For the average person, grills and vegetables are not the perfect pairing. Classically, steaks, chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, and ribs are the only items meant for a grill. This is a backwards way of thinking because the grill is one of the best culinary tools for cooking vegetables. Using a grill to cook vegetables is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare them.
Some people have the desire to eat more vegetables, but they don’t find creative ways to cook them. It’s easy to lose interest in the same salad that accompanies your meals, but vegetables don’t always have to be a side dish. You can bring vegetables to the center stage, especially if you grill specific varieties in unique ways. For example, marinate a portobello mushroom cap, grill it, and eat it as your main course. Slice a cauliflower head into thick steaks for a vegan steak alternative. The possibilities are endless!
How To Prepare Vegetables For The Grill
In order to grill vegetables to perfection, it all comes down to the way you prepare them. An ultra-thin vegetable will burn to a crisp within a minute or two. You won’t even taste the vegetable at that point. It’s ideal to give your vegetables sufficient surface area, meaning that they need to be big enough for you to see grill marks. Cutting them too small increases the risk of them falling through the grates. There is a list of common vegetables to grill below and how you should prepare them.
- Zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant: Cut lengthwise into thick, rectangular strips.
- Tomatoes: Cut thicker tomatoes in half to help them stay together on the grill.
- Bell peppers: Seed and quarter bell peppers to get plenty of char marks.
- Onions: Peel the outer layers, remove the ends, and quarter the onion. Keep flipping quarters on the grill.
- Cremini mushrooms: Remove the stems and cut them in half. You can grill large portobello mushrooms like a hamburger patty.
- Asparagus: Remove the woody ends and grill in a grill basket.
- Corn: It’s best to place un-shucked ears of corn on the grill because the husks help to steam the kernels. After about 5-10 minutes of grilling, remove the husks and then grill for a couple minutes per side to get char marks.
Start With A Clean Grill
Before you even lay your veggies on the grill, it’s important to remove all debris and built-up food particles. Turn your grill on to about medium heat and allow the fire to run for about two minutes. This will aid with easy removal of debris. Old food particles will impart a gross flavor into your vegetables because their flavors are easily overpowered. You can use a wire brush to clean the grates. Cut an onion in half and rub the onion cut-side down along the grates to help clean them.
Season And Marinate
Vegetables deserve seasoning and marination! Those steps are not solely reserved for choice cuts of meat. Mushrooms do great in marinades because they easily soak up the flavors. For most vegetables, though, a combination of sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil is just perfect. You can use Italian seasoning, parsley, thyme, curry powder, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, or whatever entices your taste buds. Olive oil on your veggies helps prevent sticking to the grill, just FYI.
How Long Do You Grill Vegetables?
The cooking time will change depending on the size and shape of your vegetables. Most grills also have hot spots, so the placement of the vegetable will also dictate the cooking time. Ideally, it’s best to cook vegetables over medium heat, placing heartier vegetables in the hotter spots. Onions tend to take the longest, followed by bell peppers. Zucchini and eggplant slices and mushrooms cook fairly quickly, but not as quick as asparagus. You may have to experiment with your placement and come up with cooking times based on your grill. Typically, though, you can follow the cooking times below.
- Zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and eggplant: Seven to eight minutes (three to four minutes per side)
- Bell peppers and onions: Eight to ten minutes (four to five minutes per side)
- Asparagus, tomatoes, and green onions: Four to six minutes (two to three minutes per side)
Use Metal Skewers
Metal skewers are not always necessary, but they do come in handy for certain vegetables. Cherry tomatoes, cauliflower or broccoli florets, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts will likely fall through the grates. Skewering these types of vegetables prevents them from rolling around. Don’t use wooden skewers because those can burn and break easily. Plus, they don’t support a lot of weight. Opt for metal flat skewers because the vegetables won’t spin around on them.