100 Techniques

Technique #60: Grill Vegetables to Perfect Smoky Tenderness

Veggies can present surprising hurdles on the grill. We can help you clear every last one.

Published Sept. 2, 2023.

This is Technique #60 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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Grilling turns out deliciously charred, smoky vegetables, from summertime farmers' market bounty like zucchini and bell peppers to sturdy, year-round standbys like potatoes and onions.

While grill grates pose no problems for steaks, burgers, or chicken, small or delicate items such as vegetables require some acrobatics to prevent them from being lost to the fire. It’s easy to get so preoccupied with logistics that the vegetables end up scorching—or you pull them off the grill in a panic when they’re still crunchy.

There Are Some Tools You Just Can’t Rely On

Grill baskets usually have too-large openings to contain cut vegetables properly. And though some grill pans are well designed (and are must-haves for vegetables like green beans), most pans cause vegetables to steam and turn watery rather than browned and caramelized. Some vegetables, such as sliced onions, button mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes, take well to skewering, but this isn’t an all-purpose solution.

Grill Over Moderate Heat

To successfully grill vegetables without any special equipment, prepare a medium-hot fire. Most vegetables respond best to moderate heat, though there are some exceptions, like romaine lettuce halves, where we want to quickly char the outside while keeping the interior crisp. If grilling vegetables to accompany protein, cook the meat first if using a charcoal grill. By the time the meat is done, the heat will have subsided a bit.

It Matters How You Chop

Prep vegetables strategically by cutting them in a way that maximizes their surface area, which increases the real estate for flavorful charring to develop and discourages them from slipping through the grate. For example, cut zucchini, eggplant, and plum tomatoes lengthwise in half or in 1⁄2-inch-thick slices. Coreand flatten bell peppers. Halve small heads like endive; quarter larger heads like radicchio. To encourage even browning and prevent the veggies from stick-

ing to the grate, brush or toss them thoroughly with oil before grilling. (Don’t forget to oil the grill grate, too.) You can then cut the vegetables into smaller pieces after grilling.

Grill Cut-Side Down

Grill vegetables with their delicate cut sides down first to best control the charring that develops before flipping them to finish on the sturdier skin sides. Move the pieces relatively frequently to avoid scorching, and grill until they’re just tender and streaked with charry grill marks.

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Step by Step: How to Grill Vegetables to Perfect Smoky Tenderness

Grilling vegetables can be a trickier business than you may have realized. Due to their differing sizes, delicate nature and high moisture content, achieving a good grill takes a little bit of preparation and a few special skills. But not to worry—you’ll be mastering the veggie grill after learning these four steps to perfectly grilled vegetables.

Step 1: Chop Strategically 

Cut vegetables so as to maximize surface area, which increases flavorful charring and prevents them from falling through grates.

Step 2: Brush with Oil 

Brush vegetables with oil on cut sides by laying on baking sheet and using basting brush (alternatively, toss with oil if directed).

Step 3: Use Moderate Heat 

Build medium-hot single-level fire in charcoal or gas grill.

Step 4: Grill and Flip 

Start grilling vegetables cut sides down to control amount of char before flipping vegetables as needed to finish cooking through on skin sides.

Watch as a test cook demonstrates the method for perfect grilled vegetables in this video.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Can’t wait to head to the grill equipped with your newfound knowledge? You’re halfway to dinner, but be sure to also arm yourself with failproof recipes that employ this clever technique to make sure you serve (and eat) perfectly charred veggies every time.


Tunisian-Style Grilled Vegetables (Mechouia)

The key to perfectly cooked vegetables in this salad is cutting the vegetables in half before grilling.
Get the Recipe

Grilled Caesar Salad

A smoky char makes this classic American salad better than ever. But must you give up crispness to get smokiness?
Get the Recipe

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