One of the great joys of summer is enjoying food straight off the grill. The focus is almost always on the meat. Ribs, steak, chicken, burgers, pork chops, a filet of fish- these are all common grill choices, but what about options for the people out there who love the taste of grilled food but don't love the taste of meat? What about vegetables? Grilling vegetables can be just as rewarding as grilling those perfect sear marks into a burger, when done the right way. Taste wise, they can be just as delicious as well.
Of course, you can't grill all vegetables. For example, green beans aren't suited for the grill, really. That's by no fault of their own, it's just that they're tiny and don't sit on the grates very well. They are much better suited to dishes where they can be pan fried or sautéed. Stick to bigger vegetables or vegetables with more width to them. You could argue that green beans do just fine in a vegetable basket on the grill, but they will lack those grill marks that we are really going for in a good grilled vegetable dish. Fava beans and brussels sprouts are arguably just as small, or smaller, and they taste okay in a grill vegetable basket too, but they are better suited for other forms of cooking as well.
The western world is lacking in appreciation for this versatile, delicious vegetable. When thick slices of eggplant hit the grill, they char up nicely. Enjoy it as a standalone with a little bit of your favorite seasoning or add it to Grilled Vegetable Pasta.
The key to cooking eggplant is to get the outside crispy, while keeping the inside softer and sweet. To do this we recommend cutting your eggplant into uniformly sized, decently big pieces and then soaking it in salt water for 30 minutes. This tightens and firms up the flesh, making it less likely to absorb oil. It also draws out juices which is important especially if your eggplant isn't exactly at its peak, since drawing out some of those juices will also coax any bitterness out of older eggplants. Brush oil onto your eggplant and then sprinkle on the seasonings to flavor it before placing it on the grill. Our Pennsylvania Pepper, which is a good all-around pepper, and Smoky Citrus Salt bring out the flavor wonderfully. Cook your eggplant for about 5 minutes on a medium high grill and then flip and repeat. When grilling, try not to flip your vegetables more than once.
Fat, sweet, and full of flavor, beets are just perfect for the grill. If you love roasted beets, grilled beets are somehow even better than that. They are an interesting vegetable to grill because they aren't as low maintenance as some other vegetables. They must be coated in olive oil while they are still whole and then wrapped up in a foil pouch and cooked over the grill for about 20 minutes, or until they are tender to the touch. Then they should be cooled and cut up in uniform slices, then covered in more oil, only to be grilled directly on the grill racks to cook and get some charring on them. This is a little more labor intensive, but it is a true labor of love because grilled beets are a delicious treat, especially when paired with some nice roasted almonds and dried cranberries. Mix those three together for a salad-type meal that you can eat up in the fading sun of a lovely summer evening.
The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to cooking potatoes. They can be baked, fried, and boiled, but most importantly they can be grilled. Whole potatoes take about 30 to 40 minutes on the grill Simply cut a slit in the potato, coat it with olive oil or melted butter and some flaky Kosher Salt, and then grill! Once they're finished grilling, top off with some Ranch Dressing Seasoning or your favorite potato seasoning and enjoy. Alternatively, you could make the potato pieces much smaller.
Cut them up into uniform pieces and get a sheet of foil ready. Slather with some olive oil on the potatoes and lay out on the sheet of foil in an even layer, no overlapping or pieces in a pile. Add Chimichurri Seasoning to taste and leave them on the grill for about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the pieces every 4 minutes or so until they are golden brown. The potatoes will be perfectly soft on the inside and beautifully crisp on the outside.
You can't possibly think we would talk about potatoes and then NOT talk about sweet potatoes. Somehow, they are just slightly better than potatoes on the grill. The sweetness is perfectly complemented by the charring, making for an overload of sensory feelings that will have you wondering why you don't eat this more often. Put some Manzanillo Seasoning on them for even more of a flavor contrast, as this savory, slightly spicy blend will enhance the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Cook them in exactly the same ways that you would cook regular potatoes, but watch for a deepening of color and not necessarily a golden brown hue to tell you when these are done cooking!
This is another vegetable that is delicious when grilled and eaten alone, but also tastes incredible when incorporated into another dish. The Grilled Vegetable Sandwich comes to mind, but Zucchini Bruschetta Boats is a wonderful side dish.
Cut your Zucchini into disks, or lengthwise, and like the eggplant soak in saltwater for about 30 minutes before oiling it for the best texture when it comes off the grill. Season with Moroccan Vegetable Rub or Low Country Boil Seasoning. Put it on the grill over a medium high heat, or over the coals indirectly, and cook for about five minutes before flipping once and cooking for another five minutes.
Particularly, portobello mushrooms, are incredible on the grill. Marinate them in a balsamic vinaigrette or soy sauce for about 10 minutes before you apply oil and throw them on the grill. These only need a few minutes of cooking time, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, before they are ready to be served. If you want a more savory umami flavor, try sprinkling a little Black Bean Burger Seasoning on your mushrooms!
Cauliflower is an up and coming vegetable in American cuisine, made all the more accessible and interesting with the grill. Cut two or three "steaks" from a single head of cauliflower and save the leftover florets for something like Crispy Cauliflower Hot Wings or Cauliflower Bolognese. Coat with olive oil, your favorite seasoning, and then put on the grill, flipping the "steaks" after about 3 minutes. Cook them for just another three minutes on the second side and serve with chicken or other grilled vegetables!
Onions take on an almost irresistible flavor once grilled. Onions can take a lot of browning before they start to taste burnt, making them perfect for the grill. Cut the onions into rounds and coat them with some olive oil. If you skewer them through the center, this will help keep the shape of the onion when it's started to cook and get softer, making it more likely to fall through the grates of the grill. If you do use skewers however, be sure to soak them for at least 30 minutes before cooking with them to keep them wet and to prevent fires. The soak can be skipped if you are using metal skewers. Season simply with salt and pepper and grill for about 15 minutes, then flip and grill for another 15 to 20 minutes. The onions will become golden brown with some nice grill marks, and incredibly deep, rich caramelized flavor. They're incredible on their own, or throw them on a burger and enjoy.
Grilled asparagus. The underdog of the grilled vegetable world. Wait! Just a few paragraphs ago we were talking about how thin and little green beans are and how they don't really have a place on the grill, and asparagus is arguably just as thin! Sure, but their unique flavor and texture gets something from the grill that makes the experience of eating so much more complex. Ignore the man behind the curtain so to speak and feast your eyes on these thin stalks of green that DO belong on the grill, unlike their similar looking friends the green bean.
There are a few ways to grill asparagus, but because of its tougher texture marinating it first will help soften and improve the flavor of the asparagus after it has been grilled. Heat your grill to a medium high range and flip it after 3 to 5 minutes, to ensure that no one side is getting too much direct heat. The asparagus will only take moments to cook, so be sure to keep a close eye on it. After it's been grilled it will have a bit of firm chewiness that is delightful when paired with a plain meat like chicken or a white fish.
We couldn't forget about corn, the number one summer vegetable staple on the grill. You can find it at almost every barbecue you attend and each and every cookout with a huge group of friends is punctuated with metal trays full of the cobs and those funny little holders that you can use to rotate the corn without getting your hands in the way. Even if you hate all other grilled vegetables, there is no way you hate grilled corn. It's just way too delicious, especially with a pinch of salt and pepper, or our corn on the cob seasoning.
When it comes to grilling corn, peel back the husks and remove the corn silk. Coat your corn in butter and whatever seasonings you would like to use for flavor and recover the corn with its husk. Leave your corn on a medium high grill turning every 4 or so minutes. You will be able to tell when a side of your corn is cooked when you see grill marks on the husk. Once it's finished you can leave it in the husks for guests to peel themselves. This will also help the corn stay warm for a little bit longer and keep any bug buddies from getting at your food.
How Many Times Should I Flip Vegetables on the Grill?
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't flip your vegetables more than once on the grill, with the exception being potato chunks as those tend to cook quickly and need to be cooked on all sides for optimal evenness. Flipping more than once will prevent good grill marks from forming.
Are Grilled Vegetables Healthy?
Any vegetables at all are better than none, but you must be careful about what you put on your grilled vegetables. If you are loading them up with butter they won't be as heart healthy as they would be if you were using an oil instead. However, don't let that stop you from indulging in grilled vegetables from time to time! In fact, you should try to incorporate grilled vegetables into your meals with grilled meats as much as possible. Grilled vegetables are still full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that the body needs, and they are better for you than deep fried vegetables! Plus, they just taste delicious.
Now that you are probably dreaming about grilling vegetables, go out and do it! Start with your favorites. If there are any other vegetables that you feel like trying to grill, go for it! These are just suggestions, and as with all other kinds of cooking, you will only figure out what you like best through experimentation.