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Kids In The Kitchen: Grilling With Your Family

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Create Meals & Memories Together

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:

  • Ages 3 to 5
  • Ages 6 to 8
  • Ages 9 to 12
  • Ages 13+

Let's consider each of these age groups and what types of cooking tasks are appropriate for them.

AGES 3 TO 5

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.

AGES 6 TO 8

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.

AGES 9 TO 12

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).

AGES 13+

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!

Appetizer: Avocado Toast

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 loaf French bread, cut in 1 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 avocados, split in half, pit removed, skin on
  • 1 orange (zest and juice)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 shallot, diced
  • 1/2 Anaheim pepper, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • smoked sea salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Set your grill to medium heat (350°F).
  2. Lightly drizzle olive oil over bread slices. Lightly drizzle lime juice and olive oil over avocado halves.
  3. Place sliced bread and avocado halves on grate. Grill for approximately 5 to 10 minutes, or until the avocados have grill marks. Remove from grill.
  4. Make cross-hatching slices through grilled avocado halves; scoop out avocado flesh, cut flesh into thin slices.
  5. In a large bowl, zest orange and add juice from orange, olive oil, vinegar, and honey, whisk together. Add avocado pieces, Anaheim pepper, shallots, and garlic clove. Gently toss.
  6. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Top each slice of bread with a generous serving of avocado mixture. Enjoy!

TASKS FOR CHILDREN

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.

Side Dish: Grilled Ratatouille Vegetables

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash (or additional zucchini if unavailable)
  • 1 large tomato
  • canola oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat grill to medium-high (400°F) with the lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Slice all vegetables to a ¼-inch thickness.
  • Lightly brush each vegetable with oil and season with Traeger's Veggie Shake or salt and pepper.
  • Place sweet potato, onion, zucchini, and squash on grill grate and grill for 20 minutes or until tender, turn halfway through.
  • Add tomato slices to the grill during the last five minutes of cooking time.
  • For presentation, alternate vegetables while layering them vertically. Enjoy!

TASKS FOR CHILDREN

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.

Main Dish: Grilled Beef Sliders

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds ground chuck, preferably at least 20% fat
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • slices of cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Muenster cheese
  • 12 to 16 slider rolls
  • lettuce, shredded
  • ketchup (optional)
  • yellow mustard (optional)
  • mayonnaise (optional)
  • caramelized onions
  • 3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • pinch kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make the burger patties: Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt per pound of meat, and 1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper per pound (if you prefer less salty food, reduce to 1 teaspoon per pound).
  2. Using your hands, gently mix the ground beef to incorporate the salt, making sure not to overwork it.
  3. Shape the beef into 2- to 3-ounce, thin burgers. Brush on both sides with a small amount of the remaining oil.
  4. When ready to cook, set your grill to high (450°F).
  5. Place the burgers on the grill, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, then flipping and cooking an additional 2 to 3 minutes until you reach the desired doneness. If using cheese, add the cheese when the burgers are flipped.
  6. Take the sliders off the grill and allow them to rest for a few minutes to ensure the juices are evenly distributed.
  7. While burgers rest, add the buns to the grill and cook with the split side down for 1 to 2 minutes to toast them.
  8. Garnish burgers with the shredded lettuce, and other condiments.

TASKS FOR CHILDREN

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.

Dessert: Croissant S'Mores On The Grill

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 mini croissants, sliced in half
  • 25 large marshmallows
  • 8 ounces thin squares good-quality chocolate

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the grill to medium-high (400°F)
  2. Place the croissant halves on the grill grate, cut-side down and toast the croissants for only one minute (they will toast quickly so keep a close eye on them).
  3. Remove from grill and assemble the s'mores by layering marshmallows and chocolate squares and top with the other croissant half to make a toasty croissant s'mores sandwich.
  4. Place the croissant sandwiches on the grill and toast for 30 seconds to one minute to allow the chocolate to melt and marshmallows to get golden.
  5. Remove the s'mores from the grill and serve warm while they're still gooey. Enjoy!

TASKS FOR CHILDREN

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.

Stay Safe And Have Fun

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.