Why should burgers and steaks get all the attention? Behold, our ultimate guide to grilling vegetables!
Summer is just around the corner, which means it's grilling season - and nothing makes summer vegetables sing like a char from the grill. We love grilling vegetables (and fruit!) for so many reasons. Not only is it a quick and easy way to prep veggies in the warm summer months, but there's nothing more seasonally delicious than some sweet charred corn, or a skewer threaded with smokey grilled onions and peppers. Summer, we are so ready for you! While grilling veggies is super easy, things can go south if all the conditions aren't right. Consider this your ultimate guide to grilling vegetables, all summer long!
TIPS FOR ALL VEGETABLES
1. Oil the food, not the grill. Instead of getting a grill or grill pan covered in oil, toss the veggies in oil ahead of time - this is when you'll want to salt them, too. This way you'll avoid flare-ups better, and your food won't stick.
2. Clean that grill. No one wants to taste last weeks pork chops when they bite into a piece of grilled broccoli. Make sure you give your grill plenty of time to preheat, then give it a good cleaning with a wire grill brush. Put a little muscle into it! Cleaning it while hot helps the leftover foods burn off and release a lot easier.
3. Par-cooking is your friend. Artichokes, potatoes, and all dense root vegetables aren't predisposed for the grill without a little love first. Poach artichokes or boil potatoes before throwing them on the grill, so that you don't have to wait around for 30 minutes until they cook properly!
4. Don't let little veggies fall through! Smaller vegetables, like button mushrooms, green beans or cherry tomatoes, either need skewers or grill pans to save them from falling through the grates of the grill.
5. Keep it hot. You want to be grilling vegetables at a pretty high temperature of about 450 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too low, not only do the veggies have a tendency to stick, but they could get limp and overcooked before they get that beautiful signature char.
6. Soak the skewers. When you're planning on using bamboo or wooden skewers (a great way to keep thin or small-cut vegetables from falling through the grill grates) be sure to soak them in water for at least an hour before you grill them. This helps to keep them from burning over the flames. Metal skewers don't need this treatment and they are reusable, so if you're an avid griller, it may be worth picking up a set.
7. Lemon juice & vinaigrette for the win. Once your vegetables are hot and off the grill, finishing them with a little lemon juice or your favorite vinaigrette is an amazing way to bring out tons of flavor - and boom, you have a full-blown side dish ready to go with minimal effort.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GRILLING VEGETABLES
Note that while we have suggestions for how long each vegetable will take, every grill is different, and they all have colder and warmer spots. Use this as a guideline, but use your own senses to decide how long your veggies need!
Corn: The quintessential summer-grilling vegetable - and with good reason! Seasonal corn is so naturally sweet, the char from grilling brings out a deep smokiness that is just about unbeatable. You can leave the husks on and grill them as is, and the corn will steam inside and cook to perfection while still getting that smokey flavor. However, our favorite way is to take the husks and threads off prior to cooking so that we get a direct char on the kernels. On a hot grill, it should take about 7-10 minutes to get your corn perfectly charred - and you need to rotate it frequently, every minute or so. Once you hear corn popping, that's your cue to keep turning it!
Zucchini & Yellow Squash: Summer squash thrives on the grill, which is why it's the star in Giada's Grilled Panzanella Salad. You can slice zucchini into coins and thread onto a skewer, or slice it in half lengthwise into planks. Give them about 4-5 minutes on each side on a hot grill, then you can dice it up for a salad or any side dish you want.
Onions: Grilled onions take any burger or steak up about 100 notches in flavor! The easiest way to grill them is to slice them into 1/2 inch thick rings, leaving them intact. Grill them on each side for about 5 minutes, or until tender and charred. You can also chop onions up into a thick 1-2 inch dice and thread them onto skewers.
Tomatoes: Grilling tomatoes makes them incredibly sweet, and reduces some of the water content, making it a perfect choice for summer salads (hello, caprese!). Cut larger tomatoes in half or into 1/2 inch thick slices. Make sure the slices are oiled liberally and salted as to not stick to the grill. Grill them for about 3-4 minutes on high heat, and enjoy. You can also thread cherry or grape tomatoes on a skewer and grill them whole.
Bell Peppers: Bell peppers get their best flavor when they're charred. Cut them into a large dice and thread onto a skewer, or simply cut the whole bell pepper in half laterally, grill on each side for about 3 minutes, and dice once cooled.
Lettuce: From kale to radicchio to romaine, a quick 30 second dip on the grill will give your lettuce a smokey depth that adds tons of flavor to salad. We especially love doing this with fibrous greens like kale and chard to make them a bit more tender. Since lettuce is so thin, it can go from raw to black very quickly, so make sure you're watching it!
Mushrooms: Portobello mushrooms are a quintessential grilling vegetable, and the smokey flavor of grilling lends to their meaty texture. Prep them by snapping off the stems, and grill on each side for about 4-5 minutes. For smaller mushrooms like button or cremini, you may need to use a grill pan to avoid losing them through the grates.
Fennel: Fennel is a dense and hard vegetable, so you'll need to cut it vertically from the base into 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick slices (you can see our fennel cutting guide here!) If you have a lid on your grill, close it while you cook the fennel so that it creates an ambient heat environment and cooks the vegetable more thoroughly.
Artichokes: A grilled artichoke is one of our favorite appetizers or summer side dishes. We have an entire guide and recipe on how to get the job done here! The secret is par-cooking the artichokes first in a lemony broth - otherwise, you'll be waiting by your grill for an hour before they even begin to get tender.
Potatoes: Similarly to artichokes, potatoes need the par-cooking treatment if you want to get grillmarks on a larger potato. However, you can slice waxy potatoes (like yukon golds, fingerlings or red potatoes) into 1/4 inch thick coins, like in Giada's Grilled Lemon Potato Salad recipe, and they'll cook up in just 4 minutes per side.
Eggplant: Eggplant can be tricky to cook while maintaining a pleasing texture, and grilling is a great way to go. Getting a quick char on the outside of eggplant saves the inside from getting too mushy and watery. For thinner varietals like Japanese eggplant, simply slice in half lengthwise into two planks, and grill cut-side down. For a larger globe eggplant, slice laterally into 1/2 inch thick planks, and grill for about 4 minutes per side. If you're planning to use the eggplant to make dips, you'll want to set the entire globe eggplant on the grill. Rotate it every 5 minutes until it is cracked and very soft. Allow to cool, then scoop out the silky insides for a delicious dip.
Green Beans: Thin vegetables like green beans need a grill pan! That said, green beans do exceptionally well on the grill, and taste great with a smokey char (and you can even eat them like fries!). Cook them for about 5 minutes, turning somewhat frequently to get an even char.
Asparagus: What goes better with a grilled steak than grilled asparagus? Prep the asparagus by snapping off the fibrous thick ends. The perfect asparagus for grilling will be a medium-sized one: ones that are too thin will shrink up and wither away from the intense heat, but asparagus that's too thick will take too long to cook. Find something right in the middle! Grill asparagus for about 6 minutes, turning once or twice throughout the cooking.
Did you find our ultimate guide to grilling vegetables helpful? Let us know in the comments below.