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11 Hacks for Grilling Perfect Summer Veggies

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Summer’s almost here, and the backyard is calling. Whether you use them as starters, main courses, or to complement a burger, vegetables cook quickly on a grill, they’re easy to prep, and they're delicious. Since veggies can require a little more than just flame from the grill, check out these tips on how to make sure your grilled vegetables turn out beautiful!

1. OIL IS YOUR FRIEND.

For some, the whole point of adding veggies to the grilling menu is to have a lighter option. But nothing’s worse than a dried-out batch of portobello mushrooms (or, worse, a batch that has stuck to the grill), so don’t just throw them on the barbie naked. A gentle coating of olive oil or non-stick cooking spray—or a pre-grill marinade that has a touch of oil in it—can make all the difference here. 

2. KNOW YOUR VEGGIES.

Some vegetables, such as summer squash, are done on the grill in a flash, while denser ones like potatoes will take their time. However, you don’t want to slap the dense ones on high heat and risk charring the outsides but leaving the insides raw. One way to avoid this is to sear your heavier veg on high heat for a minute, then shuttle them over to a less fiery part of the grill to let them chill out while they finish cooking. You can also cheat a little and precook them, then give them a couple minutes on each side to get those lovely grill marks.

3. CHOP EQUALLY.

Although some vegetables, like asparagus, can be grilled whole, most of them need to be chopped first. The problem here is that if you have a bunch of differently sized chunks, your veggies won’t cook at the same rate and you’ll end up with half the batch piping hot and ready to eat while the other half’s still cookin’. That’s why it’s good to make them all roughly the same size, whether big or small. (Obviously, smaller pieces will cook faster than bigger ones, but you also don’t want them too petite that they’ll fall through the grates.)

4. USE SKEWERS, BASKETS, OR FOIL PACKETS.

If your veggie chunks are sliced small, you can avoid the fall-through-the-grates problem by putting them in a basket or by skewering them. If you use bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them in warm water for 15 to 30 minutes before putting them on the grill, so they don’t burn. (Who can resist food on a stick?) If you’ve got your hands full and don’t have time to shepherd the grill, you can always wrap up your veggies in a foil packet and then leave them to steam for about 15 minutes while you focus on other tasks. This method works especially well with dense root veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots. (Just be careful when you open the packet, so that you don’t get a face full of scalding steam.)

5. TRY NEW VEGGIES.

Sticking to the classics is fine, but there are some vegetables you don’t typically see barbecued that can have really spectacular results when grilled! Think outside the box by trying leeks (sliced in half lengthwise and then into 4-to-6-inch pieces), green beans (use a basket or foil packet), eggplant (sliced in rounds for maximum surface area), fennel (sliced lengthwise with the root end kept intact, so it stays held together), or broccoli (coat or marinate in oil beforehand, turn often).

6. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

As with meat, you'll want to season veggies with salt and pepper and even some additional flavor like spicy Aleppo pepper or a lighter lemon pepper. Let the flavor of the veggies plus the Maillard reaction (the caramelizing of natural sugars caused by heat) do the bulk of the work, then sprinkle with finishing salt before serving.

7. USE A PAINT SCRAPER AS A SPATULA.

Vegetables, obviously, are more delicate than steaks, and so they’re more liable to tear when you pull them off the grill. A trick of the trade is to use a metal, chisel-style paint scraper, like the kind you’d get at a hardware store, which has a sharper blade and can get up underneath the veggies more efficiently.

8. YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO SOAK ‘EM.

Corn is the main culprit in this category. If you like to keep the husks on (up to you—corn grills well with or without them), first peel them all the way back, along with the corn silk exposing the kernels, and then soak the cobs in cold water for 15 minutes. When the grill is hot, pull the husks back up around the cobs, twisting the leaves at the tip as needed to help them stay in place.

9. AVOID WATERY VEGGIES—BUT NOT ALL OF THEM.

As a rule, veggies such as cucumbers, celery, and lettuce don’t do so well on the grill, thanks to their high water content. However, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule:  Romaine grills beautifully, as do tomatoes.

10. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM.

Cooking the same kinds of vegetables—or even similarly textured vegetables—together in one batch helps the whole lot cook more evenly. E.g., grill soft veggies like tomatoes and mushrooms together, or zucchini with squash, or bell peppers with onions.

11. LEAVE THEM ALONE.

Most vegetables cook so quickly that, if you’re putting them directly on the grill, you really only need to flip them once. (The main exception to this are high-maintenance cobs of corn, which need to be grilled all over their cylindrical surfaces.) Five to 10 minutes per side is generally enough to get some good grill marks, and you don’t want to risk ripping them due to overhandling. Just let ’em mellow.

All images via iStock.

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The World’s First Totoro-Themed Restaurant Is Coming to Thailand
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StudioCanal

Japan’s upcoming Studio Ghibli theme park will not open for another few years, but animation fans in Asia will soon have another destination where they can get their Hayao Miyazaki fix. Thailand will soon be home to a Totoro-themed restaurant, SoraNews24 reports.

May’s Garden House Restaurant in Bangkok is the first officially licensed restaurant inspired by Miyazaki’s classic film My Neighbor Totoro. The restaurant features Miyazaki-themed decor, like a giant Totoro figure that sits in the dining room, as well as menu items inspired by the characters, such as steamed buns shaped like Mini Totoros. The tables are adorned with figurines of Totoro, Mei, Sootballs, the Catbus, and other characters from the movie. While they aren't completed yet, the restaurant plans on adding a children’s playground, an orchid greenhouse, and various other elements before the grand opening.

Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki helped develop the concept for the restaurant, and he personally designed its sign. He also designed two exclusive new Studio Ghibli characters for the restaurant, Colko and Peeko (who you can see above).

While it has been open on a trial basis since mid-April, May’s Garden House is set to officially open at the end of May. Until then, Miyazaki uber-fans will have to content themselves with dining at the Straw Hat Cafe, the more general Studio Ghibli-themed restaurant at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.

[h/t SoraNews24]

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McDonald's May Be Getting Rid of Its Plastic Straws
Philippe Huguen, AFP/Getty Images
Philippe Huguen, AFP/Getty Images

First Seattle and then the Queen. Could the Golden Arches be next to join the anti-straw movement? As Fortune reports, McDonald's shareholders will vote at their annual meeting on May 24 on a proposal to phase out drinking straws at the company's 37,000-plus locations in the U.S.

If passed, the fast food behemoth would join the ranks of other governments and businesses around the world that have enacted bans against straws in an effort to reduce plastic waste. Straws are notoriously hard to recycle and typically take hundreds of years to decompose.

McDonald's is currently in the process of removing plastic straws from its roughly 1300 outlets in the UK. However, McDonald's board of directors opposes the move in the U.S., arguing that it would divert money from the company's other eco-friendly initiatives, The Orange County Register reports. This echoes comments from the plastic industry, which says efforts should instead be focused on improving recycling technologies.

"Bans are overly simplistic and may give consumers a false sense of accomplishment without addressing the problem of litter," Scott DeFife of the Plastics Industry Association told the Daily News in New York City, where the city council is mulling a similar citywide ban.

If the city votes in favor of a ban, they'd be following in the footsteps of Seattle, Miami Beach, and Malibu, California, to name a few. In February, Queen Elizabeth II was inspired to ban straws at royal palaces after working with David Attenborough on a conservation film. Prime Minister Theresa May followed suit, announcing in April that the UK would ban plastic straws, cotton swabs, and other single-use plastic items.

It's unclear how many straws are used in the U.S. By one widely reported estimate, Americans use 500 million disposable straws per day—or 1.6 straws per person—but it has been noted that these statistics are based on a survey conducted by an elementary school student. However, plastic straws are the fifth most common type of trash left on beaches, according to data reported by Fortune.

[h/t Fortune]

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