work to go along with it and at least one grilled main component. The key to grilling a four-course menu, without hassle, is planning and taking advantage of the great, fresh items that you can find in grocery stores these days.

  • Flatbread with goat cheese and pepper jam 
    1. Grilled component: flatbread
    2. Store bought items: goat cheese, pepper jam (yummy to try homemade as well)
    3. Homemade element: NOTHING
  • Mexican Street Corn
    1. Grilled component: corn on the cob
    2. Store bought items: parmesan cheese, paprika and cilantro
    3. Homemade element: garlic aioli
  • Chimichurri chicken
    1. Grilled component: chicken
    2. Store bought items: NOTHING
    3. Homemade element: chimichurri sauce
  • Bananas Foster
    1. Grilled component: the entire dessert
    2. Store bought items: brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and ice cream
    3. Homemade element: NOTHING 

Basic Preparations

Before grilling on any grill, whether it’s at home or at a campsite, make sure to do basic prep work and take precautions.

  • Empty old ash. If you have a pile of ash in your grill, it can alter the ventilation and make temperatures difficult to control.
  • Clean your grill. No matter how long it has been since you have used your grill, and especially if you are using a public grilling surface, clean it! When I am at home and know that the residue is likely barbeque sauce of some kind, I normally crank the heat up to high after lighting, close the lid for a few minutes, and allow any residue to burn away. If you are at a public campsite and are working on an open-faced grill without the option of a lid, just do the best that you can. Use a grill brush with tough bristles or an S.O.S pad to scrape off any remaining residue that the flame didn’t remove.
  • Preheat your grill. Just as if you were cooking indoors and want to have a hot pan to add food to, preheat your grill to your desired temperature before adding any food. This will help prevent your food from sticking and will allow you to monitor your cooking times accurately.
  • Going along with the previous step, oil your grates. You can take an old kitchen rag, dip it in oil, grab it with tongs, and rub down the grates to get them ready. You are likely going to oil or marinate most foods that you would be grilling, but this is just an extra step to help prevent sticking and burning.


Let’s get to grilling!

Before we get to grilling, break up each course and get all the prep work done. You want the last task to be grilling your food and plating, because grilled food just seems to get colder quicker. With these four courses, the only things that need made ahead of time are the garlic aioli and the chimichurri sauce (the recipes for those can be found below). And then, you are ready to grill! 

  • First up is our flatbread. The flatbread just needs a little olive oil brushed on both sides before it can hit the grill. Make sure to keep your eyes on this. With the grill on medium-high heat, this will cook in less than three minutes. Now that’s a fast first course/appetizer. I placed mine on the grill, counted to 30 and rotated it to create those great grill marks, and then flipped and repeated. You really are charring the bread and heating it up. After you take it off the grill, just spread it with plain goat cheese and top with a store bought (or homemade if you are an overachiever) pepper jam.                         
  • Now is when the multitasking can begin, depending on the size of your grill and the amount of food you are making. You can chose to cook your corn and chicken together because they will cook for about the same amount of time. If you don’t have the space or ability to do this just cook your corn first, tent it after it’s finished, and let it sit while you grill your chicken. When you cook your corn and chicken, let the food talk to you. What I mean is your food tells you when it is done. After placing chicken on the grill, it initially sticks. It will let you lift it without ripping off bits and chunks when its first side is finished grilling and it is done enough to move. Don’t rush it. You should flip your chicken 3-4 times if on skewers like I did, and each time will be 4-5 minutes. Oil your corn before placing on the grill and roll it an inch to either side every 4-5 minutes until you have char marks around majority of the cobs and the kernels have brightened in color. Corn starts as a pale, sad yellow color, and it livens up after it’s been grilled for 20 minutes. 
  • Once you have grilled your chicken and corn, you can move on to finishing your delicious main course and side dish. For the Mexican street corn, the typical dressings include a brush of garlic aioli over the entire cob, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, a few sprigs of cilantro and a dusting of paprika or red pepper flakes. I chose paprika because I love the smokiness and pop of color over the heat of red pepper flakes, -trust me on this. This corn will be your new favorite! As for the chicken, your boring grilled chicken comes to life with a few spoonfuls of chimichurri sauce. If you have never had it, this oil-based dressing is vibrant, zippy and brings a pop of life to the dish with its green color. Both are lighter and healthier dinner options but far from ordinary.
  • And last but certainly not least; the grilled take on bananas foster. In a little foil pocket, place 1-3 bananas to begin making your banana boats. Top each banana with a tablespoon of brown sugar, a dusting of cinnamon and a teaspoon of butter. Tuck up the foil on the sides (see image) so that your soon-to-be caramel doesn’t drip out. If you have space on the grill, you can cook these along with your chicken and corn. The foil will protect them. You just want to grill your bananas so that the butter can melt, the bananas can warm, and the sugars begin to caramelize. Be careful not to burn the sugar/cinnamon. After you pull this off the grill, a scoop of ice cream is the last step to sending it over the top.

Whether you are camping for a weekend, nomading around the U.S., taking an extended leave from the office on wheels, or whether traveling in your boat, in your RV or in your van, one thing applies to all: the fact that more times than not, outdoor cooking and grilling will be available. When you visit a campground, grill sites are usually an option. If you are living in a van without a kitchen especially, you need to learn how to utilize these grill sites. I am challenging you to think outside of the box! Don’t go for your typical hamburgers and hotdogs. Whether it’s the next family cookout or a night around the campfire with friends, try something new and fun, and wow your audience!