Why You Should Boil Potatoes Before Grilling Them

Potatoes always make the ultimate side dish. Whether baked and stuffed with toppings, or whipped into a potato salad, the humble spud is ready to accompany so many main meals. But, if you're looking to grill potatoes, keep in mind that there's one additional step that can make them even tastier: boil them before they hit the flame. 

Giving the spuds a quick flash cook in advance not only allows them to char more evenly over the coals, it offers you an opportunity to infuse them with flavor from the inside out through salt, seasonings, and more added to the water. Although this technique can work for any kind of potato, waxy types (such as red or new) are some of the best varieties to boil and grill.

There are some key tips to keep in mind with his trick. First, parboil your potatoes until a paring knife can be poked through them with little resistance in the middle. This typically takes around 5-10 minutes depending on how large your spuds are. If you're worried about overcooking them and turning them mushy, add a splash of vinegar to the pot to keep the potatoes from becoming waterlogged.

After you've drained the tubers, cut them into your desired size and toss the pieces with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite seasonings and they're ready to char. Shapes like wedges or thick slices usually hold up best on the grill, but you can also slice them into fries or cubes if you're using a grill basket. 

Infuse potatoes with flavor while they're boiling

While salted water will give your potatoes a great starting point when it comes to flavor, there are lots of ways to branch out for an even bolder result. Try swapping in different broths or stocks for the water. Chicken or beef broth are great choices (just match the flavor profile with your main protein). Mushroom broth can also add a punch of umami flavor if you want a vegetarian option.

If you'd like to branch out from broth, consider your favorite beverage choice for grilled foods. Adding in some of your favorite beer or a few cups of red wine into the salted water will add a subtle taste. Or, get creative by cooking the potatoes with a splash of pickle juice; there are spicy varieties that will punch up the heat, too.

A spoonful or two of a spice blend in the boiling water can easily infuse the potatoes with big flavor, too. Stick with classic choices like Cajun seasoning, which is excellent for potatoes served alongside any grilled seafood. Or, if you've got beef on the grates, reach for a dash of steak rub instead.

Don't forget you can add in whole ingredients to the water. A few crushed cloves of garlic or a wedge of onion will amplify the natural savoriness of the potatoes. Herbs make a delicious combination too, so consider adding in a sprig of rosemary or thyme to infuse them from the inside out.

Other grill-worthy veggies, and fruits too

Besides potatoes, there are plenty of vegetables that deserve a spot on your grill. Everything from cabbage and cauliflower to artichokes and asparagus are improved by a quick kiss of the flames. Other root veggies, such as carrots, beets, and parsnips, can benefit from parboiling like potatoes. Throw those in the pot too for a quick cook along with the spuds, just keep in mind that red beets will turn anything accompanying them pink so maybe do those separately.

Try branching out to fruits, too. Their natural sugar content means that the grill will caramelize each piece. Options like pineapple, watermelon, and even apples make for delicious sides. Serve them as is, finely chop to create a fruity salsa, or serve as dessert topped with a scoop of ice cream. Once the fruit is off the grill, place it on a rimmed baking sheet or in a bowl to cool. The leftover juices collected there can be mixed into lemonade or cocktails for a smoky boost.

And almost any meal could be improved with some grilled cheese (whether on top or on the side). More hearty varieties like halloumi and paneer stay solid even with the heat of the grill and come out with beautiful char marks. Softer types, such as provolone and fresh mozzarella, get deliciously gooey. If you're worried about your grill needing an extra scrub afterwards, wrap your cheese in a piece of prosciutto or salami to protect the grates and keep them clean.