Tabitha Brown Explains Why Drool-Worthy Grilled Veggies All Come Down To Texture

When you need a side dish to pair with your usual warm-weather cookout staples like ribs, burgers, and hot dogs, grilled summer vegetables can be a great pick. They've got all the smoky flavor of the grill and are highly versatile, working well whether you want to pile them onto antipasto bruschetta, serve them on kebabs, or just enjoy them on their own. However, in order to make the most of them, you need to know the best ways to cook them and prevent soggy sadness.

Vegan chef Tabitha Brown – who is also an actress, Emmy Award-winning host, New York Times bestselling author, and creator, in partnership with McCormick, of a line of salt-free seasonings — spoke with Daily Meal and explained the secret to the best grilled veggies: "I think how you cook it, how you cut it, how long you cook it depends on the texture of the vegetable and if it will get too soft." She also notes that when grilling veggies, you want to create a crispy char on the outside to add extra texture and flavor. That, combined with the way you season them, is the key to getting the tastiest grilled side.

Different veggies require different cooking techniques

When it comes to grilling veggies, one good pick is mushrooms. These are soft, which means that if you're not careful, they can become mushy. This is because they have a high water content. That liquid gets released as the veggies cook, softening them and, if you aren't careful, causing them to go mushy.

Tabitha Brown offers a suggestion for getting around this: "Although mushrooms are technically a vegetable, I think about them, you gotta flip them a couple of times to get the texture right." Another way to avoid soggy mushrooms is by following this unexpected grilling tip: Wait to season them until they're done cooking to prevent moisture from escaping prematurely and making them mushy. 

Of course, mushrooms aren't the only veggies you'll want to grill. Zucchini, pepper, onions, and carrots are all a few other options that taste great on the barbie. Brown notes, "With onions, zucchinis, and peppers, you can kind of mix those all together and cook them, just so you get a little bit of char on there, I think that's the best way to enjoy vegetables."

These veggies are a bit more durable than mushrooms and have similar cook times, which is why they can be cooked together. Just note you may still want to rotate these veggies so that they can get an even char. Plus, like mushrooms, they're softer, high-moisture vegetables, so they can get mushy if you cook them for too long.

Don't forget about the char

Beyond mastering your cooking time and rotation for different types of veggies, Tabitha Brown also recommends getting a bit of char on them: "With a little bit of char, but they still have a freshness and beautiful color to them, and [are] not overcooked." Charring imparts a bit of smoky flavor into your vegetables and also gives them a light crunch — all without sacrificing that delicious firm texture vegetables have. And most types of produce benefit from a slight char — even something like cabbage, an unexpected choice for the grill.

At the same time, charring also lends a light caramel taste to your food. That's because it's pushing the limits of the Maillard reaction, which is a chemical reaction that causes browning on your food. Now, remember, there's a fine line between charring and burning. If you leave your food to char for too long, it can wind up burnt, which leaves a bitter, unpleasant flavor. Next time you're cooking veggies on the grill, use Tabitha Brown's tips, and you'll be in for some of the tastiest sides yet.