The Perfect Way To Grill Onions So They Don't Fall Through The Grates

A true grill master can cook just about anything over open flames. Some things, though, are a little easier than others. Unlike corn on the cob or big hunks of meat, for instance, onions aren't the most structurally sound — when sliced open, the layers come apart, and you risk losing perfectly good pieces of onion falling through the grates to a fiery end. Simple wooden skewers, however, can keep it together and save the day.

The trick is to pierce your onions with basic food skewers to hold the layers together while they cook, and make it a breeze to flip and move them around as needed. That way, when grilled, they can get those perfect grill marks and hold their shape, making for a beautiful addition to any meal. So when you already have the grill fired up, it makes perfect sense to throw some onions on and give them the crispy, smoky treatment, too. This is the perfect time to use sweet onions like Vidalias, or red onions, as both are particularly delicious when grilled. That said, this technique can bring some tasty char to virtually any type of onion.

Skewer and slice your onions before grilling

The trick to getting those pretty onion rounds is to skewer before you slice. First, peel the onion and cut the ends, then pierce it with a row of skewers from one end of the onion to the other, about ½ – ¾ inch apart. Each large onion will probably require about 4 skewers. Drive the skewers all the way through the layers of the onion, so they're sticking out both sides, and slice between them so that each skewer is holding a disc of onion.

Another option is to slice the onions into wedges, without cutting off the root end. Cut the onion in half and remove the peel, then quarter each of the halves. The wedges connected to the root end of the onion hold together on their own, but you can also insert skewers for easier handling.

Feel free to trim the skewers if they're too long, especially those holding smaller pieces. You can also soak your wooden skewers in water for about half an hour before starting the whole process so that they're less likely to burn on the grill.

Once you have your skewered slices, brush both sides of each with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, onions cook for four to six minutes on each side, or until both sides have grill marks and the center is tender. Note that wedges may take a bit longer than rounds because of their thickness.

Grilled onions are a delicious umami garnish

Once you have your tasty charred onion rounds, the options are endless. You could top burgers with grilled onions to really class up the backyard barbecue staple. In fact, they'd make a great addition to all sorts of sandwiches, from grilled cheese to a simple deli wrap. They make a surprising and flavorful alternative anywhere you might normally use raw onions, like to top hot dogs or tacos, and you can easily add them to any kind of salad. True onion lovers may even just want to eat them as a stand-alone side or snack — just jazz them up with a dressing or sauce of your choice, like a light vinaigrette or an herb-rich pesto.

Onions are so versatile, they can zest up all sorts of dishes. But if it turns out that you bought way more onions than you can eat, you can always use some raw onions to clean your grill. You know, so it's ready the next time you're craving those perfectly grilled onions.