How to Grill Tomatoes
Grilling tomatoes brings out a different taste than other cooking methods. Next time you fire up your grill, set aside some room for your vegetable side dishes.
Choose tomatoes.Thick-skinned tomatoes are less likely to burst on the grill. These include Roma tomatoes, plum tomatoes, and crack resistant tomatoes.Avoid overripe, oozing tomatoes, which will drop juice and flesh through the grate.
Drain tomatoes (optional).Remove excess water to shorten the grilling time and keep your tomatoes firm. Cut the tomatoes in half, then sprinkle salt on the cut sides. Place face down on a paper towel or cooking rack for 30 minutes.
- Even if you don't wait the full 30 minutes, drain them while the grill is warming up.
- Don't try this with small tomatoes. You'll lose too many flavorful juices just cutting them open.
Preheat the grill.Tomatoes grill best over high heat. Set a gas grill to high at least 15 minutes before grilling. For a charcoal grill, wait until the coals are covered in ash and you can only keep your hand near the grate for three seconds or less.
- Place the grate 4–5 inches (10–13cm) above the heat source.
- Close the lid of the gas grill on cool or windy days.
Make the marinade (optional).Tomatoes taste great with just a drizzle of olive oil, but extra flavor is useful if they're the centerpiece of a dish. Here are a few delicious options:
- Olive oil, salt, black pepper (or lemon pepper), garlic powder, ground habanero pepper. Go easy on the salt and pepper, to avoid overpowering the tomato flavor.
- 1 cup (240 mL) olive oil, ¼ cup (60 mL) white vinegar, ¼ cup (60 mL) sugar, and 1 tbsp (15 mL) anchovy paste.Add parsley once cooled, and top the tomatoes with feta.
- To turn a marinade into a crust, mash breadcrumbs into it until soggy. Top the tomato with blue cheese and cover with the breadcrumb marinade mixture.
- Fresh basil, minced garlic, chopped fresh basil, and a pinch each of black pepper and salt.
Decide how to cut the tomatoes.The best approach depends on the size and juiciness of your tomatoes. The goal is to stop the pulp from dripping out, and to make the tomatoes easy to handle. Here are your options:
- Cut medium to large tomatoes in half for easy handling with a spatula.
- If you're using the "cheese crust" mentioned above, cut the top ¼ off medium or large tomatoes.
- Skewer small tomatoes whole on two parallel skewers, for easy turning.
- Place small tomatoes in a grill basket. Preheat the basket on the grill for a few minutes.
- Wrap a mound of juicy tomatoes in aluminum foil, crimping tightly to seal in juices. (Brush with marinade first.)
Let soak in marinade.For best results, let the tomatoes soak in the marinade for at least twenty minutes. If you're planning ahead, they can soak in the fridge overnight.
- If you're in a hurry, just brush the marinade onto the cut side of the tomatoes, or onto the whole surface if the tomatoes are uncut. You'll still get some flavor, and the oil will help prevent sticking on the grate.
- For extra flavor, let the tomatoes soak in the marinade for a couple hours, or even overnight.
Position the tomatoes.Place halved tomatoes cut side down on the grill, and leave them in place until ready. When grilling whole tomatoes, rotate whenever they start to drip. Keep a close eye on the tomatoes the whole time. Move them to a cooler spot on the grill if one of them bursts.
- Use a metal spatula instead of tongs, to avoid mashing the tomatoes.
- For the "cheese crust" method, grill with the cheese on top instead.
Grill until lightly charred.Grill until the tomatoes shrivel and develop a few black spots. This usually takes 5–10 minutes, depending on tomato size and grill temperature.
- When grilling foil-wrapped tomatoes, you can wait until they burst into a hot, caramelized mess. This takes about 18 minutes.
- Optionally, paint on more marinade halfway through.
Serving Suggestions & Variations
Eat by themselves.These are plenty delicious as their own dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan or Asiago right away, so it melts over the tomatoes. Top with sprigs of fresh basil, Italian parsley, or pine nuts toasted for five minutes in a dry pan.
Turn it into a salad.Chop grilled tomatoes coarsely. Complement the caramelized sugars with salty ingredients, such as capers and feta. Mix with grilled asparagus and red onion, or add a fresh taste with arugula and snap peas.
Make a salsa.Roast jalapeño peppers with the tomatoes, then remove the stem and seeds. Coarsely chop peppers and tomatoes alongside garlic, cilantro, and white onion. Toss in apple cider vinegar, a sprinkle of salt, and a pinch of cumin.
Turn them into a sauce.Squeeze off the skins, then boil them down to a sauce that packs caramelized tomato flavor. Include garlic, basil, and/or fresh Italian parsley.
- For a fresher flavor, grill halved tomatoes on the skin side, for just a minute or two.The tomatoes will roast further as they boil down. Using fully grilled tomatoes can lead to a burnt or over-sweet sauce.
If you'd like to grill tomatoes, start by setting your grill to high and cutting your tomatoes in half. Season the tomatoes by drizzling them in olive oil. Then, place them cut side facing downwards on the grill. To cook, grill the tomatoes for 5-10 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the grill when the skin appears lightly charred and has a few black spots.
Video: HOW TO COOK A TOMATO - Greg's KItchen
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