6 foods you should never cook on a barbecue

From oysters to bacon, these foods shouldn't come in contact with your barbecue or grill

Foods you should never cook on a barbecue
(Image credit: Luis Quintero / Pexels)

The spring/summer months are on the horizon and with them will hopefully come warmer weather – you never know what to expect from the UK! For many people (including myself), that means one thing: it’s time to fire up the barbecue.

The best barbecues can tackle a variety of cooking tasks, from searing and grilling to steaming and reheating. The main attraction to barbecues, specifically charcoal and wood pellet ones, is the authentic smoky flavour and texture they give to food, which you just can’t replicate with the best ovens.

Barbecues can cook just about anything you throw on it, but there are foods you should definitely avoid putting on the grill. Why? Well, there are a few foods that can become tough, chewy or completely fall apart after being hit by a barbecue’s heat. While barbecues aren’t too difficult to maintain, cooking certain foods on it will result in a difficult clean-up – and barbecues are all about taste and convenience, after all.

Before you start barbecuing this year, here are 6 foods you should avoid cooking on your barbecue or grill.

1. Flaky & skinless fish

Foods you should never cook on a barbecue: flaky fish

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The first thing you should avoid cooking on a barbecue is flaky and skinless fish. Many people love cooking fish on the grill but if the fish you’re using is dry and flaky, it won’t stand up well to a barbecue. This is because the meat on the fish is extremely delicate and it could fall apart, meaning it’ll fall in between your grill grates, causing burning and a more extensive clean-up than you were hoping for. The same can be said for thin fillets and skinless fish, as it doesn’t have the skin to hold it together, meaning it falls apart easier. The heat from a barbecue can also result in your fish being overcooked and tasteless after grilling, or cause them to be too chewy. In general, it’s best to stick to fattier robust fish on the barbecue, like tuna and halibut.

2. Scallops & oysters

Foods you should never cook on a barbecue: oysters

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Next, scallops and oysters are a big no-no on the barbecue, due to how fast they cook and how easy it is to overcook them. The main reason you use a barbecue is to get that smoky charred taste, and you just don’t need that with oysters or scallops. Both types of shellfish are delicate and tend to dry out on the grill or get overpowered by barbecue flavours, so it’s best to stick to more traditional cooking methods, or pop your oysters on the barbecue in their shells.

3. Pork chops

Foods you should never cook on a barbecue: pork chops

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Pork is a staple on many barbecues but pork chops should be avoided on the grill. As pork chops have a low fat content, they’re easy to overcook and tend to dry out quickly, so you’re left with a tough and chewy piece of meat. You’re better off sticking to sausages or bigger cuts of pork on the barbecue to get that barbecue flavour. Alternatively, you can quickly sear a pork chop on the grill and immediately transfer it to the oven, so it retains its moisture but you still get a hit of barbecue taste.

4. Bacon

Foods you should never cook on a barbecue: bacon

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I’m not sure why you’d cook bacon on a barbecue but if you were ever considering it… don’t! Bacon grease is flammable, so if you flip your bacon and the grease splatters near the barbecue’s flame, you could easily burn yourself or start a fire – not an ideal start to your summer party. If you use an electric barbecue, like the Weber Lumin or the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill & Smoker, you reduce this risk as you’re not cooking on an open flame. However, too much barbecue smoke can ruin the taste of bacon (yes, it really can happen) and cause it to burn.

5. Tofu

Foods you should never cook on a barbecue: tofu

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If you’re a meat-free barbecue-r, meat alternatives fare well on the grill, but tofu is something you should avoid. Similar to flaky fish, tofu has a delicate texture and it can easily fall apart. While tofu can be eaten raw, if you want to cook it all the way through on a barbecue, you run the risk of burning it or half cooking it, so the outside is crispy but the inside is mushy. Stick to frying tofu or putting it in the oven to get that crunchy texture and flavour.

6. Lettuce

Foods you should never cook on a barbecue: lettuce

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Most vegetables are perfect for throwing on the barbecue, especially corn on the cob, peppers, red onion and aubergine. But leafy greens like red and green lettuce are best to be avoided. Can you cook them on a barbecue? Technically yes, but it’s more hassle than it’s worth. If your barbecue is too hot, these leafy greens will wilt rather than char and they can fall through the grill grates. Lettuce can be cooked on a barbecue on a lower heat, but this can be inconvenient if you’re cooking for lots of people and need to keep your barbecue at a high temperature to tackle the other food you’re cooking.

For more advice on how to best use your kitchen tech, check out these 6 foods you should avoid cooking in an Instant Pot and what you should never cook in an air fryer.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!