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Top Five Vegetable Grilling Principles

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2011

Why heat up your kitchen to cook vegetables when you can get crisp-tender texture and deep, smoky char from your grill? Here are our proven methods for getting the best results. 

1. Build a Medium-Hot Fire: Most vegetables respond better to moderate heat than to a blazing fire. To test the temperature of your grill, hold your hand 5 inches above the grill grate. You should be able to hold it there for three to four seconds.

2. Make the (Right) Cut: Preparing vegetables for the grill is all about maximizing their surface area to increase flavorful browning, and cutting shapes that discourage them from falling apart or slipping through the grill grates.

3. Brush with Oil: Applying a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil to vegetables (except corn) before grilling encourages even browning and helps prevent them from sticking to the grill grates. To contain the mess, lay the vegetables on a sheet pan and use a basting brush. Season with salt and pepper before cooking.

4. Go Easy on the Char: Browning vegetables is one thing; incinerating them is another. For the best results, keep the pieces moving to avoid hot spots and grill until they’re just tender and streaked with grill marks.

5. Grill Meat First on a Charcoal Grill: When grilling vegetables to accompany steak, chicken, or pork, we cook the meat first, while the fire is at its hottest. By the time the meat is done, the heat has subsided a bit and the vegetables can cook at more moderate temperatures while the meat rests. (Note: This plan works equally well on a gas grill, and waiting for the fire to die down is not an issue.)