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grilled asparagus

Try Dry-Grilled Asparagus & More

A simple question leads to dry-grilled asparagus and a host of new ideas about grilling all vegetables more creatively.

Grilled asparagus is just about everyone’s favorite side. For the cook, it’s a no-brainer to prepare alongside just about anything you’re grilling outdoors.

Or, so I though until one of my food editors recently asked me, “Doesn’t the asparagus fall through the grate?”

I’d never thought about it before, but it’s a great question! I usually just slap the asparagus on the grill and never have a problem.

grilled asparagus

But of course it makes sense that a vegetable that is the same shape and width of the grill grate could fall through.

How to Grill Asparagus

All I do is arrange the asparagus perpendicular to the grate, so that they can’t fall through.

You certainly can use a grill topper or even a sheet of heavy-duty foil. Both of these items make it easier to remove the asparagus from the grill when it’s done.

But I say go bare.

Since asparagus don’t shrink much during grilling, you can turn them without any trouble. {Actually, I just roll them over using tongs.} Scallions–and other vegetables that shrink a lot, like mushrooms, or juicy ones, like tomatoes–are a different story.

grilled asparagus

These vegetable do need some mechanism to avoid the painful experience of watching them slip through the grate onto the unappetizing charred drippings of a hundred meals. {In a future post, I’ll be covering all of the options on the market in this category of grill accessories, including baskets and the new grill mats.}

But for asparagus, the bare grate–brushed clean and lightly oiled–works!

What is Dry-Grilled Asparagus?

A new technique I’ve recently adopted is dry-grilling. This simply means that I don’t treat the asparagus to my usual olive oil + sea salt prep.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that tried-and-true method. So, what does dry-grilled asparagus–or any other vegetable–get you?

Versatility! Olive oil is wonderful, but it sets me on a particular flavor track. Dry-grilled asparagus keeps all the options open.

grilled asparagus

Another reason to skip the oiling step for any vegetable is for folks who are avoiding pressed oils. Just this week, I received a Forage reader email requesting that I provide oil-free options in my recipes.

More people are going oil free– limiting it for health reasons in general. But specifically when grilling, oils–especially polyunsaturated oils–heated to high temperatures can pose a variety of health risks, from inflammatory disease to cancer. No, thank you.

Seasoning Dry-Grilled Asparagus

The intriguing phenomenon I’ve noticed is that unoiled vegetables appear to grill differently. The surface dries out and wrinkles and the vegetables remain firmer–something I’ll be observing more over this month of grilling.

It turns out this isn’t a new idea. In my friend, Kathleen Bauer’s blog, Good Stuff NW, one author called oiling vegetables before grilling “a mistake.”

I don’t go that far, but I agree that the standard oil-and-salt step isn’t necessary. And it can open up new directions that inspire your vegetable creativity.

With asparagus, once it’s grilled to crisp-tender perfection, I can choose a variety of flavoring options, like this simple treatment in the photos of sesame oil and furikake, a popular rice seasoning often featuring seaweed, sesame seed and salt. And you’ll find more ideas below.

  1. Brown butter & lemon
  2. Yogurt-tahini sauce
  3. Spinach pesto
  4. Romesco sauce
  5. Curry powder + butter

And that’s just the beginning. You can try this dry-grilled technique with any vegetable you find in season. Toss it on the grill, then see what happens.

Want more grilling tips? Sign up now for my Good Grill Challenge 2020 and get a free copy of my new e-book, Girls Who Grill.

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Are you game to dry-grill your vegetables? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

This post contains affiliate links for products that I wholeheartedly endorse from my personal use in my home kitchen–for which I may receive a small commission to support this blog.

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