I've Tried Countless Vegetable Cooking Techniques, and Blistering Is by Far the Best (and Easiest)
Veggies hissing in a hot skillet is the song of the summer.
It’s blazing hot outside, turning on your oven fills you with dread, you can’t spend another sunny day bent over the grill, and eating another salad just sounds so boring. Enter: The blistered vegetable. Yes, it sounds injured and maybe a little unappetizing, but the technique of blistering produce adds crunch and caramelization, plus it retains nutrients and fresh summer flavor—all without overheating the chef. That way, you can spend more time enjoying summer days and less worrying about how to cook in a heatwave.
Blistering vegetables takes only about 10 minutes, prep time included, and can result in a restaurant-worthy (and healthy) side dish.
Firm veggies, like green beans, snap peas, broccolini, shishito peppers, asparagus and more of your summer bounty work well for blistering. Water-rich vegetables, like zucchini and eggplant, with the skin still intact work too, though you’ll want to slightly grease your skillet (more on that later). This technique can also work for fruits, like avocado and stone fruit, like peaches, for a sweeter treat. You'll find a few delicious recipe ideas down below.
Ready to blister? It’s pain-free.
You'll need a cutting board and knife, plus dish towels or paper towels for drying your veggies, a cast iron skillet, tongs, and a serving platter or plate large enough for a single layer of cooked vegetables.
Wash and dry the veggies you plan to blister. Cut into two-inch pieces and pat dry. Starting with completely dry veggies is essential.
The high heat from the skillet will tenderize the vegetables and also keep their crispness, giving each bite a satisfying range of texture and taste. A sprinkle of flaky salt and a drizzle of good olive oil is all you really need to finish up these vegetables. But for an extra oomph that dresses up your dish to restaurant level, make an herb-infused olive oil by blending a handful of fresh herbs (basil or parsley work great) with olive oil and straining out the solids. Pesto, chimichurri, and gremolata are also nice toppings for these veggies. Remember: if herbs and oil are involved, it will work!
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high high until it’s smoking hot, about one minute. If you sprinkle a few drops of water over the skillet and they steam, it’s hot. Optional: swirl a teaspoon of sunflower, coconut, or any cooking oil with a high smoke point around the skillet. If the skillet is well-seasoned and food doesn’t stick, you can also skip the oil.
Lower heat to medium and quickly add veggies to the hot skillet in a single layer. Vegetables shouldn’t be crowded or else they’ll steam and get soggy, and every piece should be touching the bottom of the skillet to get a nice crispness.
Listen to the first five minutes of your favorite podcast. Scroll through TikTok. Set your table. Whatever you do, don’t touch those veggies. Yes, it’s tempting to check on their progress, but don’t. Trust the skillet. Moving the veg away from the high heat will ruin their caramelization process and result in soggy vegetables. You may hear them singing (yep!) in the skillet—that’s great—the water is escaping from the veggie fiber and they’re getting all tender just for you. This is the song of the summer.
Use tongs to lift a single vegetable and see if the bottom has blistered—it should be crisp and blackened in spots. If so, turn off the heat and dump the veg onto a platter, letting them rest in a single layer. If not, let rest another minute and check again. Repeat the skillet process if you have a second batch of veggies to cook up.
Drizzle your infused olive oil or dressing of choice on top. Sprinkle with flaky salt. Add a few fresh grinds of pepper or chopped herbs for more freshness.