A Beginner’s Guide to Vegetarian Grilling (Char Marks and All)

Become a confident master of the grill and you'll never again be left to nibble on sad potato salad while the meat-eaters have all the fun

Photo: Getty Images

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For a long time, barbecue was considered a meat eater’s domain. “At best, vegetarian grilling was an afterthought,” says Andrea Chesman, author of The New Vegetarian Grill: 250 Flame-Kissed Recipes for Fresh, Inspired Meals. “People threw a couple of veggies on a skewer and that was all you got as a vegetarian option.”

But barbecuing can add a whole new dimension to summer vegetables. A brush of olive oil brings fragrance and flavor to summer produce. And veggies don’t just cook on the grill, they caramelize——the high heat releases their natural sweetness. “Smoke gives a flavor that’s very compatible with vegetables as well,” Chesman adds. The following tips and recipes will prove beyond a doubt that, when it comes to grilling, veggies rule!

What You’ll Need:

  • Gas or charcoal grill
  • Grill rack or grill topper
  • Silicone basting brush
  • Vegetable oil for coating grill rack or grill topper
  • Paper towels or clean cotton towel
  • Skewers (bamboo or stainless steel)
  • Long-handled metal tongs and spatula

3 Secrets to Vegetarian Grilling Success

  1. Preheat Properly. Light the grill, and oil the grate or grill topper with a paper or cotton towel dipped in vegetable oil before cooking. A charcoal grill requires about 40 minutes to reach the desired temperature, a gas grill takes 20 minutes
  2. Size Up Your Veggies. “Make sure the vegetables are cut the same size so they cook at the same rate,” advises Andrea Chesman. Set ingredients that take longest to cook on the grill first, add quicker-cooking items later.
  3. Work It! “Be aware the fire has hot spots; move the vegetables around once they start to brown,” says Chesman. But don’t start shifting until items have had a chance to sear——usually 3 minutes. This makes for pretty grill marks and also keeps foods from sticking to the grate.

Worth-it Grill Tool

A stainless steel vegetable grill topper is the best investment a vegetarian griller can make, says Andrea Chesman. “With a vegetable grill topper, the size of vegetables doesn’t become a limiting factor and you don’t have to worry about slices falling through the grate and into the coals,” she explains.

Try the Danesco Stainless Steel Grill Topper Basket (amazon.com).

How to Take Your Grill’s Temperature

No thermostat necessary! Simply hold your hand 4 inches above the grate and count until your palm feels hot. Here, the times and their corresponding temperatures:

  • 2 to 3 seconds = high heat
  • 4 to 5 seconds = medium-high heat
  • 6 to 8 seconds = medium heat
  • 9 to 10 seconds = medium-low heat

If temperature is too high for your recipe, turn down the heat on a gas grill or move some coals off to the side in a charcoal grill.

Perfect Cross Marks

Want your barbecued goodies to have pro-looking grill marks? All you have to do is rotate them 45 degrees halfway through their time on the grill for one side, then cook until done on that side. Flip, and repeat on other side.

Ready? Try these recipes: