Pineapple on the Grill with Brown Sugar Glaze
The sweet, succulent fruit we call “pineapple” has its roots in South America, where it was first cultivated along river drainage routes between Paraguay and southern Brazil. Today, it is grown all over the continent as well as other tropical parts of the world. The fruit has a unique and delicious flavor that lends itself to a variety of recipes and cooking methods. Grilled pineapple slices are particularly refreshing on their own or over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Archaeologists have found evidence of pineapples dating as far back as 1200 BC in parts of Peru. The Mayans and Aztecs began to cultivate it in Mexico between 200 BC and 700 AD. By the 1400s, it existed as an important food resource among most indigenous tribes of Mexico, South, and Central America.
The pineapple was introduced to Europeans by way of Christopher Columbus, who brought it back to Spain and dubbed it the piña de Indes, or “pine of the Indians.” The Portuguese colonists also brought pineapples home and introduced them to India and other parts of South Asia.
Europeans, for their part, were fairly obsessed with the strange fruit of the colonies. It proved excessively difficult to grow in non-tropical regions, like Britain and France, where only the wealthiest of citizens could afford them. In fact, pineapples were considered such a status symbol in Europe that they were rarely eaten. Lucky owners would use them as centerpieces for as long as possible until rot necessitated they be thrown away.
Pineapple became more mainstream by the 1900s, when plantations in the West Indies began producing enough quantities to reduce cost.
Pineapples and Hawaii
Pineapples were brought to Hawaii by the Spanish in the 18th century, although it was not commercially grown until the late 19th century. James Dole and the Del Monte Company both established operations for growing and canning the fruit on the island of Oahu, which dominated pineapple production until the 1960s.
Hawaii continues to grow and export pineapple, but not in nearly the same quantities. Today, the Philippines is actually one of the leaders in pineapple export, especially since the acquisition of Del Monte Foods in 2014.
Nevertheless, the symbol of the pineapple in Hawaii remains ubiquitous. Many times, foods are given the label “Hawaiian” simply due to the presence of a few chunks of pineapple (a controversial pizza comes to mind).
Fresh vs Canned Grilled Pineapple Slices
You can use canned pineapple for this recipe, but we recommend fresh. Canned pineapple is often submerged in a sugary syrup, which will affect the final texture and taste of the dish. The extra sugar may also cause the slices to burn or cook unevenly. If you do decide to use a canned version, look for ones that say “in 100 percent pineapple juice” and not “in heavy syrup.”
Sugar Glaze for Grilled Pineapple
Today, we will be coating our grilled pineapple slices in a brown-sugar, butter, and cinnamon glaze. The glaze forms a delightfully caramelized crust around the soft, sweet fruit. That being said, pineapples are naturally high in sugar. If you want to limit your sugar intake, you can omit the glaze altogether. Just make sure you use a non-stick spray to keep your pineapple slices from sticking.
Grilled Pineapple Slices Recipe
One fresh pineapple, peeled, sliced, and cored (or one 20z can of sliced pineapple)
⅓ cup melted butter
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
- Heat a gas grill, charcoal grill, or grill pan over medium high heat. Brush liberally with oil or non-stick spray.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Brush the mixture on the top and bottom of each of the pineapple slices.
- Grill the pineapple slices for 2-3 minutes per side, until they have beautiful grill marks and are golden brown.
- Serve warm as-is or with vanilla ice cream.