The Best Vegetables To Grill
When a lot of people think of grilling, their minds turn to meat: juicy, char-tattooed steaks, sausages, patties, chicken breasts, and more serving as classic culinary centerpieces of backyard parties and tailgates. But you’ll be well rewarded if you look beyond that carnivorous fare for grilling options: Vegetables that do a little time over flame or coals can be just as good—really—as ribeyes or bratwurst.
And you shouldn’t just consider them an afterthought side dish or a substitute menu item for your vegetarian party guests. Grilled veggies can very much be headliner acts on the plate, awesome paired with grilled meat and awesome all on their own.
Grilling vegetables brings out their sweetness and adds a smoky flavor to boot. In this article, we’re rounding up some of the veggies best suited for the grill grate. With the following, you’ve got a whole world of culinary possibility at your fingertips—and you’re going to be knocking the socks off your dinner guests, that’s for sure! Before we really dig in, though, let’s touch on a few general pointers on grilling vegetables:
- You want to liberally douse veggies in oil and salt before transferring them to grill or you’re going to end up just drying them out.
- It’s a lot easier flipping smaller vegetables (or smaller slices) if you stick them in a grill grate.
- If you want to season the vegetables with, say, an herb or spice mix, do so after you take them off the grill.
- Veggies hot off the grill won’t give you the full dose of their flavor. If you have the time, let them cool to room temperature before digging in—you’ll likely find them that much more toothsome.
Green onions are downright heavenly on the grill. The thick white part of the scallion reaches soft, caramelized perfection while the green stems get mouthwateringly charred. Throw them alongside or on top of grilled meat and bliss out.
Common onions are also well suited for grilling. You can grill white and yellow onions, but the bold and sweet flavors of red onions make them especially good over the coals (or the burner). You can roughly slice such storage onions into halves or wedges to grill, or separate out the sheaths (or scales) and cook them whole or sliced—easier to do using a grill basket. Grilled onions taste great in burgers, brats, or sandwiches; they’re also delicious added to salads or topping a pizza.
Fennel is another showstopper on the grill. Maybe you’ve never eaten this member of the carrot family before; maybe you’ve had shaved fennel on a salad and not particularly dug it. Believe us, though: Grilled fennel, which is sweeter-tasting than the raw form, is basically to die for. Slice the bulb so that each piece is still held together by part of the core. Besides grilling fennel slices for eating, you can also place fennel stalks on the coals to flavor the food on the grate—a great technique for grilled fish or meat.
Beets can add a meaty texture to a veggie-based meal. These root vegetables are too often maligned, but—as with fennel—a good way to convert a beet-hater to a beet-lover is via the grill. Peel the beets and slice them crosswise into thin medallions about a quarter-inch thick; using a grill basket makes it a breeze to flip a bunch of beet medallions in one go.
Here’s yet another example of a veggie that’s perfectly decent but not exactly flashy in the raw, but which gets into rave-worthy territory when given the grill treatment. Small, slender carrots (such as you’ll often see available in spring and early fall when farmers are thinning their carrot rows) work fantastically; if you’ve got larger carrots, slice them in half for the grill. Prepped with olive oil and salt and then caramelized over coals, carrots become all-around knockouts—the kind of side dish that just might steal the whole show.
Grilled vegetables don’t come much more classic than bell peppers, which can contribute smoky sweetness and a bit of a crunch to any number of dishes. You can lay pepper slices right on the grate (or in a grill basket), or bunch them on skewers, maybe intermingled with onions and mushrooms. Hotter peppers such as poblanos, jalapeños, and serranos work well on the grill, too. If you place peppers fresh off the grill into a bowl and cover them, they’ll steam and become easy-peasy to peel.
Lettuce on the grill? You bet! Slice a head of baby romaine lettuce in half; you can cut larger heads lengthwise into wedges secured by the core. Toss them in olive oil and salt before the grill, drizzle with dressing or sprinkle with some Parmesan right off it.
Eggplant’s another vegetable that gets a bad rap from many, despite being downright superlative—particularly when either roasted or grilled. For the latter approach, you can slice the eggplant into lengthwise segments or crosswise into medallions. If you’re using charcoal—as in one of the Bull Outdoor Products charcoal grill heads or carts—you can actually lay whole eggplant in the ash, turning occasionally, for a mouthwateringly good smoked result.
Zucchini’s also easily and rewardingly grillable, whether halved or sliced into coins. This is another veggie that can add almost meaty oomph, and it reaches pinnacle taste with some char and caramelization.
Grilled asparagus is just about as good as it gets. Skinny or fat, oiled and salted spears given a nice brown coat on the grill make the perfect accompaniment to your steak, chicken, or burger—or throw them on a salad or over pasta.
It doesn’t get much better than homemade salsa anchored by grilled tomatillos. Cook them until they’re about the consistency of a water balloon—try to get them off the grate before they split, which’ll mean lost juices—and then throw them in a blender, maybe with some grilled green peppers and some lime juice, and you’ve got an absolutely killer salsa verde on your hands.
Corn’s another no-brainer on the grill, though there’s more than one school of thought when it comes to technique. Some advocate grilling in the husk, which is definitely an option, but that won’t really get the corn caramelized—basically just steamed. With fresh corn, peeling it, slathering some oil or butter, and giving it just a short stint on the grill is best.
Turn to Summer Breeze & Bull Outdoors Products for the Perfect Grilled Vegetables
The Bull grills we carry here at Summer Breeze are outstanding for grilling vegetables: the perfect grate gaps minimizing items falling through, generous multi-level cooking surfaces for handling lots (and multiple kinds) of veggies at once, handy side shelves for prepping and cooling—you’ll be all set to become a “green” grillmaster!