Cooking on embers has always fascinated me. This is also one of the best ways to cook corn, peppers, broccoli, or even summer squash.

grill vegetables

When I’m not in charge of the grill, I watch things being done, without being able to take my eyes off the camera (to see if your vacation photos have the same effect on me.) Cooking over the embers has always fascinated me, perhaps because I was raised by a father who abandoned formal religious worship for barbecue, or because a bite of perfectly browned pork belly is a universally transcendent experience. And unlike the neighbor who tells me how he broke his Achilles heel, the grill is never short of ways to surprise me at a grill party.

Let’s talk about summer vegetables. Each of them has a different type of flavor and texture; each requires its own cooking protocol. For this article, I have focused solely on the gas grill. However, there are obviously many (perhaps better) appliances that achieve wonderfully tender vegetables, such as wood-fired, and charcoal-fired grills. (like the essential Weber, or like the kamado barbecue), hibachi barbecues, pellet grills, etc.

grill vegetables

Prepare your grills and your vegetables

First:

  • Except for the pickled vegetables, I season them with coarse salt and pepper for about thirty minutes before putting them on the grill.
  • Before landing on the grill, each vegetable was rubbed with avocado oil. You can also use rapeseed oil or any other cooking oil you like.
  • The pickled vegetables were prepared as follows: marinate in a chilled mixture of two cups of hot water, one tablespoon of salt, two tablespoons of sugar, and half a cup of unseasoned rice vinegar for about one o’clock. Remove from marinade and pat dry, then brush all sides with oil.
  • I greased the grates with canola oil.
  • I salted and peppered the vegetables after removing them from the grill. (I also coated the roasted corn in butter, because while I want to be thorough in my experiments, I’m not an extremist.)
  • For the papillote trials, I added sweet herbs like basil and green onion to each, along with a tablespoon of butter, to see if that changed the flavors significantly.

Vegetable preparations:

  • Peppers: For all tests, I removed the stems with a paring knife, quartered each pepper lengthwise, and removed the seeds and whites with a spoon.
  • Summer squash: I sliced the squash into 1cm thick rounds for most tests. For the skewer test, I cut the squash lengthwise into 1cm sticks. (I don’t remove the seeds, but feel free to scrape them off with a spoon if they bother you.)
  • Broccoli: For all tests, I removed all the leaves from the stem, then cut the broccoli heads into large florets (about 5-6cm wide). Then I cut the stems into 1cm thick pieces.
  • Corn cobs: For the direct and indirect cooking tests, I simply peeled the cobs. For the skewered, marinated, and en papillote tests, I cut each cob of peeled corn into thirds.

Five cooking techniques

1. Directement sur les grilles, en cuisson directe

  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat (about 190°C to 220°C). Grease the grates with cooking oil.
  • Place vegetables directly on the heat-producing side of the grill (for a charcoal grill, above the charcoal; for a gas grill, above the flame). Grill until softened, well browned in spots, and fragrant, turning occasionally.
  • Remove from the grill and season.

2. Directly on the grills, in indirect cooking

  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat (about 190°C to 220°C). Grease the grates with cooking oil.
  • Place the vegetables on the grates, away from the side producing the heat. Grill until tender and beginning to brown around the edges, turning occasionally.
  • Remove from the grill and season.

3. Papillotes

  • Chauffer le gril à feu moyen-élevé (environ 190°C à 220°C).
  • Place packets on the side of the grill that produces heat. Grill for about ten to fifteen minutes, until the vegetables are softened, browned in spots, and smell good.
  • Retirer du gril, ouvrir les papillotes et assaisonner.

4. Skewers

  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat (about 190°C to 220°C). Grease the grates with cooking oil.
  • Place the skewer directly on the side of the grill producing the heat. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender and golden brown in spots.
  • Remove from the grill and season.

5. Marinated, then grilled

  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat (about 190°C to 220°C). Grease the grates with cooking oil.
  • Remove the vegetables from the marinade, pat them dry, then rub them with cooking oil.
  • Place the vegetables directly on the side of the grill producing the heat. Grill until softened, golden brown in spots, and fragrant, turning occasionally.
  • Remove from the grill and season with salt, pepper, and butter (for corn).
grill vegetables

The best method, vegetable by vegetable

For the broccoli

The best cooking method for broccoli was found to be a combination of direct and indirect cooking (direct cooking alone charred the florets before the stalk was cooked; indirect cooking alone was time-consuming and yielded soft and unevenly cooked bouquets). The succession of the two was the most effective. Marinating the broccoli is also a great idea – it gave the florets a slightly tart taste, definitely above average grilling. If you have time to marinate your broccoli, do so.

With broccoli, avoid the skewer, unless you have time to spare. Because of the varied shapes of the bouquets, the skewers make it difficult to cook evenly and complicate the operation when turning them.

For the peppers

“Vegetables with a high water content lend themselves to rapid, high-temperature direct cooking, while vegetables with a low water content require the gentle, prolonged heat of indirect cooking,” writes Steven Raichlen in All Vegetables on the Grill. . This was confirmed for the peppers, which were excellent after cooking directly on the grill. They remained a little firm and were nicely browned on the outside – while those that hadn’t been in contact with the embers were still not cooked after twenty minutes. Direct cooking also prevented my peppers from acquiring the texture of canned green beans (I see that the peppers in foil feel targeted).

To my surprise, the pickled peppers weren’t much tastier. Direct cooking with or without a skewer was also successful. Only one difference: a slight variation in texture at the heart of the peppers, where they were pressed together (like when two rigatoni stick together in boiling water and are crispy at the junction). If you’re looking for a more sophisticated texture both crunchy and tender—for your grilled pepper, go for the skewer.

For summer courage

The squash grilled directly over the flame was excellent: tender and chewy in the center, becoming translucent in some places and crispy in others, like a baked apple. They were best after direct cooking only – at least in general, because I cut some of them into a little too large pieces, and had to end up with indirect cooking, which was just as good.

Indirect cooking was a failure: the squash took forever to cook, and the taste was not worth the effort. The skewer on the other hand gave an interesting result. I cut it into long, thinner sticks, which I put straight on the grill, so the edges were tender and golden, with a more al dente center.

The papillotes were quite catastrophic. Instead of making it tasty, the mixture of butter and herbs caused the squash to boil, producing a tasteless porridge. I stalled after one bite.

The marinated squash was delicious, but its texture was less appetizing than its non-marinated counterpart, cooked directly over the embers: it was oddly puffy and not as tender.

Your preferences are important

Cooking grilled vegetables is an extremely personal matter: the type of grill used and your preferences will determine the “best” method. This usually involves combining direct and indirect cooking and changing the orientation (with a basket, directly on the grills, or on a skewer).

Cela dit, ces tests montrent qu’en cas de doute, vous pouvez opter tranquillement pour les méthodes suivantes:

  • For excellent grilled broccoli, let them marinate, then grill them using a combination of direct and indirect cooking.
  • To make the peppers a success, grill them directly over the coals. To make the peppers a success, grill them directly over the coals.
  • For delicious grilled summer squash, use mostly direct cooking, finishing with indirect cooking if necessary (depending on the thickness of the pieces). You can also cut sticks and use skewers to vary the texture.
  • For outstanding grilled corn, use direct cooking, and season with cold butter and salt to finish.

This article originally appeared on Food52.

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