Baking a whole eggplant is something of a culinary metamorphosis. The hot oven transforms eggplant's firm, spongy interior into a luxurious, velvety texture, which in turn lends its merits to savory dips and vegan bolognese. Yet cooks cannot agree on just how eggplant should be baked. Should we halve it and score it, or poke it and wrap it in foil as you would a Russet potato?
Our testing resulted in a dead-simple solution with stellar results.
The Easiest Way to Bake a Whole Eggplant
Simply baking the whole eggplant directly on an oven rack yielded the most tender baked eggplant. Like we said — a dead-simple technique.
The Self-Steaming Eggplant
Eggplant is nearly 90 percent water, making it extremely prone to steam itself while cooking. While we generally try to avoid this when roasting or sautéing, steam is what actually transforms the eggplant while it bakes. The eggplant's skin protects the eggplant from drying out and traps the eggplant's natural moisture inside, steaming the eggplant from the inside out.
No Foil, No Pan, No Pricking
Previously we've advocated slicing an eggplant in half and roasting the halves on a baking sheet, and while that method works well for eating eggplant as a side, it never got quite soft enough for puréeing into dips or for thickening soups. Several other sources suggested wrapping the whole eggplant in aluminum foil before baking, while others advocated poking the eggplant, as you would a baked potato, so we did a side-by-side test with these methods and our simply baked-whole method.
The foil-wrapped eggplant took more than 30 minutes longer to bake and was still quite spongy after baking. The poked-and-prodded specimen dried out a bit, while the simple baked version pleasantly steamed itself into perfection.
Why Bake a Whole Eggplant
Standard globe eggplants in the medium-to-large range are ideal for baking whole. They are also the most plentiful. Baked eggplant is excellent for making baba ganoush, adding to stews for thickening, and playing the part of beef in a vegan eggplant bolognese. Whole baked eggplant also makes a delicious side dish with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkling of salt. Baking eggplant and freezing the peeled flesh in a zip-top bag is a simple way to preserve eggplant when they overtake your vegetable garden.
How To Bake a Whole Eggplant
Makes 12 ounces steamed eggplant
What You Need
medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
Baking sheet or aluminum foil
Prepare the oven: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, then line it with foil. (Alternatively, place a baking sheet on the rack to catch any drips.) Heat the oven to 350°F.
Rinse and dry the eggplant: Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, then pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Bake the eggplant: Place the eggplant directly on the middle rack and bake until incredibly tender and the skin is wrinkly, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool and peel: Use tongs to remove the eggplant to a cutting board or wire rack and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut the eggplant in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.
Storage: Peeled and cooled eggplant can be stored in an airtight container or a zip-top bag for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.