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Eggplant: stovetop grilling

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I bought a cast iron grill pan last year to cook eggplant because when I fry eggplant, I need 10 gallons of olive oil. My first attempt at grilling was not exactly auspicious — in fact, it was a disaster. As a consequence, I ate eggplant only in Italian restaurants. Well, recently, I got the urge to grill again. I would appreciate some tips on how to do it successfully without a fire extinguisher.
post #2 of 13
...stove top grilling

meaning as indoors?
if you have a gas cooktop/stovetop grilling can be done. electric can be done, trickier.

just get a ribbed pan hot as can be and have at it. oil the eggplant, spritz the pan - the ribs help with "least sticking" - no ribs be sure the oil in the flat pan is _really_ hot - really hot means instant steam between slice and pan = no stick.

either way, indoor grilling needs the proper setup - starting with a big honking hood to exhaust the smoke. if it's not making smoke, likely not grilling either.

I do luv a good eggplant - haven't grilled them indoors - only outdoors on a lump charcoal setup - but here's my trick:

season & oil 'em up; spritz the grill with oil. plunk 'em on - make pretty, flip, make prettier, plunk off - put in 350'F oven for 5-8 minutes to finish (no more! mush danger!)

this works out well with thick steak grilling - eggplant goes to the oven _on a rack_for Side B. rack is important - it's a no soggy thing. . .

dredged, egg washed, double dipped in seasoned flour cornmeal mix is my "indoor" favorite - pan saute for color & crisp - finish in oven as above.
post #3 of 13
i think mayb cutting thicker slices of eggplant might help with the sticking too. I've notice that when anything is too thin it just becomes one with the pan.
post #4 of 13
Dillbert suggested, I respectfully disagree. The outside will burn before the inside softens and mellows, in my experience.

I wash the eggplant and slice it lengthwise into pieces about a centimeter thick (just over 1/2 inch). If it's a slender eggplant without a lot of seeds, I don't bother salting it. If it's a big, fat-bottomed one (is that a Queen song?? :D), I salt the slices, let the juices come out for about 20 minutes, pat them dry and then proceed.

You can slice the eggplant cross-wise for circular slices if you prefer. You can also slice them more thinly, but they'll cook faster.

I leave the skin on, by the way.

I make a marinade of olive oil, a mild vinegar (sherry, rice wine, or a light balsamic), garlic, herbs, and ground black pepper. I brush this on and let the slices set for 10 minutes (or longer, up to an hour if necessary). I heat the grill pan to a medium heat, then put the slices in the pan. When they're marked and the top is beginning to soften and show some juices, I turn the slices over and finish cooking until the slices are browned on both sides and the center is soft.
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post #5 of 13
All of the problems you're having are related to the fact that eggplant stores a lot of moisture.

If you intend to fry it, you have to drain or blot the moisture first or it will make much mischief. This manifests itself in a number of ways -- flying hot oil; soggy, greasy eggplant; and eggplant sticking to the pan among them. In any case, it's a truism that eggplant must be "cooked" twice in order to get rid of the moisture, which is quite bitter in most species. Sometimes "cooking" takes the form of salting and draining. It's important to remember, if you do salt and drain, not to rinse the salt off -- or the eggplant will absorb the rinse water. Then, if you want to fry it, it's a good idea to dust or dredge the eggplant in flour in order to prevent it from absorbing oil.

As to the grill pan method, I fully agree with Mezzaluna. You certainly can spoil eggplant by grilling it too hot. The appropriate heat is probably a well-preheated pan on a medium or perhaps medium-low flame. Grilling over high heat is usually a method to get a certain crust texture and a rare interior. Since you want neither, high heat is probably not a great idea.

When you put the eggplant on the grill, don't be in a hurry to turn it. The less cooked, the more likely it is to stick. I'm a bit surprised cupcake brought it up, it's usually a male problem. With most foods, if you allow them to brown properly they'll turn easily. Very wet foods, like eggplant, are somewhat more problematic -- which takes us back to starch dusting. The flour holds the water and helps prevent the eggplant from sticking.

Note that Dillbert actually does cook his grilled eggplant twice. First he cooks the exterior on the grill, than he finishes it by baking in the oven. A good method, indeed.

Restaurant cooks use high flame on higher output stoves, yes. But for specific purposes which are usually more related to time saving in preheating, rather than actual cooking.

BDL
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post #6 of 13
Mezzaluna -

I agree with your disagree <g> the grilling is just the outer crusting color grill marks pretty bit....

I have found it more consistently doable to finish in the oven.

grilling / saute / pan fry / <pick it> is without question entirely possible - but the over (usually) and under cooking is problematic. finishing in the oven seems to be more forgiving timing wise. plus, doing what ... ten slices at a clip? on a sheet pan makes it all hot&ready at the same time vs. 3-4 batches in a pan.

I tried leaving the skin on a white eggplant; nope - did not care for the texture issue.....

modern eggplant types seem to have a lot of the bitterness "issue" bred out of them - the ole' salt&drain was standard fare for de-bittering but generally I've not noticed a bitter problem.

for some dishes - like egg plant parmesan - I do the salt&drain thing because I want them firmer in the end dish.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Gentlemen,

You folks have forgotten more about cooking than I'm ever going to know. I was staggered by the sophistication you've displayed. I'm mostly a schlump who regards successfully toasting white sliced bread as the epitome of cooking artistry. I need to give up eggplant or devise a method of making it palatable that's no more complex than making a ham sandwich.

What would happen if I sliced an eggplant into half inch slices and boiled them until they were cooked and let them cool and dry on a wire cake rack? Then, after dipping in egg, fry them like eggs over light? Or even paint with olive oil and brown under the broiler? (However, I live in Florida and I'm not keen on using my oven). Could this be edible?
post #8 of 13
. After boiling, the eggplant would be too mushy to work with. You could try a blanch and drain. If you do, let me know how it works out.

You can't fry wet food. Try precooking a few slices in the microwave, draining, and flouring, before dipping in egg wash and frying.

Broiler: Sure, many species, such as Japanese egg plant you wouldn't even have to pre-cook. Ditto on the frying.

BDL
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post #9 of 13
BF -

it's a lot of talk & babble about really simple stuff. the "terminology" can throw a body but it's all easy - practice makes perfect - so buy two eggplants <g>

lets talk about the "need to grill" - the original question.... grilling veggies is 'the rage' now-a-days. with stuff like corn _in_ the cob it's not difficult - if you cook the corn until the cob is soggy and falling apart..... same with eggplant - overcooked it get soft and goes to mush. nature of the beast. so my theory is to find a way to cook it and still keep it firm.

as noted, the higher the heat, the faster the outside is done - and if too high, the inside doesn't get done. a well fired grill - as in set up for steak - is on the high end (temp wise) of a nice saute.

so - here's a starter suggestion:
beat an egg with 1 tblsp water
make mix 50-50 yellow corn meal & flour; skip the corn meal if you don't have it, salt pepper dash of cayenne perhaps a bit of garlic powder or onion powder
peel the eggplant, slice into 3/4 inch slices
wet with egg wash (a 'wash' is an egg+water thing)
drip drain and into the flour mix to coat
have the fry pan up to temp with some oil in it also hot
(always get the oil hot before cooking, rule of thumb)
put in a couple slices, observe the cooking temp.
you want a nice gentle sizzle -
a hot pan it will get a chill when the cold food goes in - so allow some time for the pan to "recover" its temp.
adjust the temp up/down to the point that the slice is nicely browned in about 3-4 minute.
flip, do the other side.

if the pan is too hot, it'll burn - nadda problem - toss the slice, try again.
the whole trick is to adjust the burner/pan temp so it browns and cooks thru in the same amount of time. a bit under cooked is okay because after it comes out of the pan (hot) it will cook a bit more until it cools down.

if the pan is too cold the slice will cook to mush before it's brown and crispy _plus_ it will soak up lots and lots of oil.

I tell folks: ignore the dial. the dial setting that works on the big burner will not work the same on the medium burner. concentrate on the sound of the sizzle & bubble - that you can reproduce on any burner.

when eggplant gets hot, it "steams" - the steam going "out" prevents the oil from soaking "in"....

you will most probably need to add some oil as you go along - a slice will soak up some and then as it gets hot, it stops with the soaking bit - but the next slice/batch will need more.

nothing like experience - so give it a go!
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Wow! What a treatise on grilling eggplant — it'd make a great term paper.

I'm so shell-shocked after the mess I made with oil all over my kitchen stove, floor, and walls the first time — I'm too chicken to follow your directions at home. I have a fine camp stove with sensitive controls, so I taking the show outdoors where the oil can splatter all over without destroying my kitchen.

I'm on board with all your instructions except peeling the eggplant — I love the taste and deep color of the skin. I going to suppose it's okay to leave it on. I'm very fond of onion powder (I put it on everything) and to a lesser degree garlic powder — I'm already watering at the mouth. I'm eager to succeed with the egg-wash procedure because I'll be only a step away from my ultimate ambition to fry plain eggplant to a golden hue in a frying pan without using insane amounts of olive oil.

I will advise re: my efforts — hopefully they will be an unvarnished success.
post #11 of 13
........spattering oil

do you have a "spatter screen"?

looks like a window screen in a hoop - with handle - lets the steam out but blocks (most - nothing's perfect) of the oil pops.

sounds like you may have had it a bit too hot . . .
which is a a shade on the surprising side as I would have guessed not hot enough based on the oil uptake. with the breaded approach you do not need slices swimming in oil - it's not deep frying -

to peel or not to peel - your choice <g>
post #12 of 13
Just about every country that speaks arabic has some kind of wisdom about the amount of oil an eggplant can soak up.....

The easy way out is, as Mezz said, to buy the "slender" eggplant, a.k.a. "japanese eggplant, with a lighter, more violet colour, not deep purple. These don't need to be salted and I have had great success grilling them with just brushing oil on the surface.
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post #13 of 13
The splatter has everything to do with the amount of moisture on the surface of the eggplant. Fry any wet food at a temperature hot enough to fry, and it will splatter. The physics is simple and obvious. The water boils below the surface of the oil and quickly rises to the surface -- carrying a lot of oil with it. If you try to fry at a low enough temperature to prevent a wet eggplant from splattering, you're cooking at too low a temperature to actually fry.

The solution (I crack me up), is to dry the surface of the eggplant before immersing it. Most people use flour. Dusting the eggplant with enough flour to brown it, as for eggplant parmigiana for instance, will not create a heavy crust -- as would a flour, batter combination. For whatever reason there seems to be a lot of resistance to the idea of using flour.

Dill's fried eggplant looks great.

I give up,
BDL
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