Mention grilled fruit to most people, and their response might be, "Why bother?" After all, tree-ripened fruit is perfect; all you usually need is a knife to cut it or a sink over which to eat it. But I'm not talking about using the grill to cook fruit, only to heat it enough to caramelize its natural sugars, intensify its flavors, and add a luxurious softness. It takes only a few minutes and isn't just for dessert.
It helps to think about fruit the same way you think about anything else that you grill—you can make the fruit savory or sweet depending on what kind of marinade, rub, compound butter, or spices you use. With just a few ingredients, grilled fruit makes an unexpected appetizer, an impressive main dish, and with the addition of ice cream, some spoon-licking desserts.
The larger the fruit, the easier it is to grill. Pineapple slices, halved nectarines, bananas, and peaches work best, and those are the ones I've featured in my recipes. When you cut fruit to grill, keep in mind the size of your cooking grates and make sure the fruit is large enough that it won't fall through. Even if your finished dish calls for smaller pieces of fruit (such as for my Grilled Mango, Poblano & Passionfruit Salsa), it's much easier to chop the fruit after it is grilled.
That doesn't mean you can't grill smaller fruits like figs, strawberries, and apricots. These fruits are best grilled whole (in the case of strawberries) or cut in half (for figs and apricots) and can be set directly on the cooking grates or skewered for kabobs. Use double-prong skewers or two bamboo skewers so the fruit doesn't spin around as you grill it.
Perfectly ripe fruit is not the perfect choice to grill. You want fruit that is slightly underripe for best results, as falling-apart ripe won't hold together. If you're lucky enough to have farm-fresh fruit in your kitchen that isn't quite ripe, grilling it is a simple way to make it sublime. And even though it's high summer, some of us may have to resort to grocery store fruit that's shipped less than ripe; grilling is a fast way to intensify its natural flavor.