Imagine standing outside in the quiet of early morning, hearing nothing but the birds chirp and bacon sizzle as you grill some eggs or even a pizza for breakfast. Sounds… irresistible, right? Forget about meditation; mornings spent grilling are pure zen, whether you’re taking advantage of WFH life or savoring an early Saturday. (And if you don’t have a grill, you can emulate one by using a cast iron grill pan.)

Whether it’s charred dough, smoky eggs, or crispy sausage, grilling adds a subtle smoke flavor that makes breakfast foods instantly more interesting and worth getting up and outside for. Just ask some seasoned chefs. Well, actually we did that for you. Read on for their fiery breakfast tips that’ll have you flipping French toast over a hot grill in no time.

Call upon your cast iron pan

cheese and broccoli frittata
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Chances are, your cast iron skillet is already a kitchen favorite, but it also has a place in the morning sun. “The combination of having a cast iron pan on one side and the open grill on the other gives you endless breakfast combinations. You can practically do everything between the grill and pan,” says Chris Mentzer, director of culinary at Rastelli Foods Group.

Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning

Smokehouse Maple Seasoning

Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning

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Credit: McCormick

Take the egg sandwich (one of Mentzer’s faves). He grills the bagel right on the grates, then tops it with eggs, bacon, and pepper jack cheese cooked alongside in the cast iron—add a dash of Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning to give it that extra sweet and smoky heat. For something sweeter, try grilled brioche French toast, served with cast-iron seared strawberries in brown butter. (Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a hot pan on the grill. Once it starts browning, add 1 cup halved strawberries, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon, and stir until fruit is warm.) Kick the sweetness up a notch by sprinkling Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Seasoning on the strawberries, then topping with powdered sugar and, of course, warm maple syrup.

He also uses the grill to turn leftovers from the night before into a frittata or strata. “Just pour your scrambled eggs in a greased pan, top with veggies, meats, cheeses,” says Mentzer. “Turn the grill to medium heat, place the pan in the center of the grill, cook until done, and enjoy. The smokey flavor of that seasoned grill permeates the eggs and takes your ordinary frittata/strata to the next level.”

Crisp up pre-cooked meats

Because grilling is a super intense, high-heat cooking method, Christopher Arturo, chef-instructor of Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, recommends using the grill for pre-cooked products that are just in need of reheating and a little bit of crust.

“Bacon, ham, pork roll, and scrapple are all items I love grilled for breakfast,” says Arturo. “The high heat allows for a very quick cooking time and a crispy Maillard reaction to take place, leaving the exterior with a bit of a smokey char and the center hot and juicy.”

Transform bread

breakfast bagel with egg, greens, avocado, bacon, sausage and cheese on a rustic cutting board
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Although it may sound surprising, one of the best-grilled breakfast foods is bread. You get some delicious bitterness from the grill marks and smokiness from charcoal. “Breakfast sandwich bread—a croissant, bagel, biscuit or scone—is great on the grill. It’s a vessel to make eggs, cheese, and meat as tasty as possible,” says Arturo. He suggests buttering and then grilling to add depth and crunch.

Season strategically

Knowing how to get the most from your seasoning can make a big difference. For simpler breakfast foods like scrambled eggs or grilled tomatoes, salt and pepper or Grill Mates Coarse Black Pepper & Flake Salt Seasoning should be your morning staple. You can be bold with something like a breakfast pork burger or a burrito, though. For instance, with a Taylor ham and cheese, add a bit of Grill Mates Texas BBQ Seasoning to the ham before grilling for an extra smokey flavor.

Experiment with marinades and condiments, like Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade mixed with olive oil and brushed on thick-cut bacon for a candied smokey side dish to your French toast. Or use flavored maple syrups, such as a strawberry-rose infused syrup on grilled French toast or a ginger-root infused syrup with egg strata.

Coarse Black Pepper & Flake Salt
Grill Mates Coarse Black Pepper & Flake Salt
Credit: McCormick
Texas BBQ Seasoning
Grill Mates Texas BBQ Seasoning
Credit: McCormick
Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade
Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade
Credit: McCormick

Get fruity with it

grilled pineapple with yogurt
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Upgrade your everyday yogurt or oatmeal with the addition of grilled fruit. You can grill most fruit, but bigger chunks of firm fruit will be the easiest as they won’t fall apart. The simple act of grilling fruit enhances the flavor profile, making fruits like peaches, plums, and pineapple juicier and sweeter. Make sure to pre-heat the grill for about 10 minutes (you want it to be nice and hot before placing your fruit on the open grates).

Savor the easy clean up

The best thing about grilling your breakfast may just be the cleanup, or lack thereof. For many grilled recipes, like a steak and eggs breakfast pizza or potato hash with fried egg, you can simply go straight to cooking in a cast-iron pan or directly on the grates (make sure they’re clean). That means minimal pots and pans to deal with, which makes exiting the house or entering work mode quicker and easier.

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Bridget Shirvell
Bridget Shirvell is a Mystic, CT based freelance writer, reporting on food, climate and parenting for a variety of publications including Civil Eats, Martha Stewart Living and more.