Shutterstock / Lisovskaya Natalia
Summer is coming and with it: grilling season! There’s nothing I love more than hanging out on the patio and enjoying a warm summer evening by the grill (most likely, with a cool cocktail in my hand). Grilling is the ultimate flavor enhancer, but if you think of it as a burger-cooking machine then you’re missing out. While the grill does turn out some pretty amazing cuts of meat, I say meat’s time is up. This year it’s time for veggies to shine.
Grilling is the perfect way to utilize your farmers market catch, CSA share, or backyard garden bounty. If you’re nervous that you don’t know how to grill vegetables, don’t worry. We’ve got your back! These tips and tricks take the question-mark out of grilling veggies so your next backyard barbecue will be absolutely perfect.
1. Watch the heat
Get to know your grill and its hot spots. There’s a big difference between enjoying grilled flavor and eating a burnt piece of food. Keep the fire under control—this is especially important on a charcoal grill—and try to prevent the flames from coming in direct contact with your vegetables. A little char adds an extra layer of flavor, but too much can take away from the veggie’s delicate flavor.
2. Don’t be afraid to use a foil packet
Sometimes, bundling veggies in a foil packet is the way to go. It not only protects your veggies from the flames, but it’s also a great way to infuse your food with oil, butter, or seasonings. These packets are perfect for longer cooking items (like potatoes and sweet potatoes), or for making side-dish medleys with zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, or corn. And don’t worry—your veggies will still have access to plenty of smoky grill flavor while they cook.
3. Use your knife skills (or not)
Some vegetables are best when grilled whole, whereas others benefit from a little slicing and dicing. For small vegetables (like asparagus, cherry tomatoes, green beans, and mushrooms), do yourself a favor and grill them whole. They will be less likely to fall through the grates and you can always slice them later. Larger vegetables (like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, and peppers) can be halved, quartered, or sliced into 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch rounds. The smaller you slice them, the more grill marks (and grill flavor) you’ll get.
4. Utilize skewers and baskets for easy flipping
You don’t have to make kabobs to use a skewer. Sometimes, it’s nice to skewer vegetables just to make them easier to flip! Some wooden skewers (like cedar) will also infuse your vegetables with flavor from the inside out. If you’re not into how much work it can be to thread up the skewers, try using a grilling basket instead. It makes it easier to flip your veggies and minimizes the chances they’ll fall through the grates.
5. Be patient
Just like those burgers and steaks, you need a little patience when it comes to grilling vegetables. You won’t get beautiful grill marks if you flip them too early! So give them a few minutes to cook before disturbing them. If you need to, use a pair of tongs to peak at the underside of one slice before flipping the lot of them. A good rule of thumb: They’re done when they easily release from the grill without sticking.
6. Consider using seasoning and marinades
If I’m working with farm-fresh vegetables, I almost always keep it simple and just season with salt and pepper. That being said, sometimes it’s more fun to give your veggies a burst of flavor by using seasonings and marinades (try these on your veggies). Try marinating your vegetables for 30 minutes in a mixture of soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic to give them a real punch of flavor. Or, hit them up with this no-salt seasoning when they come off the grill.
7. Get fancy with dipping sauces
My favorite way to eat grilled vegetables usually involves dipping them in an amazing sauce. Sometimes, a simple chimichurri drizzle will get the job done (especially with grilled carrots). Other times, I’ll serve them with my favorite tzatziki sauce. Whatever you choose, go for a sauce that complements (not covers up) the vegetable’s flavor.
See, it’s not that much harder to grill vegetables than it is to grill a steak! In no time, you’ll be ready to break out that grill and throw a backyard barbecue with your newfound veggie-grilling expertise.