How to Get the Most Out of Your Grill on Weeknights

It’s too hot to turn on the oven. Here’s how to make grilling a quick affair — plus recipes to get you started.

Food Network Kitchen’s Grilled Lemonade Chicken.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

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Hot take: grilling doesn’t have to be a special-occasion affair. It’s a smart way to cook dinner during the scorching days of the summer because it removes high-heat cooking from your kitchen. Plus, pre-heating the grill takes about 15 minutes — just enough time for you to prep all of your ingredients.

To make grilling feel like less of a big ado, we recommend eliminating the barriers to firing it up. For example, move the grill as close as possible to the kitchen so it feels like an extension of your cooking space. And set up a large workstation nearby where you can put as many ingredients as possible. Invest in an outdoor garbage can. Then take a look at the totally weeknight-friendly recipes below.

Make a Foil Pack

Foil packs are one of the lowest-lift ways to grill, and that’s why we love them for the weeknights. They’re great for cooking small items like shrimp or chopped veggies, which you’d normally have to thread onto skewers or throw into a grill basket. And because they corral sauces and juices that would normally drip down into the grill, they make for extra flavorful, succulent results.


Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

All of the ingredients for classic shrimp scampi get placed into a foil pack and cooked for just nine minutes. After your grill is pre-heated, this recipe takes fifteen minutes-flat and has extremely little cleanup.

FNK GRILLED SHRIMP FAJITA FOIL PACKS, Food Network Kitchen, Bell Peppers, Onion, Scallions, Olive Oil, Chipotle Powder, Cumin, Shrimp, Limes, Flour Shells, Cilantro, Avocado

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

This recipe is comprised of shrimp, bell peppers, onions and scallions seasoned with chipotle chile powder and ground cumin. The whole lot gets grilled in foil, and then left to steam in its pack as you grill tortillas in their own mini pack to warm them up (brilliant). Serve with salsa and, of course, avocado.

FNK HEALTHY GRILLED BBQ MEATLOAF FOIL PACK, Food Network Kitchen, Milk, Egg, Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs, Worcestershire Sauce, BBQ Sauce, Baby Spinach, Scallions, Garlic, Ground Beef, Ground Turkey

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Surprise, this meatloaf recipe is actually speedier than the typical version. That’s because the reflective surface of the foil pack traps and intensifies the heat like a mini, powerful oven. It also helps that the loaf is slightly thinner, so it cooks more quickly.

Grill Side Dishes in Bulk

If turning on your grill several times a week seems like a lot of work, consider using the grill once a week to meal prep. Make a double batch of one of the following sides and stash it in your fridge for later lunches and dinners. Grilled veggies keep fantastically in the fridge and taste great cold — on their own, tossed into salads or topping grain bowls.

Food Network Kitchen’s Grilled Ratatouille for One-Off Recipes, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Typically, the ingredients in ratatouille are cooked in multiple additions to a saucepan to develop lots of caramelized vegetable flavor. That also means lots of standing over a stove and stirring. In this recipe, all you do is toss your vegetables onto the grill and they all cook at the same time. It’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables, and the dish only develops more flavor as it sits in the fridge. Serve over a plate of pasta, with a grain or alongside pieces of toast for dinner.

Fun fact: charred sweet potatoes don’t taste burnt; they intensify in "sweet potato" flavor, sweeten and caramelize. Drizzle them in cilantro-lime-chipotle dressing and you’ve got sweet potatoes ready for tossing into grain bowls galore, or simply serving as a side to your favorite protein.

Grilled Scallions

Grilled Scallions

Grilled Onions with a Slice of Lemon on a White Plate

©Food: Jaime Kimm Prop: Marina Malchin

Food: Jaime Kimm Prop: Marina Malchin

Surprise, scallions make a simple but impressive side dish. They need little more than olive oil, salt and pepper, a pinch of cayenne and five minutes of grill time to transform into crisp stalks so irresistible you’ll want to eat them straight off the serving platter like potato chips.

Cook Something Family-Friendly

No, we’re not talking about straight-up hot dogs and burgers. There are a lot of easy, surprisingly simple family-friendly dishes you can whip up on the grill.



Food Stylist: Anne Disrude Prop Stylist: Marcus Hay

Photo by: Con Poulos

Con Poulos

Meet the grilled cheese sandwich that you and your kiddos will love. Why make it on the grill instead of a regular old skillet? Because you can grill your baguette slices cut-side down so they develop perfect smoky grill marks – like a panini, but more flavorful. Then you rub the grilled sides with garlic (hmm, garlic bread) and top it off with tomato slices and provolone cheese (then grill again).

Transform a staple from your kid’s snack cabinet into a sweet and tangy marinade for — surprise – chicken. Yep, mix storebought lemonade with garlic, Dijon mustard, some spices and let your bird sit in it overnight. While you’re grilling, you’ll reduce the marinade into a sauce by cooking it in a skillet placed directly on the grill (no stove-time necessary).

Food Network Kitchen’s Fajitas in a Grill Basket.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

We love fajitas, but a smoky kitchen and tons of dirty dishes? Not so much. Take them outside with your grill basket, which keeps the ingredients separate so every member of the family can pick and choose what goes on theirs.

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