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5 tips for perfect grilled vegetables

By Hilary Meyer, June 13, 2012 - 9:07am

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Although I love a steak or a burger hot off the grill, it’s vegetables that I really prefer cooking over flames. They cook quickly and are so delicious with just a hint of smoke from the fire. Plus you don’t have to panic about whether they’re over- or underdone in the middle like you do with meat. In most cases, you can tell if they’re ready just by looking at them.

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Here are my tips for perfect grilled vegetables:

1. Oil Them Up: Vegetables dry out when they hit the heat without a little oil. Before they go on the grill, toss them with a light coating of oil. Don’t use too much—it not only adds unnecessary calories, but dripping oil causes flare-ups and off flavors. Plus tossing them in oil helps your seasoning stick more uniformly.

2. Monitor Closely to Prevent Burning: Some vegetables, such as thinly sliced onions or peppers, take a minute or two to cook, while dense vegetables like potatoes take longer, 10 to 15 minutes depending on the heat. Grilling vegetables over too high a heat for too long will char them on the outside and they’ll stay raw on the inside. To prevent burning, sear vegetables over high heat, then move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. Or cook them completely on the stovetop and just give them a few extra minutes on the grill to get some color on the outside.

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3. Use a Skewer or a Grill Basket: Cherry tomatoes are great on the grill, but they’re a little unwieldy. To keep smaller vegetables like cherry tomatoes from rolling around and falling though the grate, put them on a skewer or use a grill basket. If you don’t have a grill basket, fold a 24-inch-long piece of heavy-duty foil in half and crimp up the edges to create a lip; this "basket" will prevent the food from falling through.

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4. Size Matters: How you prep your vegetables dictates how they will cook. Cut them into smaller pieces if you want your vegetables to cook more quickly (and use a skewer to keep them on the grill). Cut round vegetables like onions or eggplant into thin “rounds”—you’ll get more surface area, which allows for a crispier outside, and because they’re thin, they’ll cook quickly.

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5. Try Cooking in Packets: Don’t feel like babysitting your vegetables on the grill? Try cooking them in packets instead. This method works great for dense vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes or other roots. Simply place a 24-inch-long piece of foil on the counter and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange thinly sliced vegetables a single layer, slightly overlapping, on the foil. Leave a 2-inch border on all sides. Fold foil over and pinch the edges together, making a packet. Place the packet on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 12 to 15 minutes, for potatoes). When you open a packet to check doneness, be careful of steam.

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What’s your favorite vegetable to grill? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Hilary Meyer, Healthy Cooking Blog, Cooking tips

Hilary Meyer
Hilary Meyer develops and tests healthy recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

Hilary asks: What’s your favorite vegetable to grill?

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