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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
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

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

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