The Best Vegetarian Grilling Tips for Successful Grilling, or How to Grill Meat and Vegetables and Keep Your Sanity (and marriage…)
Being the only vegetarian in a household of meat eaters has its difficulties. Sure, my family gratefully enjoys my home cooking; healthy, vegetarian and all, but when it comes to the dreaded “Let’s grill!” I am starting to develop an imaginary allergy…
My husband’s idea of grilling is to frantically run around a grill filled with wood, blowing and fanning so the ashes fly all over the place, placing all the meat on (our very small little grill) as the flames are still licking the grid, with the olive oil dripping, creating regular outbursts of flames and smoke… a lot of smoke!
And so my carefully prepared and marinated veggies are put to the grill…where they fit...
Vegetarian grilling disaster.
Still my husband always insists all the veggies turn out just fine… Arrgh! (Our son summarizes it all by patiently humming the theme song from “Love and Marriage…!”)
The veggies usually turn out more smoked than grilled, burned on the outside and raw in the middle. And by the time the meat eaters are ready for dessert; my veggies are not even half done….
Of course, I am never hungry, having eaten all the side dishes including the pickles, condiments, bread, napkins and all. Wine helps too.
So, for anyone having experienced the same dilemma with a meat/vegetarian grilling, here are some tips (that I would have loved long ago) to save not only the veggies, but your peace of mind as well! PS. My husband wants me to add that he did all the dishes too…!
1. Start by making a mind shift about side dishes.
Take away the emphasis on grilled food as being the main meal; try to think of it the other way around.
Thinking about the grilled food as being a side dish solves many problems.
Having lots of other tasty and filling dishes (that can be all vegetarian!) and grilling smaller amounts of veggies or meat to complement those dishes, makes everyone happy (vegetarians or not) and doesn’t crowd the grill.
It is also less stressful and disappointing if the grilling didn’t turn out fantastic, since there’s a lot of great food anyway.
2. Prepare as much as possible the day before.
Go shopping for produce two days earlier, so you can divide tasks and prepare the food.
Things like dips, dressings and macaroni salads for example, get tastier the following day.
And veggie burgers do well to be stored in the fridge overnight; it makes them hold together better when grilling.
3. Learn how to grill properly!
We are not all born with a grill “gene”…
Learning the art of vegetarian grilling is not to sneeze at! Here is a video I found very helpful:
4. Make sure you have enough coal, briquettes or wood.
Don’t use the small bits and dust in the bottom of the coal bag, it won’t burn properly.
And don’t be greedy about the amount you use. More often than not we have used too little coal, so it wouldn’t get hot enough, neither burn long enough.
5. Wait 30 min. after the flames settle for the coals or briquettes to get a silvery coating and the best heat for grilling. Don’t grill when they are still black.
6. While you wait you can clean the grid, on the BBQ, after it gets hot with a metal brush, and wipe off right before grilling with some oil. (Before I knew this, I wasted so much time scrubbing with soap in the sink!)
7. Meat needs more heat than veggies so push the coals to one side where the meat can be grilled, and keep the other side with less for the veggies.
8. There are several options for vegetarians who don’t want the vegetables to come in contact with the meat:
Prepare aluminum foil veggie-bags that can be placed on the grill, or get a special grill wok (recommended!) which is also great for grilling chopped veggies and really easy to cook with.
You could consider getting a second inexpensive grill just for vegetarian grilling if you BBQ a lot.
9. A fun idea is to have everyone make their own kabobs.
Place bowls with grill sized and ready cut vegetables, meats and fruit. Everyone can make their personalized kabobs.
Kids especially love this! Even dessert can be made the same way; fruit and marshmallows on a bamboo skewer lightly grilled and then served with ice cream for example!
Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 min (or overnight) before grilling.
10. Learn how much time the veggies take to grill, and start with the ones that need the most time.
The most time consuming are large veggies like whole eggplants (for a delicious Greek eggplant salad like “Melizanosalata”), fresh corn in its husk, or half cooked bake potatoes.
Wrap them in aluminum foil that can be placed directly among the coals. Combine vegetables of same size and similar density on wooden skewers for even cooking.
Since you have prepared a feast with several great main dishes, and most of it in advance, you can then sit back and relax with a glass of something and watch your BBQ Master grill (and huff and puff) in the sublime bliss of knowing whatever comes; all is well!