Best Grilling Tips for Vegetables

Helpful tips on how to grill your favorite vegetables.

Vegetables benefit almost more than meats from cooking over charcoal. The caramelizing of natural sugars gives old reliables new flavor and style. In this article, you’ll find the best vegetables for grilling, how to prep and cut, grilling times for various vegetables, and flavor tricks with fresh herbs.

Garden Picks
Fleshy vegetables work best on the grill. Try corn on the cob, eggplant, potatoes, summer squashes, and portobello or other large mushroom caps.

Prepping for the Grill
Wash vegetables and trim off any blemishes. Don’t peel the vegetables unless specified in a recipe. Skin helps them hold their shape and stay moist. Wipe dirt off mushrooms with damp paper toweling.

Prime Cuts
Cut vegetables in thick slices. Slabs of eggplant, large summer and zucchini squash, and giant sweet Bermuda, Spanish, or Vidalia onions can be turned and basted individually or grouped in a grilling basket and turned all together.

Grill small squash, bell peppers, and unpeeled onions whole. Cut large tomatoes into wedges, small ones in half. Tomato wedges or cherry tomatoes can be cooked on skewers to prevent them from falling through the grill.

When grilling vegetables on skewers, be sure to pair up soft vegetables, such as tomatoes and mushrooms, with other soft vegetables. Cook hard vegetables, such as peppers and onions, together. Alternatively, parboil firm vegetables and then cook them along with softer ones.

To the Grill
Arrange the vegetables on a rack set crosswise on the grill to prevent the vegetables from falling onto the coals.

Brush the vegetables with sauce — if you are grilling meat, you can use the same sauce here, if you wish — or with a simple mixture of 2/3 oil to 1/3 vinegar or lemon juice.

Cook vegetables over moderate heat at the edge of the grill. Turn them with a wide spatula or tongs. Approximate times are:

15 to 20 minutes: Thick slices of zucchini or yellow squash, eggplant, whole tomatoes, mixed vegetables on skewers
20 to 25 minutes: Whole zucchini, summer squash, large mushroom caps
35 to 45 minutes: Corn in the husk or husked and wrapped in foil (turn often)
45 to 50 minutes: Corn without husk brushed with sauce; whole eggplant for purée; thick onion or potato slices
1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours: Whole large unpeeled onions, whole baking potatoes or sweet potatoes (turn every 10 minutes to cook evenly)

Not so Hot
When grilling vegetables alone, make the fire small. When grilling them along with meat, make a large fire and place meat in the center and the vegetables at the edge.

Flavor Trick
Dip a sprig of fresh herb in the sauce or oil and vinegar or lemon juice mixture and brush it over the vegetables when you turn them. Just before the vegetables are done, drop the herb onto the coals to flavor the vegetables even more. Use basil for the tomatoes or bell peppers, sage for the onions, thyme or dill for squashes, and rosemary for almost any vegetable.