7 foods you should never cook on a grill

A man using tongs to flip meat on an outdoor grill
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you enjoy cooking outdoors with one of the best grills, you’ll want to master your backyard barbecues this summer. Be it cooking up a family feast, or hosting garden gatherings, nothing beats the delicious taste and aroma of flame-grilled food. 

But, while you might think that you can throw anything onto the grill and get perfect results, think again! There are certain foods that you should never cook on a grill. In fact, if you attempt to grill these favorites, you'll either end up with messy results or even a fire!

So before you master your top grilling tricks, avoid these popular 7 foods you should never cook on a grill! 

Be sure to steer clear of these 7 grilling mistakes you didn’t know you were making as well

1. Pork chops 

Raw pork chops on a cutting board

Raw pork chops on a cutting board (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If pork chops are your favorite dish, you’ll be surprised to know these cuts of pork are not ideal to throw onto the grill. Unlike pork ribs or the shoulder, which can be grilled to perfection, pork chops tend to have a lower fat content. This essentially means that it can easily dry out and affect the flavors.

Instead, sear your pork chops in one of the best cast-iron skillets before transferring to the oven. This will ensure you get succulent and tasty results each time.

2. Delicate fish 

A cut of fish

Flaky fish (Image credit: Shutterstock)

By definition, flaky or delicate fish will literally fall apart when cooked on a hot grill. In addition, this would make the texture dry and flavors ruined. The best fish to grill are the more fatty or oily types such as salmon or tuna steaks. 

To prevent fish from falling apart, however, use a plank of wood or fresh slices of citrus fruit to grill it on top of. Not only will this retain the flavor but will ensure your fish stays in one piece.  And the last thing you need is to be scrubbing away at stuck-on fish on the grill grates!

3. Bacon 

Bacon rashers in a skillet

Bacon rashers (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While you might love the taste and smell of crispy bacon, never cook these on a grill. Surprisingly, grilling bacon is a potential fire hazard! This is because the splatters from the bacon grease are easily flammable, especially if they go anywhere near the open flame. What’s more, your smoky bacon is likely to burn and become tasteless.

It’s always advisable to cook your bacon in the oven or on a non-stick, frying pan — the traditional way! At least you will have perfectly crisp bacon for those tasty brunches.

Cooking the right kinds of food on your grill is just one of the 5 tips to make your grill last longer — and perform better

4. Peeled shrimp 

Peeled shrimp on a plate

Peeled shrimp (Image credit: Shutterstock)

We all love the taste of grilled shrimp, but this only really works when it’s still in its shell. Peeled shrimp, on the other hand, should not be cooked on the grill. 

Similar to the delicate fish varieties, peeled shrimp is known to easily dry out over high heat. In addition, this will cause a rubbery texture, ruining the taste and appearance of your dish. So, if you want those smoky, delicious flavors, always keep the peels on! The same applies to scallops, which should always be pan-seared rather than grilled. 

5. Tofu 

Cooked tofu in a bowl

Tofu in a bowl (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whether you’re vegan or cooking up meat-free alternatives for guests, you should never put tofu on the grill. Since tofu has a soft texture, this would only fall apart on a hot grill, and ruin the overall quality. 

Instead, pan-fry or cook tofu in a skillet over medium-high heat. This will give you a crunchy, golden-brown texture, before adding sesame oil or a tasty sauce of your choice.  

6. Leafy greens 

Fresh lettuce leaves in a bowl

Fresh lettuce leaves in a bowl (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While grilled vegetables make a healthy, tasty addition to your outdoor feasts, avoid grilling leafy veggies. Greens such as spinach, kale and lettuce tend to have a high water content. Once these hit the hot grill, the heat will make it wilt or cause it to burn and fall apart. If you must grill lettuce, however, it’s best to cook on a lower heat.

In any case, you can always save your leafy greens to use in one of the best juicers to make super healthy drinks instead! 

7. Tomatoes 

A tomato plant

A tomato plant (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you love the taste of juicy, grilled tomatoes, these are not the best foods to cook on a grill. Since they have a soft structure, tomatoes can easily fall apart when cooked over high heat. Not only will this ruin the texture and taste, but you’ll end up with messy grill grates!

It’s best to stick to root vegetables like carrots, beets or even zucchini, which are better for grilling and won’t fall apart. Another tip is to always place veggies on the upper grilling rack to avoid overcooking. 

Foods that you can cook on a grill

Man grilling on barbecue outdoors

Man grilling on a barbecue outdoors (Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • Chicken
  • Burgers
  • Strip streak
  • Short ribs
  • Mackerel 
  • Salmon
  • Shelled shrimp
  • Sweet peppers
  • Root/sturdy vegetables 
  • Corn on the cob

More from Tom's Guide

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!

  • BadAxe
    I just cooked the best porkchop (1" thick bone in chop) I have ever eaten on the grill last night. Dry brined with salt in the fridge for 3-4 hrs. Used the reverse sear method. Cooked at 200 egress until internal temp reached 125, then seared each side for 90 seconds on gas searing station at between 600-700 degrees. Final resting temp was 150. Was the juiciest tastiest pork chop I have ever had. I not sorry to say that the author of this article could not be more wrong about pork chops on the grill.
  • BadgerVT1
    This article is written by a novice for the novice griller.
    These items can all be grilled to deliciousness if you have the knowledge.
    The title should be items for experienced grills only.
  • YankeeRedneck
    These foods, like anything else, I guess can be messed up on a grill. By someone who doesn't know about grilling. I have been grilling, smoking, and cooking virtually anything that can be cooked, outdoors with live fire for 30 years. It's the only way I like to cook. Trust me when I tell you, anything can be grilled. Anything. And everything is better cooked outdoors. Everything. I don't know about tofu. Someone else will have to enlighten me on that. I don't mess with that sort of stuff.
  • mhinman2
    You can't cook pork chops on the grill, but here are the instructions to cook the in a cast iron, which is the same method as the grill...grr!
  • YankeeRedneck
    As soon as I saw this post I went outside and grilled pork chops and peeled shrimp. Dang that stuff was so good.
  • mhinman2
    mhinman2 said:
    You can't cook pork chops on the grill, but here are the instructions to cook the in a cast iron, which is the same method as the grill...grr!
    And as for peeled shrimp, skewer them, give them a coating of butter and garlic, a little flash sear after the main protein is done cooking and doing its 5 minutes rest. Yum!
  • BadAxe
    mhinman2 said:
    And as for peeled shrimp, skewer them, give them a coating of butter and garlic, a little flash sear after the main protein is done cooking and doing its 5 minutes rest. Yum!
    I like to put them in a tin, melt a stick of butter, pour it over the shrimp, shake my spices in, then put the tin in the grill, and cook them for 4 min, flipping the shrimp after 2 min.