How Do I Barbecue Halloumi?

A.M. Boyle

There are several different ways for you to barbecue halloumi. You can place it directly on the grill, either sliced or whole. In addition, you can put it on a skewer. For the skewer method, the cheese is typically grilled by itself, although with a little extra effort, you can do it kabob style together with vegetables or meats. No matter which way you choose to barbecue halloumi, you should pay special attention to the cooking time to ensure that it is not over or underdone.

Halloumi can be placed directly on the grill.
Halloumi can be placed directly on the grill.

Halloumi is a type of semisoft cheese popular in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Originating in Cyprus, it has a mellow, slightly salty flavor that pairs well with both sweet and spicy foods. Traditionally, makers of halloumi used a combination of goats’ milk and sheep's milk, but it is not uncommon for them to use cow’s milk in the process as well.

This very versatile cheese can be prepared in any number of ways. Many cooks choose to barbecue halloumi because it retains its character even at relatively high temperatures. Consequently, it will not fall apart or entirely melt when it is placed on the grill. Generally, properly grilled halloumi retains its shape and has a soft but not gooey texture.

One way to barbecue halloumi is to cut it into half-inch (1.5-cm) slices and put it directly on the barbecue grate. You can brush the cheese slices with a little bit of olive oil prior to placing them on the grill — this allows them to develop a firm, crispy crust. You might also want to sprinkle your choice of fresh herbs, spices, or other flavorings on the halloumi before cooking. Due to the adaptable taste of the cheese, you can use any number of seasonings, including garlic, oregano, or even lemon. Mint and fennel also complement the flavor of halloumi very well.

Once the slices of halloumi are on the grill, watch them carefully so that they don’t burn. Flip each slice every one to two minutes over medium-high heat. The halloumi slices are done when they develop a light brown color on both sides. The cheese should be slightly crispy on the outside with a middle that is soft and warm but not overly melted.

If you don’t want to slice the cheese beforehand, you can always barbecue halloumi whole. Chefs still recommend brushing the cheese with olive oil even when grilled whole. Note, though, that the heat on the grill should be set lower so that the outside will not brown before the middle is cooked.

Another variation, if you want to barbecue halloumi, is to place cubes of the cheese on a wooden or metal skewer. Each skewer will probably hold about four or five cubes, depending upon how large you cut them. Again, if you coat each cube with a little olive oil, the halloumi will have a pleasant golden crust. Place the skewers over low to medium heat. As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the halloumi, the lower the heat.

You might be tempted to barbecue halloumi on a skewer with other food items, like a kabob. Chefs don’t normally recommend this because halloumi cooks very quickly, whereas the other items on the kabob, such as vegetables or meat, will not cook at the same pace. If you really want to barbecue halloumi kabob style, consider pregrilling the other items, especially meat, to make sure they will be thoroughly cooked by the time the cheese is done.

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