How to Grill Vegetables
Photo courtesy of Roger Proulx
It’s hard to believe there was a time when grilling and barbecue weren’t ubiquitous American obsessions. Enter Steven Raichlen, whose The Barbecue! Bible® – the IACP Award–winning homage to live-fire cooking first published in 1998 – launched a revolution in American grilling. The renowned barbecue authority has written more than 30 books, including The New York Times bestselling Project Smoke and Planet Barbecue and the multimillion-copy How to Grill. And now comes How to Grill Vegetables, a stunning, innovative, and game-changing collection of recipes and techniques for grilling an inspiring array of vegetable-forward dishes.
Key Insights from Steven Raichlen
There are several methods of cooking vegetables:
Direct grilling is best for high-moisture vegetables like tomatoes, onions, asparagus and zucchini, tender vegetables like eggplants and mushrooms, and small vegetables such as okra and snow peas. Indirect grilling, where the veggie is placed near to, rather than directly over the fire, is best for large or dense vegetables. Alternatively, smoking, a technique used for cooking Texas-style brisket and Kansas City-style ribs, works well with wet vegetables like tomatoes or onions, as well as baked beans and dense vegetables like beets. And ember-grilling (aka caveman grilling where the food is directly on the coals) imparts a wonderful smoke flavor while caramelizing the veggie and can be done with virtually any vegetable, from onions to artichokes to peppers and even delicate snow peas and green beans.
Vegetables absorb wood smoke differently than meats. Smoke penetrates the moist, porous surface of meat easily, but this is not the case with hard vegetables, like turnips and beets. With hard vegetables, the smoke tends to stay on the surface, which is why many smoked vegetables wind up smelling like ashtrays rather than barbecue. To avoid this, denser, drier veggies such as turnips and rutabagas should be blanched or boiled before smoking.
There are multiple ways to tell if a vegetable is cooked. For small, skinny vegetables like scallions and asparagus or sliced veggies like eggplant or zucchini, when the outside is blistered and darkened, the vegetable has finished cooking. For small, round or pod vegetables, like tomatoes or okra, use the pinch test: Pinch it between your thumb and forefinger. When squeezably soft, it’s cooked. Lastly, for larger vegetables, like squash or potatoes, use the skewer test: When you can easily pierce the vegetable with a slender metal skewer or cake tester, it’s done.
Most vegetables contain no intrinsic fat, so you should add fat to keep them moist. That fat can take the form of olive oil in a marinade, butter in a baste, or a strip of bacon or pancetta wrapped around a jalapeño pepper, an ear of corn, or a wedge of acorn squash.
Boiling is not a dirty word. One of the canons of carnivorous barbecue is that you should never, ever boil ribs or other meats like chicken or brisket. Yet many vegetables contain cellulose, a hard, fibrous substance that makes it difficult to achieve tenderness and moistness solely from direct or indirect grilling. For this reason, blanching (briefly immersing a vegetable in boiling water) or parboiling (partially cooking a vegetable in boiling water) prior to cooking can work wonders, especially for hard or dense vegetables like artichokes, potatoes, or cauliflower.
A celebration of all the ways to grill green, How to Grill Vegetables delivers recipes for everything from starters to sides to desserts, alongside a complete step-by-step handbook to mastering the techniques of grilling vegetables. You’ll learn the differences between grilling meats and vegetables; the best gear for grilling vegetables, from grill woks to planchas to metal skewers; and the best methods for cooking various types of vegetables.
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