How to Grill Vegetables
Time Required: Under 2 hours
People tend to associate cookouts with burgers, hot dogs and other kinds of meat, but increasingly, backyard chefs will throw vegetarian options on the grill. Grilling vegetables is a great way to eat healthy and add nutrition to your outdoor feast. Plus, grilling promotes caramelization of produce to create sweeter flavor.
Learning how to grill vegetables opens up a world of flavors and different meal opportunities for the whole family to enjoy. This guide will teach you the best way to make veggies on the grill depending on your grilling accessories and needs.
You can prepare nearly every vegetable on a grill, but some vegetables may cook more easily, have more flavorful results or require extra help, like a grilling basket, to get the job done. Whichever you choose, be attentive to the freshest choices in seasonal vegetables.
- Corn on the cob may be the most familiar staple of backyard barbecues. It can be grilled with or without husk, depending on the recipe.
- Some of the best and most popular grilled vegetables include asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, onions, bell peppers, portobello mushrooms and zucchini.
- Less widely grilled vegetables that are still delicious include carrots and other root vegetables, romaine lettuce and Brussels sprouts.
- Tomatoes, whether sliced large tomatoes or whole cherry tomatoes, can be troublesome but delicious when cooked properly.
- Wash and dry the vegetables.
- For grilling directly on the grill or in a grill pan, slice the vegetables so as much surface area as possible will be in contact with the grate.
- When using a grill basket or skewers, chop the vegetables to the desired size.
- Use a basting brush to coat the vegetables with oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, to improve flavors and keep the sliced veggies from sticking to the grill grates.
When it comes to getting items ready for the grill, each vegetable has a different way to help bring out the flavor.
- Squash, zucchini, eggplant: Should be cut lengthwise into thick rectangles that resemble meat.
- Asparagus: Trim the ends before placing on the grill.
- Peppers: Remove seeds and quarter and cook.
- Portobello mushroom: Simply wash and place on the grill. There’s no need for slicing.
- Items like potatoes, carrots and artichokes should be boiled before being placed on the grill.
In terms of serving grilled vegetables, it’s important to note that they don’t need much help in the flavor department. A dash of salt and pepper, and a bit of olive oil is ideal. You can also serve with your favorite dip. There’s also no steadfast rule on which vegetable to serve with which meat. Anything goes when grilling.
When it comes to cooking veggies directly on the grill, timing is key. Here are some timing rules to remember when determining how long to grill vegetables when placed right on top of grill grates:
- Onion and bell peppers: 8 minutes
- Eggplant, squash, zucchini: 7 to 8 minutes.
- Asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes: No more than 5 minutes.
- While grilling, add a layer of oil to vegetables that lose moisture quickly, such as mushrooms.
- Brown the vegetables so there’s some char, but do not overcook.
- Corn: 15-20 minutes per husk.
- Carrots: Boil 4-6 minutes, then grill about 5 minutes
Tip: Don’t be afraid to use your grill tongs to move vegetables around the grill. Use your grill spatula to flip items like peppers and onions, but avoid flipping your vegetables more than once, especially if you want grill marks on the surface.
Bamboo or metal skewers provide a fun and efficient way to grill vegetables, whether as part of meat kabobs or on their own.
- Chop vegetables into pieces of approximately the same size.
- Choose vegetables that have similar cooking times and moisture content for placing on the same skewers to encourage even cooking.
- Alternate the types of vegetable as you thread them onto the skewer (such as onion, then bell pepper, then zucchini). Leave enough space for hot air to circulate between the pieces.
- Preheat grill to medium heat.
- Grill for 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
Tip: Soak bamboo skewers in water for about 20 minutes before cooking to reduce charring.
Use a grill basket to cook smaller vegetables or chopped vegetables to prevent them from falling through the grate. A grill basket also makes turning small vegetables much easier.
- Instead of basting with oil, try soaking the mixed vegetables in a marinade of oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, minced garlic or other herbs in a large bowl for at least an hour.
- Preheat the grill to medium heat and place the basket on the grate. Turn after 5 minutes or toss the vegetables every 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove from heat after about 10 minutes.
A grill mat is also a great alternative to a grill basket, and can help you cook a variety of smaller vegetables together in one spot. A grill mat is ideal for making stiryfry vegetables as well.
If you'd prefer to steam veggies on the grill, you can use aluminum foil to get the job done. Grilling vegetables in foil can also help keep them from falling through the grate and trap in the flavor.
Cooking on a smoker can infuse vegetables with a smoky flavor. Bear in mind that smokers cook much more slowly than grills, so plan accordingly.
- Preheat smoker.
- Place vegetables in smoker on aluminum foil or a disposable aluminum tray.
- Smoking times vary according to the produce. At 225 degrees, squash and zucchini can smoke for one hour while asparagus, portobello mushrooms or bell peppers may take 90 minutes.
Tip: When smoking meats and vegetables at once, place veggies either on an upper rack or alongside the meat (far enough away to avoid spattering) so uncooked juices don’t drip on the vegetables.
There are some basic tips to follow when grilling vegetables, whether on a gas or charcoal grill. Let's take a look:
- Cut to size: Make sure you slice vegetables up to allow them to cook faster and more evenly.
- Always start with a clean grill: Keeping a clean grill can ensure that your vegetables aren't tainted with leftover flavor from previously grilled meals. Always give your grill a quick cleaning with a brush before cooking.
- Pre-cook: Remember that certain vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes make need to be pre-cooked to allow them to grill easier.
- Set the temperature to medium-high heat: If you are cooking on a gas grill, this means keeping the grill at about 400-degrees. If you are a using a charcoal grill, use about 70 briquets when grilling vegetables.
- Use oil: Be sure to baste veggies in oil or marinade prior to adding them to the grill. This not only helps seasoning stick to vegetables, it also prevents veggies from sticking to the grill while cooking.
- Flip one time: Veggies don't need a lot of flipping. In fact, most only need to be on the grill for a few minutes, so be sure to keep a watchful eye but only flip them once to heat on both sides.
Learning how to grill vegetables can be easy to master. With the right tools and grill for your needs, you can brighten up your backyard feast in no time. Ready to make veggies on the grill? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.