As grilling season gets underway, most of us are familiar with grilling burgers and hot dogs. In fact, you may even be an expert at grilling steaks, but fruit and vegetables? For many, how to achieve those perfect char marks on your vegetables is still very much a mystery.
But don’t despair, vegetarians and carnivores alike can enjoy that charbroiled taste on their fruits and vegetables as long as they follow some simple advice. To start, vegetables and fruits aren’t meat. Since they lack the fat of meats, a dip in some flavorful olive oil will keep your fruits and vegetables from sticking to the grill grates.
Softer fruits, like most stone fruits, papayas, and such require a more watchful eye than fruits like apples, pears, and pineapples that have firmer flesh. The natural sugars in the fruits require a lower cooking temperature to prevent the sugars from burning. For caramelized, but not burnt fruit, cook your fruits over indirect heat or what until the coals begin to die out and the temperature is less intense.
If you plan to cook your fruit directly on the grates, make sure you cut your fruit into large enough chunks. As the water evaporates from your fruits and vegetables, they will shrink. For smaller fruit, use a grill basket or bamboo skewers soaked in water to prevent your food from falling onto the coals.
Because of their somewhat lower sugar content, vegetables can stand a slightly more intense fire than fruits. For best results, cook your vegetables over medium heat on the grill. For very firm vegetables, such as butternut squash, you make need to par cook your vegetables before grilling, to ensure they cook through without burning on the grill.
Lightly salting vegetables about 30 minutes before grilling helps to draw out moisture from the vegetables and concentrate flavor. This is particularly important for water-laden vegetables, like eggplant and zucchini.
Like fruit, vegetables will shrink as they cook, so be sure to cut vegetables into large chunks or use a grill basket or skewers to keep your vegetables from falling onto the coals.
With these tips in mind, start grilling this summer with a few of our favorite grilled fruit and vegetable recipes using everything from peaches to sweet potatoes.
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.