Surgically precise crosshatched grill marks may look great on glistening slabs of steak, but those pretty marks don’t do much to enhance the eating experience. But there is another culinary deployment of the crosshatch that does, in fact, make for better eating.
I’m talking about crosshatching certain vegetables before grilling. This means simply making a series of shallow diagonal cuts in two directions (to make a diamond grid) on the surface(s) of the food that will meet the grill.
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There are three good reasons to cut crosshatch patterns into certain vegetables.
- The cuts create more surface area to soak up smoke, grill flavor, and any sauce or glaze you may be brushing on.
- Crosshatching is a way to let especially moist veggies, such as zucchini, shed their excess water: The crosshatch exposes the interiors of the vegetables to more heat so that the moisture can evaporate. This results in tender grilled vegetables that steer clear of being mushy or soggy.
- Grilled vegetables that have been crosshatched look especially appealing and, dare we say, chef-y.
What Kinds of Produce Should You Crosshatch?
We like to crosshatch slices of eggplant; halved zucchini and summer squash; larger mushrooms (such as portobello caps); and even slices of denser vegetables (that we typically parcook and just char on the grill), such as sweet potatoes and butternut squash. You can also apply the crosshatching technique to halved avocados, peaches, pears, and nectarines before grilling with fantastic results.
Grilled Vegetable SaladToo often vegetables come off the grill crunchy and scorched or watery and soggy. Here’s how to cut and cook them for perfectly tender, lightly charred results.
How Do You Crosshatch?
Use a sharp knife to make a series of ¼-inch-deep cuts at ½-inch intervals down the length of the vegetable slices, being careful not to cut all the way through. Then cut the same way on the opposing diagonal. Voilà!
This technique works equally well whether you’re grilling with charcoal, gas, or over a live fire. When cooking meats, crosshatching has a different purpose: It helps render the exterior fat. We crosshatch the outside of a big, beautiful hunk of beef before it hits the grill in our recipe for Smoked Prime Rib.