How To Make Brazilian Grilled Pineapple?

On of my favorite foods to grill in the Brazilian style is Pineapple by far.  If cooked correctly it is sweet, tender, and resembles a pineapple flavored candy.  I’ve decided to share exactly how I grill pineapple myself, I hope you enjoy!

The basics of making Brazilian style Grilled Pineapple are relatively simple. Add sugar to help cut acidity, add heat to tenderize the pineapple, and optionally add other spices for additional flavor in most cases cinnamon.  Some Brazilians choose to grill their pineapple on a grill top and others grill it using Brazilian BBQ skewers.

The fun comes from deciding the specifics how to cook the pineapple to get the desired look and flavor you’re going for.  Whether you are cooking it grill top, or Churrasco do Espeto (Skewers), pineapple makes the perfect addition to any Brazilian meal.  Let’s go on a journey of discovery together and explore everything from selection to serving Brazilian Grilled Pineapple.

Making Brazilian Grilled Pineapple: From Selection To Service

Step 1: How to Select a Ripe Pineapple

Selecting a ripe pineapple is crucial in the process of making Brazilian grilled pineapple.   Over the years, I’ve made pineapple that was fully ripe and pineapple that was not ripe at all and the difference is staggering.  

The most notable differences are in taste, texture, and sweetness.

Ripened pineapple has the necessary sugars that make the food taste like candy when cooked.  The process of marinating the pineapple helps cut the acidity and make for a much more pleasant eating experience. My favorite application of this is on the skewers with roasted slowly to create a heavy caramelization on the outside.  When applying the heat the pineapple becomes more soft and I’ve heard many people describe it as tasting like Pineapple candy.

Unripe pineapple is naturally tougher, less sweet, and more acidic than ripened pineapple.  This means no matter how long you apply the sugar marinade it wont go as far because the fruit is way more acidic to begin with.  It also means the heat won’t soften the pineapple as much. As good as any roasted pineapple is, the best way to start the process of cooking  Brazilian grilled pineapple is to start with a farm ripened sweet pineapple!

Selecting a ripe pineapple isn’t an exact science but there are some tips and tricks that will help you make the best decision. 

  1. Smell the bottom of the pineapple.  I know this is a weird suggestion. I have never gotten past the weird feeling of standing in front of the pineapple bin smelling the bottoms of each, feeling as if I were trying to find a soiled diapered baby.  But knowing the rest of the experience depends on me finding the ripest, I grit my teeth and push through.
    You’re smelling for that signature pineapple smell.  The more ripe the fruit, the stronger the scent is that comes from where the fruit was harvested from the stem at the bottom.
  2. The pineapple should have a small spring to it when pressed.  Not enough to bruise the fruit, but press on the side gently with your thumb and if it has a little “give” to it and springs back you have found a great fruit.
    A combination of the smell check and the spring test will usually give you the results you’re looking for when selecting a fruit.  However there is one more check that would be potentially telling.
  3. The pineapple should be a consistent color.  Some say the color should be a consistent yellow.  If the pineapple is green at one end and yellow at the other it’s a pretty good indicator there still is some ripening that needs to happen.  However, I’ve found that a consistent Yellow color isn’t the only indicator of being ripe. I’ve picked consistent orangish and yes even consistent green colors that were just as delicious, provided they passed the smell and spring test.
  4. Finally, and this may seem obvious, but be sure to check for any blaring blemishes on the outside of the fruit, or if there are any spots that seem a little too soft.  This may also be an indicator of the fruit being over ripe or bruised in the shipping process.

Step 2: How to Marinade Your Pineapple

Now that you’ve selected the perfect ripe pineapple, the next step is to marinade it properly before grilling.  This step happens in close proximity to Step 3: how to prep and slice a pineapple For Brazilian Churrasco but marinating is general in it’s execution so I’ve picked it first as it will be similar no matter how you slice it.  That being said read steps 2 and 3 then decide your order.

Remove top, bottom, and outer skin of the pineapple.  This step is the same no matter which cooking method you go with.  After you’ve completed this step, the variables come in. 

Take the cut pineapple and place into gallon sized zip-top bags and add brown sugar.

I always use brown sugar as my base.  Once the juices from the pineapple start mixing with the brown sugar, it creates a thick “muddy” marinade.  The longer you leave it the more watery it gets and eventually becomes the perfect consistency to paint onto the pineapple as it grills.

I marinade for as many as 3-5 hours before cooking but you could get away with as little as 30 minutes.

Next I remove the pineapple from the bags to get them ready to go on the grill.

Step 3: How To Prep and Slice A Pineapple For Brazilian Churrasco

Now the pineapple has been selected and marinated, you prep the pineapple according to your chosen cooking method.

Grill Top Method: Cut the pineapple long ways into 8 equal slices.  To make it go even further you could cut those in half to make 16 equal slices.  It makes the pineapple go further but you need to remember it will cook faster as well.  An optional step would be to add little bamboo skewers to the pineapple spears for ease of eating and added structural support.

Next marinade and place on top of the heated grill surface.  I like to wait till the end life of the coals after my BBQ meat has already been cooked so I’m only dealing with heated coals and not flame.  The marinade will start caramelizing to a light golden brown. Continue to flip the pineapple on each side, applying more marinade for a deeper and sweeter caramelization. 

You could complete all of the steps above and change the cut of the pineapple into half inch thick disks.  I found this method is a little more work for those eating as people will need to cut around the core, but is another fun option should your gathering call for it.

The Brazilian Espeto Method ( Brazilian Skewer Method): If you’ve ever been to a Churrascaria like Tucanos or Rodizio grills, you’ve seen the Pineapple roasted over an open fire, nearly whole and sliced table-side.  It will probably come as no surprise to you that my preferred method of grilling pineapple is using this method.

Take the prepped Pineapple and turn it on it’s side.  Slice the pineapple into three equal sections, making it a top, middle, and bottom.

Next, marinade and start skewering the slices through the core.  I’ve found that using a medium or small skewer is preferred over the large skewer as this will minimize the risk of the core splitting in the middle of the process. Here is one of my favorite Brazilian Skewers to use specifically for the purpose of making Brazilian Grilled Pineapple. Click the link to see the current price on Amazon!

Check out how to select Brazilian Skewers for a better explanation of skewer sizes.  

The small skewer really rides the line of being stable enough to support the entire weight of the pineapple depending on the size.  This is why I prefer the medium size skewer for grilling Brazilian Pineapple.

Step 4: How To Slice and Serve Your Grilled Pineapple

Grill Top Service:  This one is pretty simple.  Remove the pineapple from the coals and serve the spears as is.  If you chose to skewer with bamboo skewers serving as is also applies.  Serving the disks also allow for being served as is. So in short. Just serve.  LOL

Espeto Service Method: Many of the Brazilian Churrascarias will cut the outside of the pineapple till the entire outer layer is served.  They will then apply more marinade and cook longer. Once that layer has a nice golden caramelization they will serve once more. And repeat until there is only the core left.

However the problem with this method is, the closer you get to the core the less sweet the pineapple becomes.  This makes it so the outer layer is the sweetest and most desirable. It’s almost offensive to have paid the price of a full Churrasco Experience only to be served the inner section of a pineapple.

I’ve developed a method that allows for each diner to experience the entire range of pineapple.  Each slice has whole experience from the outer char, to the outer sweetness and finally the slightly more tart inner section near the core.  Cut it into a similar slicing pattern as you would see on the iris of a camera.

Not matter which method of churrasco you deploy, Brazilian Grilled Pineapple is the perfect compliment.  It adds a sweet break in the meal, and has the practical purpose of aiding in the digestion of the protein that comes from the grilled meat.   

Why Brazilians Serve Pineapple With Churrasco

There are many reasons to serve pineapple at a traditional Brazilian BBQ.  One of which and one of the most fun to know about is that Pineapple contains bromelain. Bromelain is a group of digestive enzymes that help break protein down to it’s basic building blocks of amino acids and small peptides.  So, in a very literal sense eating the pineapple after a Brazilian BBQ will make the process of digesting the extra protein a much easier process.