Tips for Perfect Smoke-Roasted Vegetables for Thanksgiving
No matter how well-equipped your kitchen, we all have experience with the logjams that can happen in the oven or on the stovetop come the biggest food holiday of the year—Thanksgiving.
Which is why my friends and family and I nearly always press our outdoor grill into service. Of course, we’ve smoke-roasted many turkeys, but over the years, we’ve come to appreciate how wonderful smoke-roasted vegetables are, with their brilliant colors, caramelized edges, and smoky undertones.
But you can’t throw a pile of vegetables into a grill basket or disposable foil pan and expect picture-perfect results. Here are our tips for Instagram-worthy vegetables that will rack up the “likes.” The “loves,” even!
11 Tips for Perfect Smoke-Roasted Vegetables
Have a plan: Group vegetables of similar densities (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and butternut squash, for example, or cauliflower and broccoli) and cooking times together. (For cooking times for nearly every vegetable, check out Steven’s comprehensive book, How to Grill Vegetables. Faster-cooking vegetables can be added later so that everything gets done about the same time.
Aim for similar-sized pieces: Cut vegetables in relatively uniform-size pieces, but for maximum visual appeal, vary the shapes. For example, add slivers of fresh fennel or red bell pepper as a counterpoint to cubes. You can even roast squash in attractive wedges.
Mix colors: Purple onions or eggplant, cherry tomatoes, bright green brussels sprouts…you get the picture.
Do add smoke: If not cooking over a wood fire, add chunks of hardwood or smoking chips—soak for 30 minutes in water or apple cider, then drain—or make smoking pouches out of foil to generate smoke on your charcoal grill or gas grill. Enclose the wood chips in a rectangle of foil, then poke holes in it with a fork. Replenish as needed.
Oil the vegetables and season generously: We like to toss our vegetables with a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large bowl and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fresh minced herbs add color and flavor, of course, but should be added to the vegetables just before serving.
Stop the bleeding: Red beets will stain anything they touch. Wrap them loosely in a foil pouch before adding them to the pan with the other vegetables. If you can find them, yellow beets won’t discolor the other veggies.
Roast a head or two of garlic: Cut the tops off and roast the garlic, cut sides up. The garlic will become soft and sweet, and can be squeezed on the vegetables for extra flavor.
Don’t crowd your pan(s): Crowded vegetables simply steam, and won’t develop those enticing caramelized flavors. Use 2 pans if necessary, and leave a bit of space between each piece.
Toss or turn periodically to get caramelization on all sides: Assign someone the job of keeping an eye on the vegetables to ensure everything cooks properly.
Use a grill basket if your gathering is small: A mesh grill basket or grill wok maximizes exposure to heat and smoke. For larger gatherings, use disposable foil pans or heavy-duty sheet pans. If using sheet pans, line with foil or parchment for easier clean-up.
Use a hot fire: An ideal temperature for roasting most vegetables is 400 to 425 degrees. Too low, and the vegetables will steam.