Decadent Springtime Grilling Dishes

Goodbye, snow, and hello, barbecue! Now that the frozen raindrops have melted and our frigid landscape has thawed to the point of being warm enough to hang out outdoors, it’s time to kick off the grilling season with some spring outdoor cooking. That’s right. If you have a barbecue—and hopefully a smoker—there’s no need to wait until summer. You can start entertaining on your back deck or patio this weekend.

Of course, the method of charring and smoking foods has been around since the dawn of cavemen, when meats and vegetables were cooked over an open flame in fumy caves using primitive tools. But it wasn’t until the late 1930s that home cooks discovered how incorporating char and smoke into their foods wasn’t just something that occurred unintentionally when cooking with fire. Backyard barbecuers, whether they knew it or not, were creating a culinary breakthrough, offering more complexity in the form of new aromas and tastes while making the food more interesting to eat.

Today, the art of grilling and smoking is more popular than ever, thanks to innovative technology, advanced kitchen appliances, and more efficient tools and equipment for the job. So, as you pass the tongs back and forth this wonderful spring season, enjoy these exciting and easy-grilling recipes from my cookbook Charred & Smoked with Chef Derek Bugge.



Grilled Strawberry Pie

Serves 8


  • 3 cups fresh ripe strawberries
  • 1/3 cup Smoked Sugar, recipe follows
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup fresh strawberry jam
  • 1 refrigerated piecrust thawed
  • Whipped cream or powdered sugar (optional)


  1. Preheat your outdoor grill to 350°F.
  2. Wash, halve and then remove the stems from the strawberries. Add to a bowl and combine with the Smoked Sugar and cornstarch.
  3. Spread the strawberry jam over the bottom of the piecrust, leaving an inch at the edge clean. Place the strawberries in the center of the crust, and fold the crust one pinch at a time to the center. Continue all the way around, leaving about a 4-inch hole in the middle, exposing the strawberries. Place the entire pie on the center of the grill and grill for about 20 minutes. Remove from the grill and allow to cool slightly before cutting. Garnish with whipped cream or dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Smoked Sugar



  1. Preheat your outdoor smoker to 350°F.
  2. Place the sugar in an even layer across a roasting tray. Heat the sugar on the tray in the smoker for 30 minutes. The sugar should have a nice brown color from the smoke. Remove the sugar from the smoker and allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container. Reserve until ready to use. The sugar will stay fresh for up to 30 days.

Grilled Peach Sangria

Makes 1 quart


  • 4 Florida spring peaches
  • 1 bottle high-quality white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 whole lemon, halved
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau orange liqueur
  • Orange slices, as needed, for garnish


  1. Preheat your outdoor grill to 400°F.
  2. flesh-side down over direct heat once the grill reaches temperature. Allow the peaches to char on all three sides (two inner flesh and outer skin). Remove from the grill and allow the peaches to cool. In a stock pot over medium-high heat, add the wine, two lemon halves, sugar and Cointreau. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cut each quarter of the peach in half and add to the heated sangria mixture. Transfer to the refrigerator and let sit overnight. When ready to serve, pour over ice and garnish with fresh orange slices.

Grilled Bison Burger with Caramelized Onion Jam & Charred Jalapeño Aioli

Serves 4


  • 2 pounds high-quality ground bison
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons avocado or grapeseed oil
  • Fresh brioche hamburger buns
  • Caramelized Onion Jam, as needed, recipe follows
  • Charred Jalapeño Aioli, as needed, recipe follows


  1. In a mixing bowl, generously season the ground bison with the salt, pepper, and oil. Form patties by scooping 7 or 8 ounces into your hand and packing it like a baseball. Then set it down and flatten it out like a large hockey puck, leaving each patty about 3/4 inch thick. Let the patties sit at room temperature if they are to be grilled within 1 hour. Otherwise, refrigerate the patties until ready to use.
  2. Preheat your outdoor grill to at least 450°F.
  3. Season the patties again with salt and pepper and place over the heat. For medium, grill for 2 minutes, giving each patty a quarter turn; then grill for 2 additional minutes. Flip the patties over and grill for another 3 or 4 minutes. Factor less time for medium-rare and additional time for medium-well or well done. Remove the patties from the grill and let rest. While the patties are resting, drizzle a little oil on the inside of both buns and place on the grill to toast.
  4. Assemble the burger with the Caramelized Onion Jam and Charred Jalapeño Aioli, along with any additional condiments you prefer.

Caramelized Onion Jam

Makes ¾ cup


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin (1⁄4 inch or less)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves


  1. In a large pot or pan, warm the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onions and salt, and sweat the onions until they caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and thyme leaves and heat until the vinegar has been completely absorbed. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Charred Jalapeño Aioli

Makes 2 1/2 cups


  • 2 jalapeños, grilled and seeded
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups canola oil


  1. Preheat your outdoor grill to at least 450°F.
  2. Grill the jalapeños until dark and nicely charred. When the peppers are cool enough to work with, remove the seeds and stems. Place the jalapeños in a kitchen blender and blend for 1 minute on high. (Note: At this point you can pass the mixture through a chinois or fine strainer to remove any impurities and return to the blender. Otherwise, leave as is.) Add the egg yolks, mustard, salt and water and blend for 30 seconds. Slowly add the oil while allowing time for the eggs and oil to emulsify. Continue to blend until all the ingredients have been incorporated. (Note: If, at any time, you “break” the emulsification, meaning the eggs and oil have become separated and resemble scrambled eggs, simply remove all the ingredients from the blender, add 1 teaspoon of water to the blender and repeat the process by drizzling the previously blended ingredients back into the blender).

Grilled Oysters

Serves 4 (3 oysters per person)


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 bunch watercress, stems removed
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced capers
  • 3 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cognac
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 12 medium to large oysters, shucked


  1. Preheat your outdoor grill to 400°F.
  2. In a small pot, melt the butter over low heat, then add the garlic and shallot. Sweat over medium-low heat until the shallots are translucent. Remove from the heat and add the watercress, stirring constantly until the leaves are wilted, about 30 seconds. Using a food processor or blender, add the mayonnaise, capers, cheese, lime juice and cognac, and pulse for 1 minute, until smooth. Add the melted butter mixture, along with the salt and pepper, and pulse for an additional 10 seconds.
  3. Place the shucked oysters on a tray, and pour 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the mixture over each oyster, enough to cover the entire surface. Transfer the oysters directly onto the grill and roast for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

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