Summertime gets all the grilling hype — but fall is arguably a much better season for grilling. The hot weather has cooled; the crisp air makes being outside more enjoyable; and the season’s selection of vegetables is ideal. So, what better way to celebrate this magical time of year than by grilling one of fall’s best offerings: Brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts often (and unfairly) get a bad rap because of their bitter taste. However, the actual Brussels sprout might not be to blame. According to several studies, some people who experience Brussels sprouts as bitter have a gene that enhances their sensitivity to bitterness. Additionally, Brussels sprouts are frequently overcooked, which can make their texture and flavor unpleasant. When properly prepared, Brussels sprouts are sweet and nutty. So, as divisive a subject as Brussels sprouts may be, we think they’re ripe for redemption — and grilling is one of the best ways to make them shine.
Why Grill Your Brussels Sprouts?
It’s simple, really: Grilling makes them taste better. As cookbook author Steven Raichlen writes for The New York Times, “Grilling maximizes a vegetable’s flavor, with minimal effort … fire almost always makes them taste better. The high, dry heat of the grill caramelizes a vegetable’s sugars, intensifying its sweetness.” He continues, “Grilling imparts a subtle but inimitable smoke flavor, which adds complexity and soulfulness to a vegetable’s already vibrant taste.” So if you’ve never met a Brussels sprout you liked, you probably just haven’t had a grilled one yet.
The advantages of grilling your Brussels sprouts don’t stop there. Not only is grilling faster than other popular cooking methods (like roasting), it also gives you more bang for your nutritional buck. Grilling may help retain more nutrients — and Brussels sprouts are packed with them. In fact, according to a study done by the CDC, Brussels sprouts ranked 21st on a list of the most nutritionally dense fruits and vegetables. Eating them can promote healthy skin, reduce wrinkles, strengthen bones, help prevent cancer, and aid in eye health, among other benefits.
Prep Your Brussels Sprouts for Grilling
To get your Brussels sprouts ready for the grill, wash them first. Dave Beaulieu at No Recipe Required recommends removing dirt by rinsing your veggies in cold water, cutting off the tip of the stem (not too much — you want enough of the stem to hold the leaves together), and then getting rid of any outer leaves that have blemishes.
Once you’re ready to grill your Brussels sprouts, it’s a good idea to blanch them. Blanching is the process of boiling vegetables for a short amount of time and then cooling them immediately. This process helps to slightly soften the sprouts so they cook evenly without burning on the outside. It also helps retain nutrients, color, and flavor.
To blanch your Brussels sprouts, food blog Posh Journal recommends the following instructions:
- After cleaning, slice your sprouts in half lengthwise if large, or leave them whole if small. Make sure Brussels sprouts are as uniform in size as possible for even cooking.
- Cut an “X” or “I” in the bottom (stem side) of the sprout so center softens at same rate as outer layers.
- Prepare ice bath by filling large bowl with water and ice and set aside.
- Set burner to high heat and bring large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Let Brussels sprouts boil for 2 minutes.
- Place sprouts immediately in ice bath to stop the cooking process — the goal is to soften, not cook them.
- Let sprouts cool completely and pat dry.
Boost Your Sprouts’ Flavor With Seasonings
Before they hit the grill, give you Brussels sprouts an additional dash of flavor for optimum results. Many seasonings go nicely with the vegetable’s mild flavor, so you really can’t go wrong. Use these ideas for inspiration:
- For a fresh Mediterranean kick: The creators at Dinner at the Zoo recommend tossing them in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, minced garlic, and chopped parsley before grilling.
- For simplicity that delivers on flavor: The creators at Skinny Taste suggest coating your sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then drizzling them in balsamic glaze before serving.
- For a sweet and spicy combo: The creators at Ambitious Kitchen say to coat your Brussels sprouts in olive oil, pure maple syrup, dijon mustard, minced garlic, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper.
Take your family’s favorite flavors into consideration and have fun experimenting — they’ll be delicious no matter what!
Time to Get Grilling
Once you’ve got them cleaned, blanched, and seasoned, your Brussels sprouts are ready for the big-time: Grilling. There are multiple ways to cook Brussels sprouts on the grill, but here are three favorites:
The Skewer Method
In one of his recipes, renowned chef Alton Brown says to place Brussels sprouts on a metal skewer, leaving about a half-inch between each one, and grilling them, stem side closest to the flame, for 5 minutes on each side. If you use bamboo or wood skewers, soak them in water for about 30 minutes beforehand.
The Foil Method
Heather Tullos, creator of food blog Sugar Dish Me, recommends coarsely chopping your Brussels sprouts, placing them on a sheet of tin foil, and crumpling the edges of the foil to form an open pouch. Next, place the pouch directly on the grill, and cook 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until they are crispy and golden. Be careful removing the foil pouch from the grill since it will be hot.
The Straight-On-the-Grill Method
This one may seem self-explanatory. You can place your Brussels sprouts directly on your grill, just make sure they’re large enough not to slip through the grates. If you do it this way, Chef Clay from All Recipes recommends cooking them “until grill marks appear, about 10 minutes.”
Brussels sprouts are yummy enough to eat on their own, but they also pair beautifully with entrées like grilled chicken thighs or herb marinated steak. I hope you like being outside by the grill — because these recipes might just make the oft-maligned Brussels sprout your family’s new favorite treat.