Take Summer Vegetables to Next Level by Charcoal Grilling

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Charcoal-grilled seasonal vegetables and homemade herb salt oil.

Food coordinator and outdoor cooking specialist Nahoko Minakuchi firmly believes that grilling with charcoal is a great way to take vegetables to the next level. She shares her recipe and tips for barbecuing seasonal vegetables.

Choose a grill based on your needs, such as the number of people you will be serving, grill rack size and portability. Minakuchi has one that is 40 centimeters in diameter with a lid, which she says is useful for steaming and smoking food.

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A charcoal grill

While you can grill meat or fish with a barbecue, Minakuchi chose summer vegetables, like new crop onions to celebrate flavorful seasonal delicacies.

“You can fully enjoy the flavors of the ingredients brought out by the charcoal fire,” Minakuchi said of the benefits of grilling food over charcoal. The surface is crispy, and the inside is heated thoroughly while keeping the umami flavor and moisture, producing juicy results.

To light the grill, use two kinds of charcoal: coconut shell charcoal and oak charcoal. Light the coconut shell charcoal and place it next to the oak charcoal to start the fire.

“Both types of charcoal add delightful smoky flavors to the food, while ensuring safety as they rarely cause any popping,” Minakuchi said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
How charcoal should be arranged in a grill.

Once the charcoal turns white, that means it is time for grilling. When cooking, ensure the vegetables are sufficiently exposed to the heat and occasionally turn them over to get charring.

While grilling vegetables over charcoal yields delightful flavors, according to Minakuchi, it’s even more delicious when they are brushed with her homemade herb salt oil. This oil is created by heating olive oil, salt and a bunch of fresh herbs in a metal “Sierra” cup placed on the grill rack. The herb bundle serves as a brush for applying the oil to the vegetables, giving them a savory taste and delightful aroma.

Serve the vegetables while they are hot. The vibrant vegetable assortment becomes even sweeter, complemented by the aroma of herbs. Indulge in melty and lusciously sweet charcoal-grilled bananas for an irresistible treat.

Handle charcoal fire with care

Be careful when handling charcoal fire. Once the fire has started, it is recommended to allow the charcoal to burn completely. Otherwise, carefully put out the fire by using tongs or other suitable tools to transfer the charcoal pieces individually into a metal bucket filled with water. Never dispose of the charcoal at the barbecue site; instead, take it home and follow the disposal guidelines set by your local government.

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Cooling charcoal to put out fire

If you plan to use a barbecue grill in your yard, it is advisable to check with your local government office or fire department regarding any regulations applicable to your area. It is also important to be mindful of your neighbors. By observing proper etiquette and regulations, you can ensure a pleasant barbecue experience for everyone.

Charcoal-grilled seasonal vegetables

Tools and ingredients:

Charcoal grill, oak and coconut shell charcoal, a metal Sierra cup, several stalks of thyme and rosemary and vegetables and fruits of your choice such as bell peppers (red, orange, yellow), zucchini, eggplants, eringi mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, new crop onions, cabbage, asparagus (green, white, purple), fava beans, bananas


1. Cut the bell peppers, zucchini, eggplants and eringi mushrooms in half lengthwise. Make incisions into the eggplant skin. Put a few cherry tomatoes onto a skewer. Cut cabbage and new crop onions into wedges, making sure not to cut off the root of the cabbage. Put the onions onto skewers. Remove tough skin at the base of asparagus.

2. Prepare a barbecue grill.

3. Arrange the oak charcoal in the grill, ensuring there are spaces between the charcoal pieces. Ignite the coconut shell charcoal using a lighter or matches and position it adjacent to the oak charcoal to facilitate the ignition process. Use a fan to help ignite the charcoal. Place a grill rack on top of the charcoal setup.

4. In a metal Sierra cup, combine as much olive oil and salt as desired. Submerge a bundle of thyme and rosemary tied together with a string in the cup. Once the grill rack is heated, position the cup on top of the grill rack to allow the oil mixture to warm up.

5. Place the vegetables on the grill rack. Take the bundle of herbs out of the cup and utilize it as a brush to coat the vegetables, flipping them occasionally to char beautifully. Grill the fava beans and bananas until their pods and skins have charred.