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How to Cook Eggplant

While eggplant is rarely eaten raw, it is quite delicious and versatile when cooked. Because it is so hearty, eggplant makes an ideal meat substitute or side dish. Learn how to grill it, roast it, saute it, and microwave it, and try our favorite eggplant recipes.

Choosing Eggplant

  • When you think of eggplant, you probably envision the large pear-shape or cylindrical eggplant with shiny purple skin. Though this is the most common variety in the United States, eggplant does vary in shape and size, from a couple of inches to a foot long. The color varies with variety, including white, green, reddish-orange, and striated hues.
  • Eggplant is available year-round but peaks in late summer. Look for firm, glossy-skin eggplants that are heavy for their size with bright, mold-free tops. Younger, smaller eggplants are usually less bitter than larger or older ones.
  • Since eggplants are quite perishable, store them whole in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

How to Prep Eggplant

  • Wash the eggplant before using.
  • While the skin of small young eggplants is edible, the skin becomes bitter on larger or older eggplants and should be peeled. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the skin. Since the flesh discolors soon after peeling, peel eggplant right before using.
  • Cut off the top and blossom ends, and cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices or into 3/4-inch cubes, unless a cooking method states otherwise. A 1-pound eggplant equals 5 cups cubed.
  •  You may have heard of salting eggplants before using. While this isn't essential, it does help tame the bitter taste, especially of older eggplants, by bringing out the juices and letting them drain. Lay the slices or cubes on layered paper towels and sprinkle all sides with salt. Top with more paper towels and a plate or something to weigh them down. Let sit about 20 minutes, rinse, pat dry, and use as desired.

How to Grill Eggplant

Eggplant is a natural for the grill because of its dense interior that acts like a sponge and soaks up marinade, oil or butter, and smoky flavor. It is also quick prep since it requires no precooking.

1.        Peel, if desired, and cut into 1/2-inch slices. You can also halve small eggplants lengthwise instead of slicing. Brush slices on all sides generously with olive oil, melted butter, or cooking oil. This adds flavor and keeps them from sticking to the grill rack. Season as desired with herbs, salt, and ground black pepper. You can also brush the eggplant with oil-based marinade instead of the oil or butter.

2.        Place eggplant on a piece of heavy foil or directly on the grill rack.

3.        For a charcoal grill, place the eggplant on rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.

4.        For a gas grill, preheat the grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place the eggplant on the grill rack directly over heat. Cover and grill about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.

See Grilled Platter recipe

How to Saute Eggplant

1.        Brush slices of eggplant with olive oil on all sides and sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper. Place about 1/3 cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs in a shallow dish. If desired, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Dip each slice of eggplant into the crumbs, coating thoroughly.

2.        Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

3.        Add the coated eggplant slices to the hot skillet and cook about 5 minutes per side or until golden.

How to Roast Eggplant

1.        Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil or lightly grease it.

2.        Peel eggplant, if desired, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a large bowl. For 6 cups eggplant (1 medium), in a small bowl combine three cloves garlic, minced; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 1/2 teaspoon salt; and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Toss eggplant with oil mixture and transfer to prepared pan. 

3.        Roast eggplant about 20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

How to Cook Eggplant in the Microwave

1.        Peel eggplant, if desired, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Place cubes in a microwave-safe casserole or dish along with 2 tablespoons water.

2.        Microwave, covered, on 100 percent power (high) for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

Our Favorite Eggplant Recipes

Eggplant Soup

Tofu and Eggplant

Sicilian Eggplant Dip

Grilled Stuffed Eggplant

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