Some recipes specify charring bell peppers to make it easy to remove their skins and purée them. But we char them just to enjoy the charred flavor.
Charring is a step beyond simple grilling. If you haven’t discovered the joy of charring vegetables on the grill—or haven’t ventured beyond corn, mushrooms and potatoes—let us whet your appetite.
Charring creates contrasting flavor and textures, caramelized sweetness, and toasty, smoky notes. When the skin gets blackened and blistery, the the flavor is intensified. The skins soften while the flesh stays crisp.
You don’t need a grill (ideally, with wood chips) to char vegetables. You can also do it:
On the stove top, in a dry cast iron pan
Under the broiler in your oven
All you need are raw vegetables tossed in olive oil, a sprinkling of kosher salt or coarse sea salt, and the heat source. Grilling tips are below.
WHAT VEGETABLES ARE BEST FOR GRILLING
Some of our favorite things to char—in addition to corn, mushrooms and potatoes:
Asparagus: Trim the tough ends, toss the spears in olive oil and salt and grill for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat. Then turn and grill another 4-5 minutes.
A delicious platter of grilled veggies, from HappilyUnprocessed.com, with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, yellow squash and bell peppers. Here’s their recipe for Balsamic Grilled Vegetables.
Baby potatoes: Potatoes, dense and hard, need to be pre-cooked. Leave the skins on and place the potatoes in a pot. Cover with one inch of salted cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and skewer (for a gourmet touch, skewer on soaked rosemary twigs) and grill for 3 to 4 minutes total, turning occasionally.
Bell peppers, Hatch or other chiles: Remove the core and seeds, then slice the each pepper in half (or in quarters for large bells). Toss with olive oil and salt and grill over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Then turn and grill 4-5 minutes longer.
Cabbage or lettuce: Cut the head in half and slice each half into 1-inch-thick slices; skewer to keep the leaves together. Toss with olive oil and salt. Grill over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, then turn and grill for another 10 minutes. (If cabbage and lettuce seem like strange grilling veggies, try them—they’re delicious!)
Cauliflower: Use large florets only; save the smaller bits for other uses. Toss in olive oil, salt and skewer. Grill over medium-high heat, turning frequently for about 10 minutes, until lightly charred.
Corn: Remove the husks; otherwise, you just steam the corn. Oil and salt them, then grill over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, turning frequently.
Eggplant: Cut into 1/2-inch slices, place on a wire rack and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave for 30 minutes, then rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels (this process removes the bitterness). Toss with oil (you can add some balsamic, too), salt and cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Then turn and grill another 4-5 minutes.
Green onions/scallions: Toss in oil and salt and grill on medium-high for about two minutes, until distinct grill marks appear. Then turn and cook for 1 minute more.