How to Make Easy Grilled Zucchini | The Stay At Home Chef
How to Grill Zucchini
Zucchini is perfect for summer dinner parties and barbecues. Served as the main dish or as a tantalizing side, zucchini is easy to cook on any grill, from a full-sized outdoor grill to a countertop electric grill. Tender, delicious and crunchy, zucchini is a versatile vegetable, offering creative chefs plenty of opportunities to experiment.
Basic Grilled Zucchini
Heat up the grill.Grilled zucchini is delicious when well-seared. This requires using a grill that us at least medium-hot. Hotter grills would brand a set of appealing blackened grill lines, but if you're worried about burning your vegetables, you may want to opt for the medium heat. You can always simply cook your zucchini for longer if they aren't cooked to your liking.
- Heating up a gas or electric grill is easy. Turn the grill on, start the flow of gas and hit the lighter (for gas grills), close the lid, and let the grill heat. If you are using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal. Wait until they are ashy and glowing orange. See our article on lighting charcoal grills for more information.
- While waiting for the grill to heat up, do the prep work for your meal. For example, you may want to set the table, prepare the other dishes, or start chopping your zucchini (see below).
Slice the zucchini.The key to grilling zucchini is to use thin slices, not thick pieces. Thick pieces of zucchinis may end up charred on the outside but uncooked inside. Listed below, there are several good ways to chop zucchini.
- Chop zucchini into circular slices about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.6 to 1.25 centimeters) thick. These are easy to cut and easy to eat. This is a good choice when the zucchini is to be eaten as its own dish.
- Chop zucchini into cubes approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch on each side. These bite-size chunks work well for kabobs.
- Chop your zucchini into wedges. Long, thin wedges cook well on the grill. Cut the zucchini into eighths lengthwise.
- Slice your zucchini into long, thin strips. These are a little challenging — you need to cut the zucchini lengthwise into thin, paper-like strips just 1/16 of an inch thick or so. This requires a steady hand, but it's great for when you want to roll up ingredients in the zucchini pieces to make mini "wraps."
Drizzle with oil.When your zucchini pieces are all chopped up, transfer them to a mixing bowl. Drizzle about one tablespoon of cooking oil per zucchini you are cooking. Mix the contents of the bowl until the zucchini pieces are all evenly-coated. The oil will lend the zucchini pieces a little extra flavor, help them cook, and keep them from sticking to the hot grill.
- Olive oil is a good choice for its flavor, but it has a low smoke point, which means it will start smoking at hot temperatures. If you don't want to deal with the extra smoke, you might want to try an oil with a higher smoke point, like vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil.
Transfer the zucchini to the grill.Use a set of tongs to pick up the zucchini pieces and lay them on the grill one-at-a-time. You should hear a sizzling sound as soon as the zucchinis touch the hot surface. Grill the zucchini for about two minutes uninterrupted.
- If you chopped your zucchinis into thin pieces, be sure to lay them at a ninety degree angle to the bars of the grill so that it's hard for them to fall through.
- If you're worried about your zucchini sticking to the grill, use a grill brush or a paper towel to carefully paint the bars of the grill with oil before laying the zucchini pieces down.
Turn the zucchini until all sides are done.After a few minutes of cooking, the sides of the zucchini pieces touching the grill should be well-browned and tender. Flip the zucchini pieces over to cook the other side and let sit for a minute or two. Repeat as needed until the zucchinis are tender and browned all over.
- For zucchinis that are evenly-cooked to perfection, flip your zucchini pieces in the same order as you added them to the grill. This ensures that all the sides will cook for the same amount of time.
Season and serve.When your zucchini pieces are cooked on all sides, transfer them from the grill to a clean serving platter. Let them sit for a few minutes until they are cool enough to eat, then sprinkle them with the seasonings of your choice and serve them immediately. Congratulations — you've just made grilled zucchini.
- There's no "right" seasoning to put on your zucchini, but if you're looking for something everyone will like, try lightly seasoning with salt and pepper. Other good choices include garlic salt and cajun seasoning!
Try marinading in a vinaigrette.When you're tired of the ordinary zucchini taste, try spicing things up by soaking your zucchini in a flavorful marinade before cooking. Combine a little cooking oil with your favorite acidic ingredients (like vinegar or citrus juice), throw in the seasonings of your choice, and let the vegetables soak before cooking. A sample marinade recipe is available below:
- Mix 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Add a few pinches of garlic powder and a spoonful of dried rosemary, basil, and oregano — whichever you have. Pour into an airtight container, add your zucchini pieces, and let them soak for at least a few hours before cooking.
- If you are in a hurry and don't have time to marinate your vegetables, don't worry. Simply toss them in a bowl with about 1/4 cup of Italian vinaigrette salad dressing per zucchini and cook them immediately.
Make a lemon-garlic sauce for the zucchini.Zucchini's mild taste goes great with tangy citrus flavors, the savory twang of garlic, and the richness of butter. This lemon-garlic sauce makes a great addition to plain grilled zucchini — use it in place of cooking oil to paint the vegetables before grilling.
- Melt 1/2 stick of butter with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Grate about a tablespoon of zest from the lemon peel into the mixture. Stir in a teaspoon of garlic powder and dried oregano. If you have some, add a pinch of curry powder as well. Paint the zucchini pieces with the sauce and grill as normal.
Make your own citrus seasoning salt.Looking to add a little extra flavor to some plain old grilled zucchini pieces? Try making a citrus-tinged seasoning salt by mixing zest from your favorite citrus fruit with ordinary salt, then sprinkling it on just before serving. The recipe below uses a lemon, but you can use limes, oranges, or whatever else you want.
- Cook the zucchini pieces as normal, then set aside. As the zucchini cools, grab three lemons and use a fine grater or a microplane to grate the zest from the peels into a small pile on a cutting board. Add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the pile of zest, then use a knife to chop the salt and zest, combining them. Immediately use this to season the zucchini and serve. If you wait too long, the salt will dissolve.
Serve the zucchini with pesto sauce.Zucchini is great on its own, but if you're looking for a dish that's a little more satisfying, try serving it with a hearty pesto sauce. You can dip the vegetable pieces in the salt like chips or slice them extra-thin and make mini-wraps with the sauce — it's up to you. In the recipe below, chopped walnuts can substitute for pine nuts.
- Cook the zucchini pieces as normal. Add 1 cup of basil leaves, a clove of garlic, 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts to a blender. Pulse until well-combined. Gradually pour in 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, pulsing as you go to form a thick, rich pesto sauce. Serve the zucchini with pesto on the side or as the filling in mini-wraps.
Try grilling zucchini pieces on a kabob.Skewering zucchini pieces on a kabob by themselves or with other ingredients gives your guests a delicious, fun-to-eat meal. Zucchini pairs well with most common grilling ingredients, so depending on what you have available, you can make the exact kabob flavor combinations you desire. Good ingredients to add to a kabob with zucchini pieces include:
Try melting Parmesan cheese over zucchini.Savory, nutty Parmesan cheese goes well with the moderate flavor of zucchini. Melting the cheese over zucchini pieces on the grill gives a dish that's deliciously crisp and blackened on one side and richly cheesy on the other. See below for instructions.
- To make Parmesan zucchini, cut the zucchini into wide, thin pieces, then oil them and lay them on the grill as normal. Carefully sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top of each piece, then close the lid and allow the pieces to cook for two to three minutes. When the zucchini is tender and the cheese is melted, remove the pieces from the grill — you don't have to flip them.
Try grilling zucchini with other vegetables in a grill basket.Looking to cook a lot of vegetables on the grill at once? One easy way to do this is to use a grill basket, which is basically a small metal cage with handles that's sold as a grill accessory. Filling a grill basket with mixed vegetables and cooking over a hot grill gives the vegetables deliciously crisp, blackened exteriors while allowing their flavors to blend together. Best of all, this keeps the rest of your grill free for meat or other dishes.
- To prep vegetables for cooking in a grill basket, chop them into similar-sized pieces and toss them in olive oil. Add your favorite seasonings (rosemary and garlic powder are good choices) and stir to combine. Put the veggies in the basket and set the basket on the hot surface of the grill.
- If you don't have a grill basket, you can get a similar effect by folding your vegetables into a pocket made from aluminum foil.
Picking Out a Good Zucchini
Look for a small-to-medium sized zucchini.Bigger isnotbetter when it comes to finding the perfect zucchini to grill. Large zucchinis tend to have their flavor "spread out" through the vegetable. That is, they're usually somewhat watery and flavorless compared to smaller zucchinis, so choose the latter for grilling.
- A good rule of thumb is not to pick a zucchini that's much bigger than a hand-held flashlight. Zucchinis' taste starts to suffer after they reach about six to eight inches in length.
Look for a vibrant color.Did you know that not all zucchinis are green? In fact, perfectly-ripe zucchinis can be green, yellow, and even white.No matter what color of zucchini you get, check the vegetable to make sure its color appears rich, bright, and vibrant.
- Dull or "dead"-looking zucchinis, on the other hand, may be a sign that the vegetables are past their prime.
Feel for a firm, smooth texture.A ripe zucchini that's ready for grilling should be firm and crisp. However, it shouldn't be outright hard — the flesh should give very slightly when squeezed. You'll also want to run your hand down the length of the zucchini to check for nicks, cuts, and other deformations. If you find any, pick a different zucchini.
- Thebestzucchinis have a very soft, subtle "hair" on them. You should be able to feel this light, bristly texture with the back of your hand.
Store zucchinis in the fridge.Fresh, high-quality zucchinis last about a week in the fridge. If you can, place the zucchini in a paper bag, rather than a plastic one. Airtight plastic materials can trap in moisture, making the zucchini get slimy and spoil faster.
- Tightly-wrapped zucchinis also store for months in freezer. In this case, youwillwant to wrap the zucchini tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a tight ziplock bag. Blanching the zucchini before freezing it can prevent it from discoloring and losing its texture while frozen. See our article on blanching vegetables for more information.
To grill zucchini, start by heating the grill to medium hot, and slicing the zucchini into circular slices about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Then, toss the zucchini with olive oil until all the pieces are evenly coated. Next, lay them on the grill for 2 minutes, then flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes. Let the zucchini slices cool on a clean serving dish, then sprinkle with the seasonings of your choice and serve immediately.
- If you're also cooking meat on the grill, don't let your zucchini touch uncooked meat — if it does, let it cook for a little longer to kill any bacteria.
- Zucchini pair especially well with yellow summer squashes. In fact, the two vegetables are actually very closely related (zucchinis are a type of squash), which explains their similar tastes.
Video: Easy Grilled Zucchini and a Couple of Shoutouts
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