I am Meathead for a very good reason, but I may have to change my name after you hear this.
When the great Greg Rempe, on my regular second Tuesday visit to his BBQ Central radio show, asked what my favorite thing to grill is, I confessed. Just watch this 1 minute video:
Why pineapples? Because they are so tasty and sooooooo sweet. And I have a very large sweet tooth. Here is an estimated average measure of sugar in fruits by weight. Of course this can vary widely depending on how ripe the fruit is and the variety. The Maui Golds I had in Hawaii had to be at least 20% sugar and, oh my, what flavor!
Table grapes 16%
Passion Fruit 11%
Raw, pineapples are marvelous by themselves. When grilled, they are better. The cool thing is that when you heat sugar its molecular structure changes. It caramelizes, turns brown, and develops new complex flavors. Think of what happens to a marshmallow in taste and appearance when you hold it over a campfire.
It’s amazing that I love pineapples so much considering the trauma they caused me in high school. We lived on Merritt Island, Florida, right near Cape Canaveral. My Dad was a food technology major at NYU after he came home from WWII and he kept in touch with his classmates even after he moved into a career as a stock broker.
One day, after work, he and an old buddy went for a drink. His friend was working for an investor group exploring the feasibility of growing pineapples in Florida.
So my Dad’s buddy asks if Dad wants to try growing some. It seems that all you need to do is lop off the top, peel off a few lower leaves, and plant it. It grows roots, the leaves will become long spiny spikes, and eventually a new fruit will grow on a central stalk.
Next day a pickup truck dropped off 60 pineapple tops. Dad and I cleared a patch in our sandy yard and we planted them. I was assigned the job of watering them and weeding them after I cut the lawn.
Well, before long those spiny leaves start to stretch out, and because we planted them too close to each other, they overlapped. Weeding the patch became a battle ending with my forearms bloody and itchy. Finally, one day, exasperated, while mowing the lawn, in an act of supreme rebellion, I mowed down the pineapple patch. 50+ years later, I think I am still technically grounded.
- 1 ripe pineapple
These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page
- Prep. Buy a good pineapple. Pick one that is plump and without obvious exterior damage or soft spots. The leaves should be green. Some say the color of the skin is not an indicator of ripeness, but the Dole website says “the exterior of a pineapple changes from a green-gray to yellow as it ripens, so as a general rule, the more yellow a pineapple’s exterior is, the riper the fruit will be. You want a pineapple that is consistently golden-yellow from top to bottom, but not getting into dark orange territory—that's gone too far.”In addition, Dole says, “a ripe pineapple will feel very slightly soft when you squeeze it. A rock-hard pineapple isn’t the one you want.” Then they say “give the base of the pineapple a sniff. If the bottom smells ripe, fruity, sweet, and bright, that thing is probably good to go. But take warning: if it starts to smell funky and fermented, like vinegar, the pineapple has gone a bit too far.”It is a myth, says Dole, that larger or smaller pineapples are riper and the leaves come loose easily on ripe pineapples.After the fruit is picked, it will not continue to ripen. If you don’t use it within a few days, pop it in the fridge.
- Skin it. The next step is to remove the tough skin. I just lop off the top and bottom, stand it on the bottom, and with a chef’s knife, slice off the skin. Some folks obsess over removing 100% of the eyes, and there are even gadgets that help you do that but I don’t fret if a few remain.You can also buy a device that both removes the woody core, cuts the fruit away from the skin, and spiral cuts it so making rings is pretty easy. These gizmos take a bit of elbow grease, and there is a bit of waste, but the results sure are pretty.
- Disk it. The Meathead Method is to first peel it and cut it crosswise into disks.
- Core it. Then there is the core. It is woody and not nearly as much fun as the flesh. Removing the core after cutting disks is easily done with the tip of a sharp knife, a narrow cookie cutter, or an icing tip. You can remove the core before grilling, after grilling, or just leave it on and let your guests eat around it, like a bone.The core can be pureed in a blender or food processor and slathered all over meat as a tenderizing marinade. Most marinades don’t tenderize much beyond a shallow layer of the surface, but pineapple contains enzymes called bromelain that are excellent tenderizers. In fact bromelain from pineapple is in many commercial meat tenderizers. It is interesting to note that once cooked or canned, the tender enzymes are disabled.
- Fire up. Get the grill as hot as you can get it so you can burn off any food bits, juices, and grease. Then scrape the grates clean on all sides. You don’t want pork grease smoke on your bright fresh fruit. Finally wipe the top of the grates with paper towels.
- Fire down. Take the heat down a notch on a gas grill, and on a charcoal grill, push most of the coals to the side so the cooking surface has a few coals below, but not a lot. Warp 7. If you are using a grill topper to grill smaller chunks, put it on and let it pre-heat.
- Seasoning the pineapple is optional. If you are going to season it, sprinkle on your blend. Toss the fruit on the grates and leave it sit for a few minutes until it gets some golden color and dark brown grill marks. Flip and repeat. They are done when they are golden and slightly limp.
- Finishing it with a glaze is optional. If you are going to gild the lilly with a sauce, wait until the pieces are almost done before basting them in order to prevent the sugar from burning.
- Serve. Remove the pineapple from the grill and plate. ou can serve them hot or room temp.
Other ways to cook it
- Whole. At it’s simplest, you can cut off the tough skin and just throw it on the grill, close the lid, and every few minutes roll it 1/4 turn. Because it is full of water, the outside will caramelize rapidly but the inside will take a long time to cook. So you run the risk of carbonizing the outside. If you go this route, be sure to hang near the grill.
- Rotisserie. My friends of Greg and Kristina Gaardbo of Chicago Culinary Kitchen are famous for their rodizio, a huge charcoal fired machine with scores of rotisseries. They douse it with liqueurs or flavored rums and enrobe it in brown sugar more than once during the process. When it is cooked through they cut it into chunks and people stand in line for them. Check out the video below. And if you start drooling over the porchetta, here's the recipe with a video.
- Chunks. After you cut wedges, you can cut the raw pineapple into chunks and roll them around on top of a grill topper to cook. Use them to make the awesome Pineapple Foster they make at Chef Michael Mina’s Stripsteak in Waikiki in the video above. Or chop the chunks and make a salsa.
- Wedges. Cut the pineapple from pole to pole and again and again into four or even eight wedges. Slicing off the woody core is easy then.