The Prep Step You Can't Forget When Grilling Romaine

In a famous Kitchen Nightmares episode, Gordon Ramsay dismisses grilled lettuce as a preposterous dish. How could one possibly think of charring a delicate romaine? Among many vegetables, romaine lettuce seems to be the most susceptible to wilting instantaneously, whether it be from dressing or heat. But don't let this dissuade you – grilling lettuce is okay. In fact, it's even preferable to other cooking methods, since the heat gives lettuce a softened center and a smokey flavor in the surrounding leaves, per New York Times.

Grilled romaine is similar to roasted cabbage wedges, with a caramelized edge and a slightly sweetened center. Although the idea of a grilled salad may seem counterintuitive, its roasted flavor makes it a heartier side dish than cold greens. The first step to navigating a grilled salad is to thoroughly wash your romaine because dirt and pesticides can remain nestled between the layers (via WebstaurantStore). Aside from carefully rinsing your head of romaine, there is another step you must take before grilling your lettuce.

Cut off wilted edges

The truth is that romaine is sensitive to any additional moisture, heat, or dryness. America's Test Kitchen states that lettuce usually wilts due to a loss of hydration. Of course, the delicate leaf of a romaine heart is not to be tampered with recklessly. The already damaged edges of a head of romaine lettuce will further deteriorate when placed on the hot environment of a grill. Grilling a head of romaine might seem unconventional, but if you do it correctly, you'll end up with a barbecued and caramelized vegetable that adds body to your regular salad recipes.

There are also certain ways to cut a romaine heart, so that you get a nice, even char on the leaves, giving you the best grilled flavor. To avoid making a soggy mess out of your grilled romaine, you must always trim the browned or damaged edges of your romaine. This is also the case for a fresh salad, but it's even more important when you decide to grill your lettuce. Once you take it off the grill, be sure to eat your romaine right away.