How to Grill Vegetables
Grilling vegetables is an easy way to cook them… yet many cooks are intimidated by them… even my Grill Master was wary…. he had a million excuses until we bought a grilling basket… then to get him to use skewers was another story… and so it goes. You should have seen the look on his face the other night when I asked him to just grill vegetables … no meat… sacrilege!
I decided to write this post to take some of the mystery out of it… actually there really isn’t any mystery at all… honest!
Please Note: The prices given for some examples are subject to change and are listed for illustration purposes only. Please check the websites for the most up-to-date prices.
Charcoal Grill… just as with grilling meat … using a charcoal grill is a personal preference … prepare and heat it as you would if you were grilling meat… the coals are ready when they are mostly covered in ash.
The coal fire will give the vegetables a really nice smoky flavor as it does meat.
Gas Grill … again.. some people prefer a gas grill for meat… and the same will go for vegetables. The gas grill has the advantage of getting the grill up to grilling temperature faster and you can control the temperature better and easier.
You lose the charcoal taste.. although you can purchase special gas grill coals and wood to give your foods flavor. Still, even if all you use is the gas grill and no additives.. you do have the fire to give your foods that crusty charred flavor.
Grill Pan… I added this method simply because foods cooked in a grill pan are technically grilled vegetables… usually made of cast iron.. they will char your foods and make those sought after grill marks.
By no means is this a second rate method… I use a grill pan when I don’t have the opportunity to use the charcoal grill.. obviously you lose the charcoal taste.. or the taste a true fire will give foods.
The Grill Pan shown is a 10 inch pan made of cast iron and is by Emerilware. It is available at Casa.com and retails currently for $27.49
Pan, Basket, Skewer or Direct
BBQ Grill Pan… there are special pans that come in all sizes and shapes.
Choose a size and shape that will work well with your BBQ Grill. Also take into account whether you intend to grill the meat at the same time as your vegetables… make sure you have enough room for both if that is your intention.
We have a typical grill pan we bought .. found a great price and grabbed it. It wasn’t until we began using it did we think of things we didn’t like about it. Great price doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting your money’s worth.
Who thinks of handles when buying them? …. The Grill Master did.. and just figured he’d use a mitt to move it around and remove it from the grill… it was awkward.. while he would still use a mitt.. a long handle would be better to help grip it… a few extra bucks for one with a handle would have been smarter.
Not all are non-stick… and as with pots and pans.. some are better at non-stick than others..as in everything else in life.. you get what you pay for...buy a pan by a quality manufacturer if you can... the price range is not all that wide.. it's not worth pinching a few pennies. The Grill Master complained about how hard it was to get all the pieces of vegetable stuck on it… especially in the corners.
Which brings me back to the shape… a BBQ Grill Pan.. with rounded sides.. like an omelet pan…. and non-stick.. with a handle will probably be our next purchase.
Baskets … these also work well… and unless you plan on getting a variety of baskets… choose wisely.
These come in all sizes and shapes as well. As with the BBQ Grill Pan.. keep in mind the same things as you would for them… size of your grill… and if you plan on the grill doing double duty ..grilling the meat and the veggies at the same time.
Let’s talk about the structure of the basket first. Some come as wire baskets.. again.. we purchased without thinking how we would use it.
Wire with its grill-like structure is okay for larger cut vegetables.. but for medium and smaller cut vegetables …. as the veggies cook they get soft and shrink and will tend to fall out… not good.
Mesh baskets work better for smaller cut vegetables. Also since the veggies are more exposed to the heat or flame, they will pick up more flavor in these kinds of baskets.
Rectangular thin “baskets” with a top grid to snap in place is excellent for flat cut slices such as eggplant. While you can lay the eggplant slices on the BBQ’s grill.. it is easier to use this kind of basket… quicker, easier and safer to flip the slices.. and no chance of it being dropped or falling into the coals… this also can be used for burgers and fish… sliced onions are particularly good this way…. as well as a host of other foods.. a good purchase to make.
Shape and size are things to consider, as well. As I mentioned earlier… think about the size and how it will fit on your grill. Also think about just how many vegetables you will be grilling for the number of people you normally feed… make sure the size of the pan is adequate.
Shape is something people rarely think about until they go to use it.. we didn’t. After just one use… my Grill Master complained about cleaning the corners of the square pan… and truth be told.. a rounded pan with sloped sides would have worked better.
Skewers are great for grilling a variety of vegetables that are different in size and density.
The biggest problem grillers face when grilling mixed vegetables is that they don’t cook at the same rate, so you either cook them by adding the ones that take the longest to the pan first and adding the rest little by little … or adding them all at once and simply having some softer than others…
The best solution is to use skewers.. load up each skewer with the same vegetable or ones that cook at the same rate and remove them when they’re done.
This method is good also … if you load your grill up with all the veggies skewers… and begin removing them as they’re done.. you have space to add the meat… while not everything is done at once.. it really is an acceptable solution for those with a relatively small grill.
TIP: I lay them on a baking sheet with sides… keeps them from rolling off and the oil from getting all over the place.. a good place for one last baste before putting them on the grill. Another nice thing is .. as they finish cooking you can put them back on it.. it’s not like raw meat that contaminates a surface.
Direct… what I mean by direct is that you lay the slices of vegetables directly on your BBQ grill.
As I mentioned before… it certainly works and works well for larger pieces of vegetable… but it isn’t your best option… it requires more watching and work… while it doesn’t sound like much to flip each individual piece… and food network chefs make it look easy.. you don’t have a staff taking care of all the other details going into a meal… baskets and pans are relatively inexpensive.. and well worth the purchase… why sweat over a hot grill?
The price of grill pans, baskets, skewers and accessories varies widely. The choice to make is truly an individual decision, just as the decisions you make when purchasing pots and pans.
I just urge you to make the decision wisely based on your needs and means… keep in mind the advantages of some of the “extras”… such as handles. Size and shapes are just what you prefer using and you should be able to find one in your price range. Prices are relatively reasonable overall.
What to Grill?
The possibilities are virtually limitless… if you cook it .. you can grill it.
Popular combinations are mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, peppers (red, green, yellow…even jalapeno), onions, eggplant, potatoes, green beans, asparagus and cherry tomatoes… I’m sure you can think of even more.
I know we’re talking about veggies here.. but keep in mind.. fruits grill nicely too… and pound cake (I had to throw that in too).
Prep the veggies as you normally would.. you can peel them or leave the skin on them.. whichever you prefer… when cutting or slicing them.. keep in mind what they will be grilled in.. as previously discussed.. you don’t want them falling into the fire as they cook.
Marinate them for extra flavor. I use oil based marinades… or I toss or brush them in olive oil and seasonings…
If using skewers… brush them with marinade or your seasoned oil during cooking to keep them from drying out (not always necessary).
Cooking times vary depending on the density of the vegetable, the size of the pieces and the hotness of the grill.
Tomatoes and mushrooms are probably the fastest to grill with potatoes being the longest… figure the shortest time for about 5 minutes and 15 minutes as an average for the rest… you want them charred to your liking and also soft to your preference… whole potatoes will take longer… they can be wrapped in foil and placed right on the grill… follow your recipes instructions for prep and grilling times.
Give it a try… baskets and pans are not expensive… keep an eye on them until you get used to grilling them.. after a couple of times .. you will have it down to a science as to how hot you like your grill and how long to grill them to your liking.
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