Obedient Ingredients

A place to put cooking ideas to the test.

Grilled eggplant: olive oil edition


Eggplant is delicious. There will be many posts dedicated to this plant. But I have a grill, so tonight, we grill.

So let’s grill eggplants.

But with my propensity to douse everything in extra virgin olive oil, how can I appropriately and lovingly combine the two ingredients? How do I properly apply (or not apply) EVOO on the eggplant to have it leave the grill in a happy state?

Today’s test: What is the best way to apply olive oil to the eggplant for grilling?

My test kitchen has determined that this is indeed an eggplant.

I checked out several recipes online. Some clearly stated to brush olive oil on the sliced eggplants before grilling…

Actually, that statement is as clear as a good bottle of EVOO: it’s not very clear.

I don’t think one’s skill with a brush will affect the outcome of one’s food (or maybe it does, what do I know!? I’m a simple blogger) but I’m want to answer the quandary: exactly how much olive oil SHOULD go on the eggplant. Instructions that usually state “Brush some olive oil on the blah blah blah” is helpful… I guess…

I want to see what our precious, precious EVOO can do to our lovely eggplant. Oh, and not just any EVOO…


To test this out, I went to the extremes…

The experiment:

I sliced one eggplant into discs, all about the same width. I divided the slices into three groups of olive oil application:

1. SOAKED – Some slices would be drenched in the olive oil. I mean, I would press each slide down into the bowl of golden oil, let it soak it in…and then do it to the other side. Extreme! Science!
2. BRUSHED – Some slices I brushed with olive oil. I made sure the surface of ONE side was coated. Not too much. My plan was to then brush the other side of the eggplant after I flipped it on the grill.
3. AFTER – The rest of the slices got ZERO olive oil before and during the grilling! (sounds of gasps and monocles falling to the floor). I simply brushed the olive oil on the eggplant AFTER I took the slices off the grill.

After getting the grill nice and hot, I turned the burners to low and placed all of the slices on. I did not have a plan for exactly how long to cook them (science fail), but I watched them closely to make sure they didn’t burn ..

…actually, my GF watched them while I went inside to grab a beer. They started to slightly burn as I ran out of my place toward the grill. Listen, this is eggplant we’re talking about here. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.

You can see how the soaked ones are on the left.

The testers:

My girlfriend (who loves to eat my cooking) and my friend Meg (who loves to cook and eat my cooking) were not told which slices fell into which category. I knew, though, because I’m a cheat.

After grilling, I platted them on separate plates, sprinkled some salt on them, and we tested.

The results:

Well, the differences were pretty clear: all three of us had the same opinions and ranked the eggplant groupings the same way:

1. SOAKED – These babies got charred the fastest. Luckily we flipped them over before they got too burnt, but they seemed very crunchy at the time. On the plate, they were clearly the soggiest ones, but actually had the most flavor.
2. BRUSHED – These slices LOOKED the best, with their nice yellowish green color and sexy grill marks. Now remember, this method is the one that was most recommended by online recipes. So how did it taste? Well, it was just as mushy as the soaked slices, but they did not taste as good! Actually, out of the three categories, they tasted the LEAST yummy (this is a food science term)!
3. AFTER – These slices got some good looking grill marks on them, but they started looking a bit dried out to me. Like I said, I plated them and brushed some olive oil on the top (so just one side) and sprinkled some salt. Texture wise, it was the chewiest, not mushy at all. However, the texture was very pleasant, just enough crispness on the surface with a pleasant firmness. And it tasted OK as well (better than the BRUSHED, but not as flavorful as the SOAKED).

The three of us non-scientists, using our professional expertise, agreed on the same ranking:

Slices with EVOO applied AFTER grilling  >  slices SOAKED in EVOO  >  slices BRUSHED with oil


We were surprised that the brushed ones were not that great. We prefered the flavor of the soaked slices but liked the texture of the slices that had zero EVOO applied before grilling. But the chewier slices were our preferred versions of grilled eggplant.

Future tests:

Oh man, the questions that came up after this test: how do we keep the texture of the slices that had no olive oil until the end but have the taste of the eggplant that was soaked in the oil? And what about degorging the aubergine beforehand?? Oh, sorry … that means “And what about the salt extraction trick?” Did the type of salt matter? Will that affect the taste/texture after it is grilled?

I’m sure we’ll see more roasting eggplant posts in here in the near future.

One thing is for sure: when brushing, use VERY LITTLE oil if you want to not turn it into mush.*

*(UPDATE…a test I conducted on eggplants, which will be posted soon, confirms that there IS a difference if you salt your eggplant beforehand. This result will most likely alter this outcome I stated above, which says “use very little oil when brushing.” Well, that may need to be challenged.) 

How do you like to roast your eggplants?

EVOO and garlic, once more for your viewing pleasure.

5 thoughts on “Grilled eggplant: olive oil edition

  1. Very interesting test. However, I confess to feeling a bit squeamish as to your methods but that’s what makes you, and not me, the food scientist – ‘cibum scientificus’ – in this equation. I would’ve recommended salting the eggplant first in all cases. You build a tower (loosely resembling Mordor) with salted eggplant slices and you will soon thereafter see a secretion of oozing black slime of bitter juices that otherwise would have assaulted your taste buds. Having freed yourself of this impostor, you can then proceed to dress the eggplant appropriately. I can recommend grilled cherry tomatoes and crumbled goat cheese with shredded basil and a light vinaigrette. Yummy!!

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