You Can Grill Your Veggies (and Eat Them, Too)

Where’s the beef?

This weekend, it’s probably on the grill—Labor Day is the third most popular day for barbecuing. Burgers and steaks are often at the center of backyard barbecues, along with hot dogs and chicken. But grilling doesn’t have to be just for meat. In fact, adding some veggies to the mix—or trying a completely vegetarian meal—could infuse an element of healthy into your backyard barbecue menu.

Most veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out—asparagus, corn, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers (bell or hot) and onions are especially tasty when barbecued.

Here are some things to consider when you’re grilling your veggies.

Know what you’re working with.
If you’ll be using mock meats, such as veggie burgers or veggie dogs, be sure to read the cooking instructions on the package label. Some pre-made items are simply not meant to be grilled, and the instructions will say so.

Prepare your grill.
Don’t expect veggies to behave the same way on the grill as meat—they don’t have the same natural juices and fat that animal products do. While this is great for your health, you’ll want to prepare your grill to prevent them from sticking to the grates. Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if marinated first or brushed lightly with cooking oil.

Get creative.
Veggies are accustomed to playing the role of side dish in most meals, but at a barbecue, they can take center stage as the entrée. They take on a great smoky flavor when grilled, and almost any kind of vegetable works well. Portobello mushrooms have emerged as a vegetarian grilling favorite. They’re about the same size as a hamburger and have a meaty texture you can sink your teeth into.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with fresh herbs. Small vegetables like cherry tomatoes or sliced veggies work best threaded through kabobs. You can also wrap vegetables in heavy-duty foil, though cooking in foil cuts back on that appealing smoky flavor.

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