The Best Way to Cook Eggplant Is to Burn It

published Jul 18, 2016
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(Image credit: iomis)

Eggplant is a controversial food. Like cilantro or blue cheese, you either love it or you hate it. But what if I could convince haters that there’s a way to join eggplant’s fan club? If everything you know and hate about the vegetable is that it’s usually flavorless and rubbery, then trust me when I say it can be much, much better — you just have to burn it.

The secret to incredible eggplant is to cook it whole, until the skin blisters and blackens. As the outside chars, the inside cooks slowly until the flesh collapses. Scoop out this flesh and you’ve got silky, almost custard-like vegetable that’s sweet and smoky — far from the eggplant so many people know and hate.

How to Char Eggplant

Cooking eggplant this way is ridiculously easy — no slicing or dicing necessary. Simply prick the eggplant all over with a fork so that it can release steam as it cooks. Place it over a medium- or low-heat grill and let it cook for 30 minutes to one hour, turning it occasionally, until the skin is completely charred on the outside and the vegetable collapses.

You can also do this in the oven. Just place the pricked eggplant in a baking dish or a rimmed baking sheet and roast it at 400°F for about 45 minutes. If you want extra-charred flavor, you can place it directly over the flames of your gas stove first, using tongs to rotate it until the entire skin is blackened, and then finish it in the oven until the flesh is cooked through.

How to Use It

The classic way to use charred eggplant is to purée the flesh with spices and tahini into baba ghanoush, the smooth and creamy Middle Eastern eggplant dip. But that’s only just the beginning; the custardy flesh can be enjoyed on its own, or in soups, pasta, and more.