Learn the science behind:
Grilling vegetables is one of my favorite ways for preparing a whole range of vegetables, any time I’m out of inspiration or just want something simple. Grilling vegetables is really very easy and all you need is a good grill pan, a knife & cutting board.
Why grill your vegetables?
Grilling is a very easy and quicky way to prepare vegetables. The grilling itself also gives the vegetable a nice flavour to the browning and slight blackening of your vegetables. That means caramelization has taken place, sugar in the vegetables have reacted into very flavourful molecules. In many cases I find grilled vegetables don’t need any seasonings, sauces, etc.
Grilling vegetables – how it works
When you cook vegetables, there are several things you aim to achieve. The main purpose would be to soften the texture of the vegetables. Heat breaks down cell walls and makes the vegetable softer (something I wrote about earlier in this series). This makes the vegetable nicer and easier to eat. At the same time, cooking will also change flavour and appearance.
Grilling is just one of many ways to cook vegetables. Grilling uses a grill pan which is brought to a high temperature. In a grill pan the heat is mainly transferred by the pan, whereas in a pot of boiling water, the heat is transferred through the water. The advantage is that no nutrients, flavours or colour will leak out as is the case when boiling the vegetables in water.
So, you heat a grill pan to a high heat. Once it’s hot you place the vegetables on the grill pan. That way the vegetables get hot immediately and they start to cook. The high heat is important, since it’s only the pan transferring the heat, it is hard to heat the vegetable through to the center. If the heat isn’t high enough, it will simply not cook. Furthermore, the high heat will crisp up vegetables. The high heat evaporates moisture on the sides without the moisture in the center having time to travel to the outsides.
The trick of grilling vegetables is assuring that the outside doesn’t burn while the inside gets cooked. If grilling is done on too high a heat the outside will burn even though the inside will still be raw. The inner components simply haven’t gotten warm enough yet for a long enough period of time to soften. That also brings us to the type of vegetables that can be used:
Vegetable grilling – Which vegetables
Vegetables that are suited for grilling are those that aren’t too large and cook quickly. If not, the inside will not be cooked when the outside has already burned. Therefore, always pre heat a potato before grilling it (I always to this in the microwave). That way the inner side is already (partly) cooked. This allows you to brown the potatoes of on the grill and develop flavour instead of merely cooking it.
Bell pepper, courgette, onion (rings) and mushrooms are my favorite vegetables to grill, I grill these all the time. I also use cherry tomatoes, however, just very shortly to prevent them from leaking.