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The world has been cooking vegetables incorrectly for too long.
I’m convinced that we, as a species, are single-handedly responsible for the bad rap vegetables have gotten. Sure, steamed brussels sprouts are unambiguously disgusting. But it isn’t the sprout’s fault. For decades, parents, and grandparents have done vegetables a disservice, cooking them in the blandest ways possible and forcing us to choke them down, ensuring that we’d avoid them at all costs once we finally gained agency over our lives. But now I know better, and there’s no excuse for ignoring delicious plant-based sides in 2020—particularly when it’s so easy and delicious to toss them on the grill.
Seriously, grilling can make just about any vegetable delicious. It can even save Broccoli, the unholiest of greens. Take any vegetable, cut it lengthwise, and toss them right on the grates—maybe brushed with a little oil and salt. I guarantee it’ll change your perception. I recommend a silicone brush like this duo works well—you want one with a decently long handle in case a recipe calls for basting on the grill. The same goes for your tongs, which will need to be longer than your typical kitchen tongs to avoid burning your hands (trust me).
Of course, that isn’t the only way to grill vegetables, and depending on what you’re cooking, it may not even be ideal. Flipping a bunch of long vegetables is time consuming, and/or risks strips of bell pepper falling through the cracks. If you want something a little easier to work with, go with the tried-and-true skewer method. It’s more work upfront skewering everything, but a lot easier to flip in the heat (heh) of the moment, when you’re trying to grill a bunch of things at once. Wooden skewers are classic, cheap, and disposable when you’re grilling for a lot of people. But for smaller groups, I’ve always found stainless steel skewers like these to be easier. Some people like the extra stability that double-pronged skewers provide, though I’ve never used them myself.
If skewering everything sounds like too much damn work, you have other options. For more finely sliced items—or you’re including mushrooms, jalapenos, and other small veggies—a grill basket is a godsend. Let the basket preheat on the grill to set to medium-high. Then just toss them in the basket—again, brushed with some oil—and stir them occasionally with your tongs so all the vegetables get a turn on the surface. This is definitely the most hassle-free method, and while you don’t get quite the tasty char you do from having them directly on the grill, but you’ll still get some of that Maillard reaction browning the sides, and the convenience tradeoff can be worth it when your attention is split.
A lot of people swear by stainless steel grill baskets with mostly-flat bottoms, like this one from Weber (which also comes in a larger size). That’s what I use, but Lodge has a pre-seasoned one that is has me very intrigued. There are also wire baskets, if you prefer, or ones with handles that allow for super-easy flipping (designed primarily for fish, but they work great with veggies too). Some people skip the basket entirely and just stick their cast iron pan on the grill, though I usually prefer something that allows the oil and moisture to drip out.
Those are my go-to methods for grilling vegetables, but you’ll find hybrids of all of the above. Want the shape of skewered vegetables with the convenience of a basket? Boom: skewer baskets. Want the drool-worthy sear of cast iron without the grease and moisture buildup from a typical pan? Introducing the grill wok. Apparently, cedar wraps are even a thing, if you want to impart a bit of that smoky flavor to your asparagus.
Don’t overthink it, though. The beauty of grilling is in its versatility and toss-anything-on ease. As long as you can get some of that delicious browning, you might actually be able to convince yourself to eat those much-needed greens.