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One of the best tips for grilling eggplant is using fresh, quality produce and taking the time to prep the vegetable before placing it on the grill. Unlike other cooking methods, grilling eggplant does not require peeling the vegetable and, often times, the best eggplant is simply seasoned. Many people prefer the taste that a charcoal grill produces in this vegetable, although a gas grill can also be a good option.
The key to making fantastic grilled eggplant is to start with the best quality eggplant available. The vegetable should be very firm and seem heavier that its size indicates. The skin should be shiny and smooth; an eggplant with breaks or cracks in its skin will not be the best for grilling. When the eggplant is tapped, it should not sound hollow. For a less bitter-tasting dish, using an eggplant with a shallow, round button on the bottom can be helpful; one should avoid eggplants with a deep, long mark at the bottom.
When grilling eggplant, it is typically best to leave the skin on. This helps the eggplant hold its shape and prevents it from breaking apart while on the grill. By salting and draining the eggplant before grilling it, the bitterness common with the skin is typically diminished.
Eggplant is usually best when grilled in slices on the grates, rather than wrapped in foil. Cutting the produce into discs or slabs makes grilling directly on the grate possible. Once the vegetable is cut into the desired shape, it should be lightly salted with kosher salt and left in a colander to drain for an hour. This will draw out a lot of the moisture in the eggplant, improving the texture and ensuring that excess oil is not soaked into the produce while grilling eggplant.
After the hour is up, the eggplant slices should be rinsed with cool water and gently squeezed and patted dry to remove excess liquid. At this point, the slices can be marinated or simply brushed lightly with oil and seasoned with pepper. No matter what type of seasoning is used before grilling eggplant, it's important not to marinate the vegetable in a salty marinade or add additional salt when seasoning; the salt used to draw out the water in the first step will already leave the eggplant salty enough for the majority of people.
Eggplant can be grilled on a charcoal or gas grill until tender. Medium to medium high heat is typically best for this. Unlike other grilled vegetables, eggplant is usually best cooked until it is completely done. Raw or undercooked eggplant can be bitter.
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