The Surprising Reason Why Anyone Who Owns a Grill Should Grill a Loaf of White Bread

updated May 30, 2019
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Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

If, when grilling season rolls around, you find yourself serving blackened hot dogs and chargrilled chicken (emphasis on the char), it’s time to talk about temperature control.

Even the shiniest new grills have hot spots, which are the areas that get the hottest and therefore cook food the fastest. Ovens have hot spots, too — it’s why cake and cookie recipes instruct you to rotate your pans halfway through baking to avoid uneven cooking. Grills cook at even higher temperatures than ovens, so the temperature variation is often even more extreme. So whether you’re firing up your trusty old grill or you just bought a new one, take the time to test your grill’s heat distribution before you start a summer of grilling.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

Use Sliced Bread to Test Your Grill for Hot Spots

The “toast test” is most often used to test an oven’s hot spots, but it’s just as helpful for the grill. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Heat the grill on high for 15 minutes to get the grill grates nice and hot.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and arrange slices of white sandwich bread on the grates, covering the grill evenly. (It’s important to use white bread in order to clearly see the different gradations of color once the bread is grilled).
  3. Cover the grill and grill the bread for 1 minute.
  4. Open the lid and turn off the heat. Use tongs to flip each slice of bread over, keeping it in its location.
  5. Examine and photograph the bread. The areas of the toast that are very dark brown (or even black) indicate hotter areas of the grill, while any areas of bread that are still white and barely toasted indicate cooler areas. Taking a picture will act as a helpful reminder of how your grill heats.

Armed with the knowledge of what areas of the grill get more flame will help you know where to place food to get the results you want. If you’re searing meat and want crisp grill marks, start the steak on the hot spots Or, if your meat is browned on the outside but not quite cooked through, move it to a cooler area to finish cooking without burning the exterior.

4 Creative & Delicious Ways to Use Up Grilled Bread

With the bread test complete and hot spots identified, you’re left with a loaf’s worth of grilled bread. Instead of throwing them away, repurpose the toast into one of these delicious dishes.

  • Spread the bread with herby garlic butter and call it Texas toast.
  • Dice or tear and toss with salad ingredients for a twist on panzanella. This Greek panzanella is a favorite, where the sweet tomato juices, fruity olive oil, and olive brine soak into the toasted bread.
  • Blend it into a romesco — a Spanish sauce made from roasted red peppers and hazelnuts and thickened with toasted bread. Serve over vegetables or grain bowls.
  • Croutons are the obvious answer to a grill’s worth of toasted bread. Since the grill is already hot, make this garlicky grilled kale salad and serve topped with grilled croutons.