Breakfast on the grill

Even in the sticky heat of summer, warm weather mornings are generally cool, green and lovely. Why waste a minute of it inside? Bring breakfast outdoors—cook it on your grill.

You’ll get extra time to savor the natural beauty outdoors. Where we live, in Wisconsin, we have but a fleeting temperate season and we want to make the most of it.

Plus, you’ll get to enjoy those special flavors that come with cooking outside.

Breakfast favorites come alive in a whole new way when you give them the grill treatment. Sure, those little links taste good the ordinary way, fried in a pan. But add a charcoal flame to the cooking process, and you’ve got yourself a mini morning bratfest.

Like a good veggie omelet? Imagine it stuffed with veggies that have been grilled instead of sautéed.

If you know how to cook breakfast, and you know how to use a grill, you’re all set. Here are some tips to get you started.

Ham steak
This just needs to be heated, because it’s sold fully cooked. Don’t grill it for too long, or it’ll get dry. This is ready to serve once it’s heated through, with some nice sear marks. You’ll find ham steaks in your grocer’s meat department, usually in the same refrigerated case as the hams.

Grilled sausage patties and sausage links
These are fattier than most foods you’re used to cooking on the grill. So, watch out for flare-ups caused by grease dripping into your heat source. As with all grilling, keep a spray bottle of water nearby so you can douse flames that get out of hand.

Cook sausages until well done and nicely seared and browned.

Grilled toast
No butter needed—this is terrific served plain. And so easy! Slice bread about 1″ thick and put it on the grill. When grill lines have developed to your liking, flip the slices over to get the other side.

A big, hearty loaf that’s on the soft side, like unsliced Italian bread, is perfect.

Baguette is not such a good choice, because it’s small in diameter and would be fussy to maneuver on the grill. Also, you don’t want a bread with a tough crust and dry interior: grilling will over-amplify these qualities.

Grilled eggs
A 6″-9″ frying pan on the grill is all you need to cook eggs outdoors. Don’t use a pan with a plastic handle; it might not take the heat. An iron pan works well, and adds a rustic touch to your outdoor meal. But be careful. An empty iron pan will crack if it’s heated to too high a temp, or if heated unevenly or too fast. One of our iron skillets broke while we were preheating it under the closed cover of the grill. So when preheating your pan, keep the grill cover open, stay with it, and heat just until it’s the right temperature for cooking your eggs.

Grilled veggie omelette
To grill the veggies for this, you’ll need a grill pan—a flat piece of metal with holes in it—or a grill basket. You want to keep your diced veggies from falling into the fire, while still allowing smoke and grill heat to flavor them.

Cooking egg dishes on the grill takes a little more thought than cooking on the stovetop, partly because you have very little control over the heat.

So, for an evenly cooked omelet, we recommend using two eggs at the most. We found this amount of egg to be fairly easy to manage.

For each two-egg omelet

Step one: Grill the veggies

  1. Chop into pieces about 1″ square: 1 cup mushrooms (button or fancy), 1/2 cup onion and half a bell pepper (any color).
  2. Preheat your grill pan.
  3. Oil your pan — even if it has a nonstick surface. You can use cooking spray, or a paper towel.
  4. Spread the veggies on the pan and cook with the cover closed.
  5. Stir and check doneness frequently, until roasted to your liking.

Step two: Make the omelet

  1. Place between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of some combination of butter, olive oil and/or coconut oil in a 10″-11″ pan. Preheat until a drop of water sizzles gently on the surface—that is, not too hot.
  2. Pour in two beaten, salted eggs.
  3. Cook, pushing in the sides with your turner and tilting the pan so that uncooked egg runs onto the pan, for even cooking.
  4. When the top is only partly set, sprinkle your veggies over the eggs.
  5. Add minced fresh herbs if you like. Cilantro works beautifully—its brightness fuses with the veggies’ grilled tastes for a smooth, smoky quality.
  6. Grate cheddar over top.
  7. Fold your omelet in half, and serve.

A version of this article by Vesna Vuynovich Kovach and Donald Kovach appeared in Madison Magazine, 2000.

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