Grilled eggplant, also known as aubergine or brinjal, beats a veggie burger any day when done correctly.
It has a “meaty” like texture, packed with flavor. It is also a pretty filling vegetable, unlike celery.
However, done wrong, eggplant can become a tasteless, oily mess.
So we’ve rounded up our chefs to find out how to make grilled eggplant so good that even meat lovers want seconds.
Summary of the Key Findings
- Grilled eggplant is excellent for a BBQ as it can work as a side or a main.
- It absorbs spices and herbs brilliantly, too.
- The key is to prep correctly, ensuring they are fully drained, brush rather than drench with oil, and grill it for at least five minutes on each side.
There is more to eggplant than eggplant parmesan. Gorgon Ramsay makes steaks out of it.
The charred lines from the grill are the perfect crispy contrast to that tender, delicious burst of smoky herb flavor. It just takes a few simple steps.
Grilling an Eggplant: The Basics
The quick and dirty basics to grilling an eggplant are as follows:
- Slice eggplant into ¼ - ¾ inch slices as uniformly as possible
- Soak in brine for 30 min
- Drain and pat them down until completely dry
- Place on pan and brush with olive oil
- Sprinkle with salt, and, if desired, other seasonings
- Place slices on the grill at medium heat and baste
- Grill for 4-5 min, depending on thickness, with the lid closed
- Baste, flip, baste again
- Grill for another 4-5 min with the lid shut
- Check. You want grill marks and tenderness, but not fall-the-part mush
- If still pretty hard, give it another 1-2 min on each side
However, for true success, you need to think about the details.
Select Your Vegetable
Eggplant, like zucchini, comes in various sizes . Some are petite; others are long and thin, while others resemble an American football stand-in.
You want the football version when it comes to grilling; otherwise, it will be a nightmare to keep the pieces from falling through the wire rack.
You want an eggplant that is firm but not hard like an apple.
When giving it a little squeeze, the skin should bounce back, not retain your thumbprint.
Also, the skin should have a slight shine, not be wrinkled or damaged so that the inner flesh is exposed.
Once your eggplants are selected, slice them up, ¼ - ¾ inch thick, depending on preference.
Be sure to keep the skin on. It helps the eggplant retain its shape when grilling.
To Salt or Not to Salt?
You may have noticed that many eggplant recipes are now skipping the salt prep that comes directly after slicing.
Which does seem weird, given that’s how preparing eggplants has always been done.
But as Bonappetit explains, Once upon a time, eggplants tasted incredibly bitter and salting them before cooking helped to draw out and eliminate some of that astringency .
Many recipes skip the salting step since modern eggplants have a mild flavor.
It saves our already hectic lives time and hassle. Saving time is generally excellent, and we’re all for it, but not when grilling eggplant.
Because there is a second reason for salting eggplant: ridding it of excess water.
When you deplete the unnecessary moisture from an eggplant, the flavor is heightened, and the chances of ending up with a soggy mess are reduced.
Again, this isn’t such a big deal when making a dip or spread from eggplant, but it is when grilling.
How to Salt an Eggplant?
There are two main methods to salting eggplant before cooking: dry or brine.
Dry Salting an Eggplant
Dry salting an eggplant requires liberally applying salt to the exposed surfaces of the slices and leaving it on a baking sheet for half an hour.
Line the sheet with something absorbent to increase the effectiveness, such as a paper towel. Place salted slices on top.
Then cover with a paper towel, then weigh it down with another pan holding a couple of cookbooks.
When time is up, rinse the slices and pat dry.
How to Brine Eggplant
Brining an eggplant seems to help it hold its flavor better when grilled.
Also, since the pieces are floating, they don’t get as “squished” as they might when dry salting.
To brine the eggplant:
- Fill pot 2/3rds full with cold water
- Mix a tablespoon of salt with half a cup of water, then stir until dissolved.
- Add mixture to cold water
- Check it is salty enough: it should remind you of the sea
- Add slices
- Set a plate on top of the bobbing slices to keep them from floating up
- Wait 30 min
- Rinse (optional)
- Pat until fully dry
You need to baste your eggplant with a heat-resistant brush before and during grilling.
The baste can be as simple as olive oil and some salt. Or you can use herbs and spices.
If using dry herbs and spices, add them to the baste to apply them throughout the process.
If using fresh, hold some back to apply to the top after you’ve flipped the eggplant.
Popular herbs and spices to use for grilled eggplant:
- Minced Garlic
- Black Pepper
- Cajun Spices
You can also use classic basil and oregano. Keep in mind the new versions are much more fragile than, say, fresh rosemary, so you might want to reduce the amount of time they’re in the heat of the grill.
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Grilling Eggplants: Heat & Time
The general rule for grilling eggplant is 5 minutes a side on medium heat. You want the grill lines nice and crispy and the flesh tender.
Raw eggplant is pretty tasteless. Thus, people prefer to error on the side of overcooking rather than underdoing it when in doubt.
Because you have salted your eggplant, patted dry, and are basting the oil rather than soaking, it shouldn’t become soggy.
It might still threaten to fall apart, but losing some firmness often adds to the flavor.
Keep in mind, the thinner the pieces, the less time they’ll need. Thicker slices, closer to ¾ of an inch, will require at least 5 min aside.
Closing the lid will also help hold in the flavors while adding a bit of that smoky summer touch.
You can use these smoker grill combos to smoke and grill your eggplants easily.