Clever Tips for Cooking Eggplant to Perfection
Try these techniques to make eggplant even tastier.
Eggplant is one of those veggies that many cooks may find daunting: It feels like there are a lot of rules (and a lot of steps) involved in cooking eggplant to make it delicious and avoid a slimy, bitter mess. But learning how to cook eggplant well isn’t exactly mission impossible. Try a few of these cooking techniques to help you make the humble eggplant a lot more wow-worthy, no matter which eggplant recipes you include it in.
How to cook eggplant, three ways
One of the most popular baked eggplant recipes is eggplant parmesan, with its layers of mozzarella and marinara mixed in with the eggplant. But eggplant can also be baked into a healthier take on French fries, roasted and mixed in with pasta, or broiled and pureed to make a tasty dip. To cook eggplant in the oven, preheat the oven to 475°F, toss, brush, or drizzle your cut eggplant with olive oil, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the eggplant is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
If you’d like to broil your eggplant, prepare the eggplant as needed for your recipe—either by slicing it, dicing it, or piercing an uncut eggplant with a fork—and heat the broiler to high. Set the oven rack six inches below the broiler (more if the eggplant comes close to the broiler) and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Eggplant’s meaty texture makes it a natural for cooking on the grill, whether you’re cooking it outdoors or on an indoor grill pan—and grilling gives eggplant a great smoky flavor. For grilled eggplant, rounds are most common, though you could also include eggplant cubes on kebabs or tossed with other veggies and grilled in aluminum foil or a reusable grill-friendly pouch. However you slice it, brush or drizzle the eggplant with olive oil before you add it to the grill. Next, simply cook the eggplant until it softens and browns, about five minutes per side.
Sautéed eggplant makes a great addition to curries and stir-fries, where it can take the place of meat. The eggplant can be cubed or cut into rounds, depending on your preference. To cook eggplant in a pan on the stove, simply heat olive oil in a pan over medium or medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the eggplant and cook until the eggplant is tender, around five to seven minutes. If you want your eggplant to have a slightly browned finish, allow it to cook without stirring for a few minutes; once the eggplant cubes or rounds are lightly browned, stir occasionally until tender. Add more olive oil as needed if the eggplant sticks or browns too easily.
Clever tricks for cooking eggplant
It’s traditional to salt eggplant before you cook it—a technique that started way back when to reduce the bitterness and help draw out moisture. But eggplants today (especially if you pick smaller ones) aren’t as bitter, so it’s only really necessary for frying and other cooking techniques where the moisture content really matters. If you want to salt the eggplant before you cook it, slice into rounds or dice the eggplant as needed for your recipe, then lay the pieces out on a paper towel, salt generously, layer it with more paper towels (and perhaps a heavy pan to weigh it down), and let it sit for 45 minutes. You’ll want to rinse the eggplant to wash away the excess salt and bitter liquid.
Eggplant acts like a sponge when it cooks, so it’ll soak up a lot of cooking liquid. Follow the recipe’s liquid measurements precisely to make sure you get the texture just right.
Fried or baked eggplant is delicious, but it’s not the only way to cook eggplant. Try it sautéed, stir fried, or grilled.
Big eggplants tend to have a tougher skin—which may need to be peeled off—and a more bitter flavor than smaller eggplants.
Eggplant can give you the same texture as meat for your meatless Monday recipes and has a mild flavor that can easily take on any flavors you bring into the dish—whether you’re planning a dish with Mediterranean flavors or a hearty Indian curry. Go ahead and marinate eggplant in your favorite flavor combo to see what this veggie can do.