Whether your outdoor cooking season arrived with Daylight Savings Time or is still a few weeks away, the bottom line is that grilling is becoming a more preferred way to cook meats and vegetables. Nearly every backyard barbecue spread these days has a platter of grilled vegetables, like charred husked ears of grilled corn. Even salad is getting the grilled treatment.
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One of the greatest vegetables you can possibly cook on the grill is the potato. Any potato. Bland, starchy white potatoes soak up smoky flavor, and the flesh firms up in a meaty way that just doesn’t happen in the oven. Sweet potatoes, which can stand up to a good bit of char, get almost candied in their own juices.
Potatoes take up little room and require little fussing to make them great. I often add some potatoes to my grill when cooking even if I don’t need them for that particular meal—I just like to take advantage of the heat and smoke, and then store them in the fridge for another time.
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The fun thing about grilling potatoes is that you really only have one decision to make: whole or cut? A whole potato is a perfect side dish, waiting to be split and garnished simply with butter, salt, and pepper, or loaded up with everything from cheese to pulled pork to masala curry. Cut potatoes on the grill—halved or planked—pick up more char, smoky flavor, and crisp edges, and can be a side dish all on their own, or an ingredient in a grilled vegetable salad.
How to Grill Whole Potatoes
All potatoes are different, as are grills. Some potatoes might be well-cooked in only 35 minutes, some might take an hour and a half. As with all things, rely more on feel than prescribed timing. If you like, you can also take the internal temperature of your potatoes (210 degrees is fully cooked). To cook a potato on the grill, follow these basic steps:
- Look for potatoes that are no more than 2½ inches in diameter, since larger ones will take forever to cook.
- For whole potatoes, white or sweet, wash them well, give the outside a light coating of oil, prick a few times with a fork, and wrap tightly in foil. Protected by foil in this way, you really can’t overcook them—so err on the side of a longer cook rather than a shorter one. (If you are worried about timing to get grilled potatoes done at the same time as quick-cooking meats, par cook your potatoes before wrapping them in foil, by giving them 3-5 minutes in your microwave, just to get them started).
- White potatoes will be done in about 45-50 minutes. You can tell they are done when a fork easily pierces to the center of the potato with no resistance. Sweet potatoes are usually done in about 60-70 minutes (I cook sweet potatoes longer than white, because the sweetness intensifies dramatically)
How to Grill Cut Potatoes
- Cut potatoes in such a way that they won’t slide through the grill grate—either halved long-way or on a bias to create large planks. No matter how you slice, make each one no thinner than about half an inch. If they’re any thinner than that, they’ll burn and get hard.
- Oil and season them, then lay them around on the cooler side of your grill.
- Cook 15 minutes per side with the lid closed until they are tender. Then move them to the hot side of your grill (this will ensure you get good grill marks) for another 2-4 minutes per side.