FCHS Gardening for Health Series
Tips for Great Grilled Vegetables
Grilling vegetables is a great way to bring out sweet, toasty, caramelized flavors that other cooking techniques won't. And there's very little prep involved. All you really need to do is toss or brush the raw veggies in vegetable oil, and sprinkle them with your favorite seasonings. Then get them on the grill! Use grilled vegetables as side dishes, in salads, or in other recipes like casseroles or vegetarian lasagna.
- Always wash and trim vegetables.
- Cut vegetables in consistent size pieces to insure vegetables finish grilling at the same time. Harder vegetables like carrots require smaller sized pieces, while softer vegetables like squash and eggplant grill well sliced in half lengthwise or in ¼-1/2 inch “plank” strips.
- Vegetables grill best on medium or medium-high heat directly over coals or gas. A medium-high grill is best for most types of veggies. If you have a gas grill, this is about 400°F to 425°F. If you are using a charcoal grill, you should be able to hold your hand above the coals for 4-5 seconds before having to remove it. If it's too hot, wait a while for the coals to cool down.
- Grill surface should be clean and lightly coated with oil to avoid sticking (prior to heating).
- Brush or drizzle vegetable oil on vegetables for added flavor and to help keep vegetables from sticking. You can also place the cut veggie pieces in a zip-loc bag and toss with the oil and your favorite spices.
- Skewers can be helpful when grilling smaller vegetables that might fall through the grate of your grill. Skewers also make it easier to turn your veggies, especially small ones such as mushrooms or cherry tomatoes. Stainless steel kabob skewers are best for grilling because they won't roll and they're easy to flip. Bamboo skewers will work too, but just be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes before putting them on the grill. You can also use a grilling basket.
- Vegetables also grill well in heavy duty foil wrapped up tight. This method keeps some of the smoke from barbeque infusing into vegetables.
Vegetables should be removed before they are soft as they will continue cooking once removed from grill. Most vegetables should be grilled a few minutes and turned.
Guidelines for Grilling Individual Vegetables
- Asparagus: The ends of asparagus spears can be tough, so trim them off, then toss the spears in olive oil and salt/pepper and grill for 4-5 minutes over a medium-high grill, then turn and grill another 4-5 minutes.
- Bell peppers: Remove the core and seeds, then slice each pepper into about four separate sections. Toss with olive oil and salt/pepper and grill over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Then turn and grill 4-5 minutes longer.
- Cabbage: Cut the cabbage in half and then slice each half into thick 1-inch slices. Toss with olive oil and your favorite seasonings. You can skewer each big slice to keep it from falling apart. Grill over a medium-high grill for about 10 minutes, then turn and grill for another ten minutes.
- Cauliflower: Cut the cauliflower into big florets, toss in olive oil and your favorite seasonings and then skewer. Grill over medium-high heat, turning often, for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and lightly charred.
- Corn: Some people like to grill corn with the husks still on, but that's just steaming the corn, really. By removing the husks and the silk and cooking the corn directly on the grill, the kernels get lightly blackened and caramelized, bringing out tons of sweet corn flavor. You should grill corn over a medium grill for 4-5 minutes, turning frequently.
- Eggplant: Cut the eggplant into ½-inch slices. Brush them with oil or a simple balsamic vinaigrette, toss with your favorite spices. Grill over a medium-high grill for about 5 minutes, then flip and grill for 5 minutes longer.
- Mushrooms: Toss white or brown button mushrooms with olive oil and Kosher salt. Then skewer and cook over a medium-high grill for 7-8 minutes, turning frequently. You can also grill a whole Portobello mushroom cap directly on the grill. Grill them smooth-side-down for 8-9 minutes.
- Onions: Large, sweet onions like Vidalias are great for grilling, as are red onions. Just peel them, cut them into ½-inch slices, toss them in olive oil and your favorite seasonings and cook over a medium-high grill for 2-3 minutes, then turn and grill 2-3 minutes longer. A skewer can be handy to hold the onions together on the grill.
- Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes can be skewered and grilled whole, for 3-4 minutes over a medium-high grill. Be sure to turn them frequently so that they cook evenly. You can also grill plum tomatoes. Cut them in half the long way, remove the seeds and grill for four minutes, then turn and grill for four minutes longer.
- Zucchini and yellow squash: Cut into ½-inch pieces lengthwise, toss in olive oil and salt /pepper and cook over medium-high grill for 4-5 minutes. Then turn and grill another 4-5 minutes longer.