Lauren Chattman

Lauren Chattman is a cookbook author, freelance writer and former professional pastry chef. Her recipes have appeared in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Cook’s Illustrated and The New York Times. She is the author of 14 books, most recently "Cake Keeper Cakes" (Taunton 2009) and "Cookie Swap!" (Workman, 2010). She has also co-authored several books with former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier, including Dessert University (Simon & Schuster, 2004). With artisan baking expert Daniel Leader, she is the co-author of the IACP award-winning "Local Breads" (Norton, 2007). With Susan Matheson, she is co-author of "The Gingerbread Architect" (Clarkson Potter, Fall 2008) Lauren lives in Sag Harbor with her husband and two daughters. She blogs about local food and small-town life at sagharbordays.blogspot.com. Show More

Few gas grill owners consider the possibility, but a grill can also be an outdoor oven. Use it to bake a casual dessert when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen, or when you’d just like to spend as much time as possible in the backyard.

Your grill already may have a thermometer. If not, use an oven thermometer, placing it on top of the grate. Heat your grill to the same temperature you’d heat your oven for a particular recipe. Placing small items like cookies or muffins over direct heat will almost certainly lead to incineration. Likewise, cakes and brownies will become blackened on the bottom if cooked right on top of the fire. It’s better to bake them over indirect heat. If you have a two-burner grill, preheat just one side of the grill, then place your items on the cooler side. If you have a three-burner grill, leave the center burner unlit and bake in the center.

You can use your regular cookie sheets, muffin tins and cake pans on the grill. To protect them and avoid scorching, cover bottoms of pans with heavy-duty foil. Another option for certain items: aluminum baking pans that can be discarded after use.

Clean the grill really well. Even though your baked goods aren’t going to come into direct contact with the grill grates, the smoke from last night’s salmon or steak will flavor your brownies, and not in a good way.

Resist the urge to open the cover too often. Doing so will cool down the grill considerably and affect baking time. Of course, if you see smoke billowing from under the grill cover, open it to see what’s going on and adjust the temperature accordingly.

While it’s better to stick with a conventional oven when you are preparing anything elaborate, such as a layer cake, or delicate, such as a cheesecake, many of your favorite simple recipes can easily be adapted for grilling.

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Pizza: It’s one of the best and easiest items to bake on the grill. It doesn’t require a pan or indirect heat. Just place the stretched dough on a preheated grill after oiling the grates. Cover, grill your dough until it has nice grill marks on the bottom (a little blackening will give the crust flavor), flip, add cheese and a little sauce (too much will make your pizza soggy), and grill until the bottom is browned and the cheese is melted.

Cake: Simple snacking cakes can be baked in foil-wrapped baking pans over indirect heat. Watch the thermometer carefully and adjust the grill’s temperature as necessary. Avoid uncovering the grill too early during baking. Cakes that haven’t yet set can collapse when cold air rushes in.

Muffins and cupcakes: Wrap a rimmed baking sheet in foil and place the filled muffin tin on top of the sheet before placing it on the unlit part of the grill. Corn muffins with savory add-ons, such as cheese, jalapeños or bacon, are especially good when grill-baked, taking on a slightly smoky flavor

Brownies: These bake beautifully in cast iron, but they also are great in a disposable foil pan. Be sure to grease it well with nonstick cooking spray. Bake your regular recipe, using the indirect-heat method. For s’mores-like brownies, sprinkle with mini marshmallows 15 minutes into baking.

Cookies: Place a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil on the unheated portion of the grill, arrange some balls of cookie dough on top of the foil, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. This works with refrigerated cookie dough from the supermarket, so pick up a package or two with your ice cream, and you will always be prepared to make a quick summer dessert.

Fruit cobblers and crisps: I avoid baking pies on my grill because, no matter how carefully I control the heat, parts of the bottom crust wind up burning before the fruit filling is cooked through. Cobblers and crisps, with fruit on the bottom and pastry or a crumb topping on top, are a better bet.