Grilling fruit and vegetables is a great way to add flavor to your BBQ dishes or desserts, and the Grilling 101 series continues with the basics of grilling fruits and veggies. Although grilling is traditionally considered a meat-lovers domain, there are good reasons to add fresh fruits and veggies to the mix. The rich flavors of grilling fruit can often outshine the centerpiece proteins, while the subtle charring and touch of smoke bring out the best characteristic in vegetables.
It doesn't take much more than an open flame and some time on the grill before you have something that tastes amazing! Grilling fruit and vegetables is easy, but different items have different characteristics. To help you get started, follow these few guidelines when prepping to grill these ingredients:
- Prepare your grill with direct and indirect heat zones. Many types of fruit and veggies use direct heat, but some will require more time over indirect heat to cook throughout. Read our post on direct and indirect heat to learn more.
- Oil the grill grates before placing the fruit or veggies on the grill so they don't stick and can be easily flipped without breaking apart.
- Use tongs instead of a fork when flipping food because it will puncture the skin, creating air pockets that allow moisture to escape which and dry out quickly.
- Smaller items will require alternate equipment like a grill basket or an American Made Grills Griddle Plate.
The Basics of Grilling Vegetables
Grilling and barbecuing vegetables is a great way to add some healthy variety to your diet, but not all veggies grill the same. Thinner veggies are suited for high direct heat, while those that are larger and denser will require par-cooking or more time with indirect heat.
Vegetables like asparagus, broccolini, mushrooms, leeks, and scallions will cook through quickly. Using high direct heat, these will finish within about 5 minutes and come off the grill beautifully blackened.
Try grilling these other vegetables the same way: broccoli, sugar snap peas, green beans, eggplant, romaine lettuce, sliced peppers, and avocado.
Root & Hard Veggies
Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes and denser veggies like butternut squash will require extra time to cook throughout. Either par-cook in the oven to get them started or plan on roasting on the grill with indirect heat. Once they are cooked through, they can be blackened and charred over direct heat to capture the smoky, mesquite flavoring.
Guidelines for Grilling Vegetables
- Grill what’s in season - Locally sourced, in-season produce tastes better because they are more ripe and fresh than globally shipped vegetables.
- Flatten and maximize surface area - Cut and flatten vegetables to allow the most surface area contact with the cooking grates. This preparation adds a better depth of flavor, charring, and uniform cooking process.
- Don't forget the oil - Without oil, fresh vegetables will stick and burn prematurely. Preferably, use extra virgin olive oil on the grill grates and the veggies to reduce sticking and falling apart. Don't get carried away since too much oil will drip and cause flare-ups.
- Watch them closely - Grilling vegetables brings out the natural sweetness but can also burn them quickly. To help avoid burns, cut the vegetables evenly (roughly 1/2 inch) and try not to over-cook them too much.
The Basics of Grilling Fruit
Grilling fresh fruit is a simple, delicious way to add flavor and visual appeal to your next barbecue. The fire imparts an irresistibly smoky flavor and gorgeous caramelization of the natural sugars for a fantastic counterpoint to the main dish and transforms desserts!
Lemon, small oranges, and limes are the most straightforward fruit to grill and offer the most applications. Cut them in half and grill flesh-side-down for five minutes. The zest of its juice fades as the heat brings out the fruity complexities and sweetness.
Bananas have an earthy sweetness when grilled. The juices tend to become more concentrated as the sugars caramelize and the bananas develop a rich texture. To grill bananas, split them in half lengthwise and leave the skin. Cook over direct heat for 5-6 minutes skin side down, flip over for last two minutes, then remove when grill marks form.
One of the most common grilled fruits, peaches, requires indirect heat to cook through or on a second-level grate because of their thickness. When grilled, a peach's flavor alters slightly as the natural sugars melt and char. For a stunning presentation, grilling peach halves flesh side down creates gorgeous grill marks and caramelization wonderful with desserts or paired with a protein, like Grilled Pork Chops and Peaches.
Grilled pineapple rings have a wide range of possibilities. Use direct heat to caramelize and char them beautifully, or place a few rounds on the warming rack to drip on the meat. Grilled pineapple works with any kind of taco, dessert and is famously combined with pork.
Watermelon and Other Melons
Grilling watermelon and other types of melon slightly changes the textures. The bursts of flavor so characteristic of fresh melon become more subtle but sweeter. Grill long slices over direct heat until char marks develop on each side.
Grilling 101 Continues
Grilling fruit and veggies is an easy and flavorful way to spice up any barbeque meal. Understanding that different ingredients will result in different cooking times, textures, and flavors making it a whole new experience! For more learning, check out our other grilling 101 series on the basics of grilling beef, chicken, fish and seafood, and pork and lamb.