How Not to Burn Veggies on the Grill

If you’re like me, when the weather’s nice, you love to be at your grill. But when a lot of people are over, it’s easy to get pulled away from the grill. When that happens, it’s easy to burn your meat and veggies. So, I wondered how not to burn veggies on the grill.

To not burn veggies on the grill make sure to not use too much oil or salt. Too much oil can drip & cause flare-ups & too much salt can leach moisture out of the vegetables causing them to dry out & burn faster. But time & temp are crucial too, with many only needing 6-8 minutes at medium-high heat, turning once.

But there’s a lot more that goes into great grilled vegetables, so let’s keep going!

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What oil is good for grilling vegetables?

When you’re grilling, either charcoal, wood, or propane gas, you are typically heating at pretty high heats.

While many of us love our extra virgin olive oil, that’s not always the best choice for high heat.


Olive oil has a smoke point (ie: kind of like a burn point) of only 375°. Your typical propane grill will often exceed 450 and wood or charcoal grilling can be much higher still.

Canola oil, on the other hand, has a smoke point of 468°. refined peanut oil is 450°, vegetable oil (usually soy or a soy blend) is also 450°, and sunflower is 478°.

Thus, any of those latter ones make a much better choice for a hot grill than olive oil.

What temperature should vegetables be grilled at?

Of course, corn on the cob is very different than a bell pepper, and a thin slice of zucchini is also very different.

So it stands to reason there isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all-approach to grilling all types of veggies.

Here are the best times and temperatures for the most commonly grilled veggies. Follow these to help ensure you don’t burn your veggies.

Veggies to grill at medium temperature (350°)

  • Corn (in the husk, silk removed, and soaked in cold water at least 15 minutes) – 15-20 minutes (rotating during cooking)
  • Leeks (cut in half down the stalk and brushed with oil)  – 5 minutes per side
  • Artichokes (cut in half, brushed with oil) – 15-20 minutes per side

Veggies to grill at medium-high temperature (400-420°)

  • Peppers (cut in half, brushed with oil) – 8 minutes (skin side) 3 minutes (other side)
  • Onion (brushed with oil, cut into thick rings)  – 8 minutes (flipping often)
  • Asparagus (brushed with oil, salt, and pepper) – 7 minutes (rotating often)
  • Eggplant (cut in half or thick circles, brushed with oil) – 4 minutes/side
  • Mushrooms (remove stem, scrape out the gills, brush with oil) – 8 minutes/side
  • Squash & Zucchini (sliced longways in 3rds, brushed with oil and salt) – 6 minutes/side

Click on the image to see the full infographic

How do I know how hot my grill is?

Many grills come with a build in thermometer.

Unfortunately, they often stop working after a while or the glass gets so blackened you can no longer read it. They also aren’t measuring the surface temp of the grill itself where your food is.

Thus, to ensure you don’t burn your grilled vegetables, it’s best to have a stand-alone grill thermometer so you can accurately gauge how hot your grill is.

The top-rated thermometer is from a company called Riida.

Their TM08 Wireless Meat Thermometer is nothing short of amazing! Check out all these features and see if it’s not the PERFECT solution for your grill, smoker, or BBQ:

  • Features 2 probes to check temps of either 2 different meats (or one meat and the grill temp)
  • Set an alert when it reaches the perfect temp or gets too high
  • For meats you can set it to alert you when it reaches your perfect doneness (rare, medium, etc)
  • Probes are made of food-grade stainless steel and are attached with heat-resistant steel mesh cables
  • Comes with a wireless receiver you can keep on you that receivers temps and alerts up to 300 feet away!

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How long does a charcoal grill take to get to the right temperature?

This is often where novice grillers screw up.

I know because I’ve done it many times. We flame up the coals a few times with lighter fluid (as our spouses start verifying we haven’t let our life insurance policy lapse).

Then we start to see the coals turn white and feel some heat and then have a tendency to throw the food on too early.

Then the coals start to flame (especially if you over-oiled or over-marinated the food) and the flames lick the food in excess which can lead to burned veggies and meats.

While the thermostat I mentioned above is a great tool to have, it doesn’t tell you when your coals are at their peak.

Most charcoal will be totally white-gray in color after about 10 minutes.

At this point, they are at high heat. Most veggies, as we got into above, need medium or medium-high heat. So we have to wait.

Thus you’ll want to resist the urge to throw the veggies on until about 20 minutes for medium-high or up to 30 minutes for medium.

How long does it take to grill vegetables in a basket?

A basket helps grill veggies on your BBQ without burning by keeping them contained inside a wire mesh holder. It also prevents them from falling through the grill gates too, which can be very helpful for smaller vegetables.

It also helps keep them from sticking the grill as well.

Bigger veggies like corn don’t need a basket, but slices of onions, peppers, and squash work great in a basket.

As I got into above, different veggies need different temps and times, but generally speaking, most vegetables you would put in a basket would need medium-high heat (400-420°) for around 6-8 minutes, flipping a few times throughout.

While some grill baskets are open top, I prefer the convenience of a basket with a locking lid and handle as it makes the flipping of the veggies incredibly easy.

Qualitech makes a great one that has 3 separate compartments, so you could do all veggies or a combo of veggies, meat, or even whole fish.

It comes with a removable handle, gloves, and a wooden locking handle to keep the food inside the basket as you rotate. Almost 5 stars and free shipping, and a price that won’t break the bank.

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Do you put oil on vegetables before grilling?

Some so-called experts do recommend brushing veggies with oil before grilling.

However, many other experts recommend brushing the grill grates with oil rather than the veggies themselves. The reason is that as the oil heats up, it burns quickly and can cause your vegetables to taste burned and rancid.

To brush the grill grates, simply pour some oil on a paper towel (before the flames are going, but after you’ve scraped the grates clean) and wipe the grates to where they are coated (but not dripping).

During cooking, if you need to reapply, pour the oil on a cloth rag and using some long tongs, drag the towel up and down back and forth across the grates.

If you apply oil to your grates every time you use your grill it has the same positive effect as seasoning a cast iron skillet. As the grill grates get seasoned they become more non-stick too.

If you do insist on brushing the veggies with oil, go lightly!

Too much oil means a lot of oil dripping down onto the coals or the inside of your gas grill. This can cause flare-ups, and create a big mess to clean up afterward.

Flare-ups can cause your veggies to burn and also blacken the outside before the inside is fully cooked.

Should you salt vegetables before grilling?

Salt is tricky.

For one, if you don’t use it or use too little, food tastes bland. Too much and not only is it too salty, but it tends to rob the food of moisture making it really dry.

Dry veggies tend to cook too quickly and can easily burn. That means yucky, shriveled, and blackened veggies!

But if you only salt after grilling, the salt just gets charred on the outside of the veggies, meaning you taste the salt first and then the vegetables.

Also not great.

The plus of using a little salt is it will cause a small amount of moisture to get released during grilling and the salt tends to merge with the flavor of the food and gently carmelize on the outside.

So my recommendation is to use a small amount of salt before you grill and then season more generously once they come off the grill.

Do you grill meat or vegetables first?

There are 2 considerations here.

First is whether anyone you are serving is vegetarian. In that case, you’d want to do the veggies first so your vegetarian guests aren’t offended.

That being said, grilling meat, especially fatty meat, can leave a lot of residue on the grill grates.

While some claim this helps impart flavor to foods that get cooked after it, it’s often mostly burned marinade and oil; not necessarily tasty.

The 2nd consideration, if you are using charcoal, is that the coals are at their hottest after about 10 minutes which is ideal for beef or corn on the cob (in the husk), but not so for veggies (or chicken).

So here, it might make sense to grill the meat first and then the veggies.

If you are grilling on propane, however, then this is a non-issue since you can adjust the heat easily. But for charcoal grills, you can also add more briquettes after grilling the veggies and 10 minutes later be back to high heat.

All the considerations combined, I think you get the best results from grilling veggies first, and then chicken or fish, and if you are grilling beef on a non-gas grill, adding more coals, waiting 10 minutes, and then grilling the meat.

Are grilled veggies healthy?

As with much in life, it depends on your perspective.

Compared to deep-fried potatoes, grilling is definitely healthier. Compared to steaming or roasting? Not as much. Ultimately many vegetables release a compound called acrylamide when heated under ANY method, so grilling is no different.

Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen and thus a cause for concern. But unless you’re planning to move to a raw foods diet, you’re consuming a certain amount of it anyway (plus it’s in stuff like coffee too, which I am NOT giving up).

One healthy addition to your small kitchen appliances, however, is an air fryer. My wife got me one for Christmas and I now use it all the time.

Not sure if it’s right for you? Check out my list of all 13 significant Advantages of an Air Fryer and see what you think.

Are Burned vegetables still healthy?

Of course, if they are blackened beyond belief, no one will want to eat them anyway. But often we sometimes get ones that are just a little burned.

Many meats release a harmful compound called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) when charred on the grill. This has been linked to cancer.

The good news is that this DOESN’T happen when grilling vegetables, even if a little charred or burned.

Charring veggies does, however, release a known carcinogen called benzopyrene which also gets released from cigarette smoke.

If you want to ensure you avoid this, along with learning how to not burn your veggies, try grilling with indirect heat.

You can do this by keeping the coals on one side of the grill and the veggies on the other. On a propane grill, just turn the burner off under the veggies.

Alternately, placing the veggies on a solid tray or aluminum foil also helps ensure they only get indirect heat, which is crucial for avoiding benzopyrene.

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What is better for grilling, charcoal or gas?

This is a loaded question and one that if you asked 10 different people you’d get 10 different answers.

To be sure, there are some definite Differences Between Wood and Charcoal Grilling.

So if you aren’t sure which is better, I highly encourage you to check out my very in-depth post on that subject.

Ultimately, for flavor, using natural lump hardwood charcoal gets you great results. But for novice grillers, the convenience of a propane grill means it heats up quickly and stays at a very consistent temperature. This ultimately makes for an easier time in learning to cook veggies on the grill without burning them.

One question a lot of people have is how safe propane grills are.

Because basically, you’re grilling with a huge gas tank near open flames! I decided to look into the safety issues of propane grills and wrote a quick article which dives into that question in great detail, including the 2 most common reasons that could lead to a propane tank exploding.

So just click the link to check it out!

Final thoughts

In this post, we took an in-depth look into the world of grilled vegetables.

We explored all the best tips and hacks for grilling vegetable tips, talked about charcoal and gas grilling, and answered all the top questions that come up, such as whether you oil and salt veggies before you grill.

Ultimately, though, we dove into the question of how not to burn veggies on the grill. That way you can serve perfectly grilled veggies every time, even in the middle of a busy dinner party!

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No pesky emails to enter, just 1 click and you can download a PDF to your phone. All the main veggies you might grill with times and temps and tips!

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Jeff Campbell

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