Yes, burgers taste better than skinny feels (eat it, Kate Moss), but that doesn't mean plenty of other meats (and veggies and fruit) aren't equally slamming on the grill. How do we know? Because we enlisted the help of three masters of the food world and asked them to dish out some items that they think are down right delicious after some open flame. Read on for each chef’s/butcher’s/fish monger’s full lists, complete with a bunch of tips on how to actually cook this stuff. Thymus glands? Yep, let's get weird.
F. Rozzo and Sons supplies 350 of NYC’s finest eating establishments from the Carlyle Hotel and the Four Seasons to BLT Prime, and Louis Rozzo has been heading up the operation for 25 years. These are his seafood recs for the grill.
Why to grill it: Think of sepiafish like squid with a large body and stubby legs. It’s got a similar texture to calamari, but its girth is perfect for a quick sear on the grill.
How to do it: Get your fish monger to skin and clean these suckers, and then you can get grilling. Make sure it’s sizable enough to not slip through the grates, but if it’s a huge sepia, then cut it into manageable chunks. All you’ll need is a few minutes per side.
Why to grill it: These little guys supply cookout guests as a snack so they don't start lurking around the grill, eyeing your spatula and plotting to take over. Game of Grills is serious business.
How to do it: You can throw a ton of littlenecks on the fire without doing anything to them. Once they pop open, hand them out to your pals with some lemon, maybe some hot sauce, and watch them disappear.
Cracked lobster tail
Why to grill it: Lobster is delicious but delicate, so people put it on a pedestal (or a roll). But don’t be afraid to throw the tails on the grill, because that fiery crispness goes mouth-wateringly well with fatty meat.
How to do it: Take the tails -- separated from the rest of the body, because the claws are too small for this -- then split them open down the middle and expose the meat. Place the tail meat side down for no more than a couple minutes on direct heat to score some grill lines, then flip it back over on the shell and close the grill, letting it steam to soft perfection. Drench it in butter and seasoning right off the flame and try not to eat it before it hits the picnic table.
Pat LaFrieda is a monstrous name in the meat game, and for good reason: the dude and his butcher operation supply 1,500 restaurants. Heading beyond pork and steak, here’s what he’s throwing on the fire.
Sweetbread (pancreas or thymus gland of a calf)
Why to grill it: The grill’s smokiness adds a nice contrast to the lip-smacking richness of this butcher shop standby.
How to do it: It’s best to talk through some options with your butcher on prep. LaFrieda here recommends asking for the “heart cut,” which is essentially just the largest slice. Then butcher it into manageable pieces and skewer 'em. This stuff is hard to overcook, so sear the bejesus out of it and get ready to gobble some gland.
Wild turkey legs
Why to grill it: The legs of a wild turkey are much more muscle-y than those of a farm-raised cousin. Meaning you get a richer, darker meat experience. Grilling sets a nice, deep char onto that complexity and yields supremely tasty results.
How to do it: With wild meat, the toughest part is the prep -- you need to have the proper know-how for plucking and cleaning it. Seeking a butcher’s or seasoned hunter’s help isn’t a bad idea. Now the easy part: slap it on the grill and walk away until it's cooked through.
Skin-off duck breast
Why to grill it: Pan-seared (and oven-finished) duck is commonplace in a nice restaurant, but open flame lets you cook the skin and breast to separate states of meaty perfection.
How to do it: Because the skin and fat are going to take much longer to render than the breast will take to cook, separate them entirely from the meat and give them a head start on the flame. Once the skin crisps up, start on the breast, giving it a few minutes on each side. Then lay the skin right on top when you serve it.
Why to grill it: We can’t personally vouch for this because we didn’t have a squirrel handy. But because LaFrieda is an absolute meat obsessive, his recommendations for crazy grill stuff knew no bounds. Grilling up a whole squirrel is apparently one of his favorite summer meals.
How to do it: Again, this is a wild animal here, so you’ll need to seek some advice on prepping the meat. But once you’re ready, it can be grilled whole right on the grates, or you can rig up a rotisserie spit over the coals.
Obviously as the pitmaster of an iconic NYC BBQ joint, Ash had pounds of meat recommendations. But, seeing as we’ve covered protein, and since Ash is an award-winning chef (he was on Top Chef!), we dug into all the crazy produce tips he had up his sleeve. Idioms aside, this dude loves food, so he probably literally had a few of these up his sleeve.
Why to grill it: You probably haven’t heard of this furry, fruity little treat, but think of it as lychee’s weirder, hairier cousin (everyone’s got one of those). You want to grill it whole because the shell actually steams the sweet fruit inside, giving you something truly tasty.
How to do it: Just throw them on the grill and let the hairs and fibers singe until black. Be careful though, they will eventually pop and pour some juice out onto your grill. After cooking, just halve them and chomp on the soft, warm white fruit inside.
Why to grill it: The beans inside the pod will take heat from the grill indirectly, and will steam up, leaving you soft, warm, nutritious appetizers. Just tell any confused guests that they're giant edamame while making Godzilla noises.
How to do it: Throw ’em right on the grill for a few minutes per side. Once the pod loses its structural integrity and gets all floppy, they’re ready to eat.
Why to grill it: Leeks are the perfect addition to meat skewers, but they’re just as easy to grill up in large stalks or slices. They turn out really sweet, smoky, and onion-y without the need to turn into a blubbering mess by chopping actual onions. Score.
How to do it: Either quarter the whole stalk and lay them lengthwise on the grill, or cut them into smaller pieces. Just be wary of the size so that they stay on the grill and don’t fall apart.
Why to grill it: Fulk’s go-to for cookouts with friends is to slap a few avocado halves on the grill and hand them out as personal-sized chip dippers.
How to do it: Only leave the halves face down on the grill for about three or four minutes, then immediately season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime. It’s a super simple substitute for guacamole (even though you keep telling everyone that your actual guac is “commercially viable”).
Pound cake with grilled melons
Why to grill it: The grill caramelizes the sugars on both the pound cake and the melons, giving you a crunchily tasty shell of sugary goodness.
How to do it: Slice up both the melon or anything with firm flesh (not a person) and the pound cake into substantial slices and grill up each side. You’ll see the grill lines when they’re ready, and then you’ll see them disappear when the ravenous cookout vultures scarf them all before they can be fancily plated like we did up there.