Grilling is often associated with meat, but vegetables can be just as delicious and satisfying when cooked on the grill. However, grilling vegetables can be a bit tricky, as you want to achieve that perfect balance of charred exterior and tender interior. In this blog post, we will share some expert tips on how to grill any vegetable with resounding success.
Cut them up
One of the keys to successful grilling is maximizing the surface area of your vegetables. The more surface area, the quicker they will cook. Therefore, it is important to cut your vegetables into even pieces. While some vegetables, like corn on the cob, can be grilled whole, cutting them into smaller pieces will ensure they cook more evenly.
When deciding how to cut your vegetables, consider the cooking time. Thin slices of zucchini or other delicate vegetables will cook quickly, while larger slices will take longer. Additionally, larger pieces will be easier to handle on the grill with tongs, while smaller pieces may require a grilling skillet or foil packet to prevent them from falling through the grates.
If you want to maximize your grilling efficiency, you can also use skewers to grill chopped vegetables together. However, it is recommended to keep all the same kind of vegetable on a skewer to ensure they cook at the same rate.
Add oil and seasonings, but go easy on the salt
Before grilling your vegetables, it is important to give them a nice coating of oil. This will help prevent sticking and promote even cooking. Everyday olive oil is a safe choice, but you can also use other oils like peanut or coconut for different flavor profiles.
When it comes to seasoning your vegetables, it is best to go easy on the salt. Salt pulls moisture out of vegetables, and adding too much before grilling can make it more difficult to achieve that desired charred exterior. You can season your vegetables lightly with herbs, spices, or marinades to enhance their flavor without overpowering them.
Learn how long to grill vegetables
Grilling vegetables requires knowing the optimal cooking time for each type of vegetable. To ensure you achieve perfectly cooked vegetables every time, it is helpful to use a thermometer built into your grill or a separate one to monitor the temperature.
When grilling vegetables, you don’t want your grill as hot as it can get. The medium range, around 400 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, is usually the sweet spot. However, different vegetables may require slightly different temperatures and cooking times. Here is a chart to help guide you:
- Asparagus: 4-6 minutes
- Bell peppers: 6-8 minutes
- Corn on the cob: 10-12 minutes
- Eggplant: 6-8 minutes
- Mushrooms: 6-8 minutes
- Onions: 8-10 minutes
- Tomatoes: 4-6 minutes
- Zucchini and summer squash: 6-8 minutes
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines and may vary depending on the thickness of your vegetable slices and your personal preference for doneness.
Learn how to use direct and indirect heat
Understanding how to use direct and indirect heat is crucial when grilling delicate items like vegetables. Direct heat refers to cooking an item directly over the flames, while indirect heat involves cooking something adjacent to the heat source rather than directly on it.
For vegetables that take longer to cook through, such as cabbage wedges or whole carrots, a combination of direct and indirect heat is often recommended. Start by searing the vegetable on direct heat to achieve a good char, then move it to indirect heat to continue cooking more gently without scorching.
On a charcoal grill, you can set up for indirect heat by arranging the briquettes on one side of the grill and leaving the other side open. This allows you to place food that requires indirect heat on the unlit side of the grill.
If you are using a gas grill, simply light all the burners and wait until the grill comes up to the desired cooking temperature. Then, turn off one row of burners and place your vegetables above the unlit burners for indirect heat cooking.
Keep the grill lid handy
Whether to keep the grill lid open or closed while grilling depends on what you are cooking. For small or delicate vegetables, such as thin slices less than three-quarters of an inch thick, it is best to keep the lid open. This allows for quicker cooking and prevents overcooking.
On the other hand, thicker vegetables benefit from closing the lid to create an oven-like environment. This allows hot air to circulate and helps cook the food all the way through. For example, if you are grilling a whole cauliflower or thick slabs of eggplant, sear them with the lid open first, then move them to indirect heat and close the lid to finish cooking.
For thinner vegetables like asparagus, a quick sear over direct heat with the lid open is usually sufficient.
Season with salt after cooking
Once your vegetables have cooked to perfection and you have transferred them to a serving platter, it’s time to season them. It is recommended to sprinkle some salt and crack some black pepper over the grilled vegetables at this stage. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice or a simple sauce for added flavor.
Grilled vegetables are delicious on their own but can also be used as a versatile ingredient in salads, sandwiches, wraps, or pasta dishes. Get creative with your seasoning choices and explore different flavor combinations to elevate your grilled vegetable creations.
In conclusion, grilling vegetables can be a flavorful and healthy alternative to traditional meat-centric grilling. By following these expert tips on cutting, seasoning, cooking time, heat management, and seasoning techniques, you can achieve perfectly grilled vegetables every time. So fire up your grill and start experimenting with different vegetables for a delicious outdoor dining experience.