Grilling for your family can be one of the most satisfying things you do as a parent. Spending time outside, testing new techniques — and eating, of course. And the best part is your kids can join in the fun too.
Our experienced pitmasters have identified four recipes that include key tasks for kids.
Appetizer: Avocado Toast
Side Dish: Grilled Ratatouille Vegetables
Main Dish: Grilled Beef Sliders
Dessert: Croissant S'mores on the Grill
For each recipe, we've listed appropriate tasks for each of these age groups:
Let's consider each of these age groups and what types of cooking tasks are appropriate for them.
At this age, motor skills aren't fully developed and neither is attention span. Intricate tasks, tasks that require multiple steps, or tasks that require attention to detail aren't for this age group. Kids this age shouldn't be using implements either, even while supervised. But simple hands-only motions that don't require precision are perfect.
Appropriate tasks include washing fruits and vegetables, tearing lettuce into pieces for burgers or salads, or sprinkling pre-measured seasonings over dishes.
This age group has begun to develop the motor skills and temperament to trust with child-safe implements. While you should still supervise, you can introduce kids at this age to knife skills with nylon kid-safe knives. Depending on their maturity level, they may also be able to use graters and zesters. Kids at this age know and understand measurements so it will be good practice for their math skills to see if they can double or halve measurements of recipes.
Appropriate tasks include measuring ingredients, mixing dry rubs, and chopping soft fruits and vegetables such as bananas and zucchini.
Most of the kids you'll see on MasterChef Junior fall into this age group, and as you see in the show, they can do a lot on their own. Different kids have different maturity levels, of course. If the child hasn't cooked before, start them with simple tasks. Then build up to more involved tasks where they are using appliances or working around heat or flame.
Appropriate tasks include peeling vegetables, pounding meat thin for the grill, and placing items on the grill (while closely supervised).
Kids at this age should have the maturity level and motor skills to do just about any kitchen task the average adult can do. If they display these talents, you can have them help out with all phases of the grilling process from making their own dry rubs to prepping their own ingredients, and even taking their first steps as a grillmaster. This is also a safe age to begin allowing them to use sharp knives — after they complete a beginning knife skills course.
Appropriate tasks include chopping vegetables, starting the grill (closely supervised), and monitoring and flipping items as they cook.
Now, let's get to the recipes!
A tasty and healthy snack the whole family can enjoy making together. This simple appetizer is a good intro to grilling, because you don't have to worry about the potential contamination that comes with grilling meat. Future grillers can help season and measure while any child mature enough to attempt cooking (with supervision) has a very simple starter task. With only cut avocado and sliced bread to worry about, this recipe is close to foolproof.
Ages 3 to 5 Sprinkle pre-measured amounts of salt and pepper on avocado mixture Spoon mixture onto toast
Ages 5 to 7 All tasks above Juice orange Measure olive oil, vinegar, honey Whisk wet ingredients
Ages 8 to 12 All tasks above Zest orange Slice bread Chop avocado, add pepper, shallots, and garlic, and toss mixture
Ages 13+ All tasks above Chop shallot, pepper, and garlic Turn on grill, set temp, monitor Place bread and avocado on grill, monitor, remove and peel/slice when cool
Recipe adapted from our Avocado Toast recipe.
Give the meaty main attraction a healthy grilled vegetable side. This brightly-colored grilled vegetable salad is loaded with flavor—and you can add your own with extra herbs and seasonings if you'd like. For your youngest, this recipe is an opportunity to give them their first knife skills lesson — the zucchini and summer squash can be sliced with a kid-safe plastic knife. The oldest can get an intro to grilling with this lower-temperature recipe, where there's less chance of burning the food.
Ages 3 to 5 Wash vegetables Brush sliced vegetables with oil Sprinkle with pre-measured amounts of salt and pepper
Ages 5 to 7 All tasks above Slice zucchini/squash with kid-safe knife Layer cooked vegetables per instructions
Ages 8 to 12 All tasks above Place vegetables on grill grate with long tongs
Ages 13+ All tasks above Turn on grill, set temp, monitor Slice tomato, red onion with sharp knife Monitor and flip vegetables while cooking
Recipe adapted from our Grilled Ratatouille Salad recipe.
Give kids a lesson in that grilling classic — burgers, but start them with a kid-size version. Don’t let the size of these sliders fool you, they are big on flavor. High-quality 80/20 ground chuck and caramelized onions make this simple recipe a tasty intro to Burgers 101. Younger cooks can focus on the condiments while beginning grillers have a low-stress entry point to cooking with fire. The burger patties are thin so they'll cook fast, meaning you shouldn't need to worry about undercooking.
Ages 3 to 5 Shred lettuce Split slider buns for toasting
Ages 5 to 7 All tasks above Measure salt and pepper for burgers Brush burgers with oil
Ages 8 to 12 All tasks above Shape mixed beef into burgers (supervised) Garnish burgers with cooked onions, other condiments
Ages 13+ All tasks above Mix ground beef Turn on grill, set temp, monitor Cook burgers, toast buns
Recipe adapted from our Beef Sliders recipe.
What kid doesn't love s'mores? These jazzed-up classic camping s’mores feature a flaky croissant crust and heaping portions. You'll get that hint of smoky flavor you'd get at the campsite without having to scrounge up sticks. All ages can follow along with this simple recipe, and the littlest get to show off their newly-learned counting skills. All told, this snack can be ready in less than five minutes — if all your Masterchef Juniors work together.
Ages 3 to 5 Count out the marshmallows Break and count chocolate squares
Ages 5 to 7 All tasks above Slice mini croissants in half
Ages 8 to 12 All tasks above Layer marshmallows, chocolate squares on hot croissant half, top with the other half
Ages 13+ All tasks above Turn on grill, set temp, monitor Toast sandwiches on grill
Recipe adapted from our Croissant S'mores recipe.
The activities in these four recipes will give kids an age-appropriate introduction to key cooking and grilling tasks. Make sure you supervise as they work, and pay close attention to tasks they're trying for the first time. These simple recipes should make the process foolproof and fun.