You know the scenario: You love grilled vegetables, but as you go to turn those mushrooms, scallions, and onion wedges sizzling away on the grill, they fall between the bars of the grate into the fire.
To avoid this problem, savvy grill buffs use a vegetable grate-an auxiliary grate that goes on top of the main grate. Often made of porcelain- or Teflon-coated metal, the vegetable grate has small holes that allow the flames and smoke flavor to reach the vegetables but keep them from falling into the fire.
A variation on the vegetable grate is the vegetable basket, a hinged wire basket into which you can put loose mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini slices, and other small pieces of vegetables. Instead of trying to turn each piece on the grill grate, you simply invert the basket.
Vegetable grates and baskets are sold at cookware shops and via mail order. If you use one, you should preheat it on the regular grill grate for about 5 minutes before adding the vegetables.
Barbecue buffs are divided on whether or not to oil the grate-regular or vegetable-before grilling vegetables. Vegetables don’t tend to stick to the bars of the grate as much as meats and seafood do (it’s the proteins in the latter that do the sticking). But if you want the better grill marks that oiling the grate gives you, and if you feel it’s better to be safe than sorry, go ahead and oil your grate right before grilling-after it has been preheated.
And please don’t feel that you can’t grill vegetables if you don’t have a vegetable grate. I traveled the barbecue train on five continents and only on one-North America-did I find cooks using vegetable grates.
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