Smoking Vegetables – The Ultimate Guide

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Do you ever feel like vegetables don’t get the opportunity to shine at your summer barbeques?

It is all too common to get a plate filled with carefully prepared smoked and grilled meat, fish, and poultry, with some salad added as an afterthought.

Smoking vegetables is far faster than smoking joints of meat and gives incredible results. The natural sweetness of vegetables blends perfectly with the subtle wood smoke, and they will become juicy, moist, and packed full of flavor.

Many different types of vegetables can be smoked, and different types of vegetables can be mixed together to smoke in one batch.

Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, or just enjoy vegetable dishes, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about smoking vegetables!

Why Should You Smoke Vegetables?

If you’ve never tried smoked vegetables, you are in for a big treat!

It can be hard to find a way to get a healthy amount of vegetables into your diet, especially when using the barbeque, but smoked vegetables solve this problem perfectly and in the most delicious way.

Your family, friends, and guests cannot fail to be impressed when you pull out a tray of sizzling smoked vegetables, and nobody needs to know just how simple this method really is!

All you need to smoke vegetables is your normal barbeque grill, a smoker, woodchips of your choice, and some vegetables.

To get the best from your vegetables, you may also want to add some seasoning or rub before they go into the smoker.

You will also need something to hold the vegetables, as they will fall through the gaps on the smoker rack (we’d recommend this grill basket).

Some smokers come with a custom-made basket for this purpose, or you can use a cast-iron skillet or griddle pan.

The other huge advantage of smoked vegetables is that they are really quick and easy to prepare. Unlike smoked meats, your vegetables take very little time to cook in the smoker. 

In fact, this process is so simple that you could use it at any time, and not just when you’ve got the smoker fired up to cook sausages or ribs.

You can even smoke a batch of vegetables in advance, ready to add to a midweek pasta dinner or summer salad.

What Do Smoked Vegetables Taste Like?

When smoked, the sweet, fresh flavors of your vegetables are transformed by this simple process. They soak up the delicate wood smoke easily and make a pleasing addition to any family dinner or summer party.

When using a smoker, the type and amount of smoke are carefully controlled to give the food a delicious, intense flavor. The vegetables retain a delicious crunchy sweetness, with a smooth, smokey flavor.

A popular choice among many chefs is to use wood chips from fruit trees, such as applewood or cherry, to smoke vegetables.

This perfectly complements the natural sugars in the vegetables, which is where the sweetness comes from, along with the smokey flavor.

Smoked vegetables do not get as charred on the outside as they do when cooked directly on the grill. Instead, they turn a beautiful dark brown color, with a slight crispiness.

The inside of the vegetables will be juicy and tender, releasing an intense hit of smokey aroma as you bite into them.

The texture of smoked vegetables depends very much on how long you smoke them, as well as your personal preference.

They can be smoked for a short period, after which they will retain some crunchiness when you eat them. When smoked for longer, the texture will become softer and juicer.

Do Vegetables Need To Be Cooked Before They Are Smoked?

Vegetables are one of the easiest things to pop in the smoker, as there is very little preparation required. They can be smoked raw, and the entire cooking process takes place in the smoker.

The main preparation required when smoking vegetables is to cut them into smaller pieces, and add any seasoning or rub that you wish.

This can be done several hours in advance, leaving you free to prepare your other barbeque dishes.

Can Any Type Of Vegetable Be Smoked? 

Not all vegetables are the same, and not all types of vegetables turn out the same when smoked! Vegetables can vary widely in terms of texture and consistency, and the results can vary widely.

Theoretically, any vegetable could be cooked on the smoker, from tiny and delicate ones such as peas and sprouting broccoli to hearty winter vegetables like turnips and beets.

Most of us will be familiar with summer fruiting vegetables on the barbeque. A side dish of griddled zucchini and bell peppers is a popular favorite in many households, and this can easily be transformed into a smoked dish.

If you are doing a batch of mixed vegetables in the smoker, make sure that they are all a similar size, type, and cook at the same rate. There would be little point in trying to smoke peas in the same pan as chunks of turnip or beets!

Best Vegetables To Smoke

The best vegetables to smoke are those which absorb the flavor well and taste naturally sweet when cooked. Most chefs group vegetables to cook similar types together, rather than smoking just one type of vegetable.

Here are some of our favorite vegetables to cook in the smoker:

  • Corn on the cob—these can be smoked whole, directly on the grill of the smoker. Baste them regularly with olive oil to prevent them from drying out.
  • Summer fruiting vegetable mix—large chunks or strips of bell pepper, zucchini, and eggplant soak up smokey flavors amazingly well. Keep the dressing light, with perhaps just a sprinkling of herbs.
  • Winter root vegetable mix—chopped root vegetables take a lot longer to smoke, but the flavor is incredible. A medley of carrots, turnips, and beets tastes incredible drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
  • Winter squash and pumpkin pair well with warm spices such as cumin and paprika.
  • A mix of dark green vegetables, like asparagus and broccoli, will soak up the flavor of the wood smoke perfectly. All you need is a twist of salt and they are ready to serve!
  • Artichoke hearts can be gently steamed for 30 minutes, then smoked for a further 30 minutes.
  • Tiny green vegetables, such as peas, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage leaves, can be wrapped in foil and cooked in the smoker.

How Does A Barbeque Smoker Work?

Don’t be daunted by the idea of a barbeque smoker; they might look mysterious and complicated, but in fact, they are a relatively simple piece of apparatus!

If you’ve never used a smoker before, then trying out a recipe with vegetables is a great place to start. Not only will it be far quicker than smoking a large joint of meat, but you can try out lots of different vegetables at the same time.

When using a smoker, food is cooked at a low temperature in a smoky environment. There are many different types of smokers, but they all work on the same basic principle.

All smokers have some kind of chamber that contains smoke and heat. This is where the food is placed, rather than directly on top of the heat source.

The main difference between types of smokers is how the heat is produced. Electric smokers have a heated chamber, to which wood is added to produce smoke.

A traditional smoker will burn wood for heat, and the smoke from this is diverted into a smoking chamber.

Purists would say that the best way to smoke vegetables is on a traditional smoker, that uses wood to generate both heat and smoke.

However, there is nothing wrong with the other types of smokers, and many people use them with great results!

There are also two distinct styles of smokers: direct heat and offset.

An offset smoker has a firebox that is separate from the area where the food is cooked. Heat and smoke are diverted into a separate chamber, away from the main heat source.

A direct heat smoker is very much like a grill, but the food is raised to keep it away from the heat source. A cover keeps the heat and smoke enclosed.

To get the characteristic wood smoke flavor we are looking for, it will be necessary to burn wood chips or chunks.

These can be added to the burning heat source, or if using an electric smoker they are normally placed in a tray over the heat source.

The final element of a smoker is moisture in the form of steam. This will help the wood smoke to penetrate your vegetables, giving an intense smokey flavor.

Steam is generated by using a water pan, which sits either on the bottom of the smoker or above the wood chips (depending on whether you’re using a direct or offset smoker).

Above this sits the grill, which is where your food is placed. The whole setup is enclosed with a lid, and a chimney with a vent to control the flow of smoke.

What Is The Best Wood For Smoking Vegetables?

Fans of smoked food will all have their personal preference when it comes to the best wood to use, and many people swear by a blend of different woods.

A popular type of wood for smoking hot dogs is maple, as it adds sweetness as well as a delicate smokey flavor.

Hickory is often a source of some contention between smoking connoisseurs—some people love it, while others think it is too harsh.

When it comes to vegetables, it is a fantastic choice for smoking vegetables that take less than an hour to cook.

Once you’ve got your smoking technique perfected, you can start to play about with your mix of wood.

Alternatives include pecan, alder, cherry, and oak. Try to pair your seasonings and flavorings to complement the smokey flavor you are aiming for.

The key is getting the balance between color and smokiness just right, without adding any harsh flavor tones.

What Is The Best Seasoning To Use When Smoking Vegetables?

It is not uncommon to smoke vegetables without any seasoning or rub, allowing the delicate flavors to speak for themselves.

However, the right blend of spices can give a whole new level of flavor to your smoked vegetables, and should not be discounted altogether.

Spice rubs can be bought premixed from the store, or you can have fun playing about with different spices combinations at home.

When you hit on the perfect combination, your friends will all want to know how you created that amazing flavor!

Making your own spice rub for vegetables is easy! Just pull out all your favorite seasonings, and mix them together!

Flavors that complement smoked vegetables include paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and coriander seeds. You may also want to include a small amount of salt in your seasoning mix.

It is a good idea to roll your vegetables in the spice mix as soon as they have been chopped before they have a chance to dry out. This will ensure that the spices stick to the cut surfaces, giving the maximum hit of flavor.

Alternatively, you can spray or drizzle your vegetables with olive oil before rolling them in the spice rub. This not only helps the spices stick to the vegetables but also helps to prevent them from drying out in the smoker.

How To Use A Barbeque Smoker

The process of smoking vegetables is much simpler than it sounds, with just a few easy steps to follow!

Prepare the smoker by firing up the burner, allowing it to preheat for 15-20 minutes.

While you are waiting for this to happen, prepare your vegetables and put them into the smoker basket or a baking tray. Add any seasonings or rub to your vegetables and mix well.

Wood chips will need to be added to your smoker before placing the vegetables inside, but when you do this depends on the type of smoker you are using.

They might be added while the smoker is preheating, or when you put the food in the smoker. For best results, follow the manufacturers’ guidelines.

Next, fill the water pan ready to generate that essential steam in your smoker. You can add additional flavorings to the water which will infuse your vegetables, such as sliced onions or cloves of garlic.

Returning to the smoker, it is now time to put everything together.

First, add the wood chips, if you haven’t already done so. Then place the water tray in the smoker, and finally lay the tray or basket containing the vegetables onto the smoker rack.

Close the lid, adjust the temperature, and leave your lovely vegetables to smoke to perfection!

If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a super helpful video on how to operate your smoker!

What Temperature Do You Smoke Vegetables At?

Getting the temperature exactly right is the key to producing the perfect smoked vegetables. The vegetables need to be cooked and warm enough to serve, without cooking so quickly that they do not taste smokey at all.

To smoke vegetables, you need a nice low temperature in your smoker. This will create succulent smoked vegetables with a firm yet tender texture, packed full of flavor and moisture. A good starting point is 225°F.

The temperature will vary slightly according to the size and texture of the raw vegetables.

Large root vegetables take a lot longer to cook in the smoker, and a higher temperature will reduce the cooking time. Alternatively, you can cut them into smaller chunks to speed things up.

The great thing about vegetables is that they are safe to eat raw, so we don’t need to panic too much about them being completely cooked.

Unlike meat, you can eat your vegetables when they are at the consistency you like, rather than when the internal temperature has reached a certain point.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke Vegetables?

The great thing about smoking vegetables is that it is so much faster than smoking meat!

Vegetables will cook much faster, even at these low temperatures, and you will be sitting down to enjoy them in no time at all. Just don’t forget about them, as they can quickly become overcooked and mushy!

There will be some variation in the time it takes for vegetables to smoke. This will depend on the heat and design of your smoker, the size of the vegetable chunks, and the type of wood chips you are using.

For all the vegetables listed below, the smoking time is based on a smoker set at 225°F. Where possible, the vegetables should be cut into chunks around 1” in size.

Type Of VegetableBest Wood For SmokingSmoking TimeCooking Notes
Hearty vegetables, such as winter squash or pumpkin.Apple60-90 minutesCut into smaller chunks for a slower cooking time
Dark green vegetables, such as asparagus and broccoliPecan30-60 minutesShake the smoker basket every 10-15 minutes to ensure they are evenly cooked.
Fruiting vegetables, such as zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppersHickory30-45 minutesDress with freshly chopped herbs and olive oil after smoking.
Root vegetables, including turnips and beetsMaple60-90 minutesA drizzle of balsamic vinegar will enhance the sweet, smokey flavor of root vegetables.
Artichoke heartsOak30 minutesSteam for 30 minutes before smoking
Small vegetables, such as peas, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage leavesA mix of hickory and apple15-30 minutesWrap small vegetables in foil to prevent them from drying out
Whole corn on the cobCherry45 minutesBaste cobs halfway through cooking time with olive oil

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over how you can smoke vegetables, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

How do you grill vegetables on the barbeque?

When cooking a barbeque for friends, it can be tricky to get the balance of meat and vegetables just right. It is important not to neglect our vitamin intake, and cooking vegetables on the barbeque is surprisingly easy!

The first option is to prepare a foil-wrapped package of chopped vegetables, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with herbs, salt, and pepper.

The vegetables will gently steam inside their foil parcel and can be cooked alongside your meat, fish, and poultry.

If you prefer a char-grilled effect to the vegetables, an alternative option is to cook them directly on the grill.

The trick here is to cook them on the coolest part of the grill and marinade them after they are cooked, not before. Vegetables can be grilled this way either in long strips or in chunks on kebab skewers.

Can you smoke fruits on the barbeque?

If you’ve got the hang of your barbeque smoker, you might be looking at other ways you can use it.

One great option is to smoke fruits, which will taste delicious as part of your summer party dessert platter!

The fruits that work best for smoking are larger ones with a firm yet juicy texture. Thick slices of pineapple or pear taste incredible when smoked.

Softer fruits like peaches or figs can also be smoked, but it helps to secure them on a skewer first.

When it comes to wood chips, fruit-based options always win hands down when it comes to smoking fruit. A mix of cherry and apple is a good place to start, giving a delightfully smokey flavor that will pair perfectly with the gently charred fruit.

How do you smoke food without a smoker?

If you don’t have a smoker, it is incredibly easy to turn a normal pan into a stove or grill-top smoker! Bear in mind that the pan will be tainted and discolored by the smoke, so it is best to dedicate a pan purely to this purpose.

Place a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom of the pan, followed by a handful of wood chips for smoking.

Add a steaming basket into the pan, and place your food inside it. Attach the lid firmly to the pan, using aluminum foil to seal any gaps if necessary.

Pop the pan onto the stove or grill, aiming for a medium heat setting. Allow the food to smoke for the recommended time depending on the type of food.

Remove the pan from the heat, and leave the lid in place for a further 10 minutes to allow the smoke to permeate the food fully.

You can also use a smoking gun, which is a super handy tool that can quickly and easily smoke just about any food, from cheese to veggies to fruit! We’d definitely recommend this one!

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