How to Grill

How to Grill Vegetables as (Side Dishes and Meat-Free Meals) at Your Next Summer BBQ

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Grilled steak, chicken, ribs, and fish take center stage in a typical BBQ spread — but what about vegetables? Lots of yummy produce picks, from zucchini to corn, are currently in-season. Whether you’re serving veggies as a side dish or as a meatless option for vegetarian guests, you can follow these grilling tips to get the most delicious and tender results every time.

What kind of vegetables are best for grilling?

A trip to the farmer’s market is sure to present you with several tasty veggie options. Registered dietitian nutritionist Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD, recently gave Cooking Channel this list of the best veggies to grill:

  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Bell Peppers
  • Onions
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms

Should I marinate veggies before grilling?

Salt, pepper, and fresh herbs do the trick for seasoning your veggies. However, marinating the veggies beforehand is ideal (if you’ve got time to spare). Marinating allows veggies to absorb more of the seasonings and develop a nice crust on the grill.

Plus, food stylist and cookbook author Jesse Szewczyk explains on TheKitchn.com that you can use the ingredients that are already in your pantry.

“A simple combination of olive oil, lemon juice, and seasoning works just fine, or try a homemade or bottled vinaigrette,” he writes. “If you do want to add sweetness to your marinade, a few tablespoons of honey, maple syrup, or sugar will be just fine and shouldn’t cause any issues.”

Whatever ingredient combo you use, be sure there’s enough marinade to evenly coat all veggies. Szewczyk suggests marinating veggies in a plastic bag for easy cleanup. 

“Soft vegetables (such as mushrooms and tomatoes) only need about 10 to 15 minutes, while heartier vegetables (such as cauliflower or potatoes) can go much longer — even overnight [in the fridge],” he says.

Do you put oil on vegetables before grilling?

Marinating veggies eliminates the need to put more oil on them before grilling. But if you’ve skipped that step because you’re short on time, food safety educator Jeannie Nichols suggests brushing or tossing them in a tiny amount of olive oil.

“A very light coating of olive oil is great for flavor and to keep the veggies from burning on the grill, but don’t toss them with too much oil because this can cause flare-ups and charring,” she writes in Michigan State University Extension

Once coated in oil, season veggies and get grilling.

How long does it take to grill vegetables?

Unlike meat or fish, grilling vegetables doesn’t require a thermometer to assess doneness. Instead, use this guide from the experts at CharBroil — it provides approximate cook times for veggies grilled at medium-high heat:

  • Corn on the cob (without husks): 5 to 7 minutes
  • Mushrooms: 3 to 4 minutes per side for portobello and 2 to 4 minutes per side for regular mushroom varieties
  • Onions: 10 to 12 minutes per side if quartered and 4 to 8 minutes if sliced
  • Bell Peppers: 16 to 20 minutes for whole and 8 to 12 minutes total for halves
  • Tomatoes: 8 to 24 minutes for whole and 2 to 5 minutes per side for sliced

According to the the grill experts at Weber, asparagus should be grilled for six to eight minutes, while eggplant needs about 10 to 12 minutes (turning once) — both cooked over direct medium heat.

Your vegetables are done cooking when they’re tender — once a fork can be inserted and they have plenty of grill marks plus a lightly charred crust. Feel free to leave the veggies on the grill for an extra minute or two if needed, but keep a close eye on them so that they don’t burn.

A Grilled Vegetable Recipe Worth Trying

It’s now time to put your new grill skills to use. Cambria Style’s Editor-in-Chief LouAnn Berglund recommends this recipe for grilled vegetables from the “Grill Like a Pro” section of their summer 2022 issue

It features a colorful assortment of veggies such as onions, golden beets, and red bell peppers. Once grilled, these smoky-sweet veggies are topped with burrata and mozzarella cheeses for a touch of creaminess. Yum!

Ingredients (Serves 12 to 24):

  • 1 green zucchini, peeled and cut into 4 pieces lengthwise 
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips 
  • 1 pound asparagus, bottoms cut
  • 1 small Japanese eggplant, cut into rounds
  • 1 bunch red beets, trimmed
  • 1 bunch golden beets, trimmed
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 2 onions, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 large bunch of carrots, peeled and with their tops and greens
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 ball of burrata cheese, sliced in half (or 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature)
  • 8 ounces of bite-sized mozzarella balls (or cubed Provolone cheese)
  • Favorite dipping sauces

Directions:

  1. Wrap beet bunches in foil and place directly on grill. Grill 40 to 45 minutes until tender. Once cooked, remove beets from foil and cool 5 minutes. Peel and quarter beets. 
  2. Coat remaining vegetables in olive oil, salt, and pepper. With about 25 minutes left in the cooking process, add potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
  3. In final 10 minutes of cooking, add remaining vegetables. Cook until tender and grill marks have formed.
  4. Remove vegetables and serve plated with dipping sauces, sliced burrata (or dollops of cream cheese), and mozzarella balls (or Provolone cheese).
Cambria style's grilled vegetables
Not pictured: The burrata cheese and mozzarella balls.courtesy of Cambria Style

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