Sweating an eggplant is a cooking technique aimed at draining any excess liquid in eggplants and/or eliminating any bitterness of the eggplants or aubergines as they say in British English.
We recommend sweating eggplants, particularly before frying or grilling them over the kitchen stove, for a samfaina or ratatouille and similar. If the eggplants are not totally fresh it’s also a good idea to sweat them as the older they are the bitterer they become.
You don’t need to sweat or drain an eggplant if you are going to boil them or add them to a rice stew.
If you don’t sweat an eggplant before frying, it absorbs much too much olive oil or whatever frying oil you use, the water mixes with the frying oil and it’s very difficult to fry them properly, they tend to become mushy or burn easily.
Granted, there are eggplant varieties that absorb more olive oil than others. Therefore, it’s important to get familiar with the eggplants you have available or use in your kitchen. Likewise, there are some that are bitterer than others and the same principle applies here.
Some people like controversy even around such innocent topics and there are heated discussions about whether to sweat or not to sweat your eggplant before cooking it. To us, many recipes need sweating an eggplant for the dish to become exquisite.
We have given you some guidelines above and how we go about sweating eggplant slices below and at the end of the day it’s your cooking experience that will reveal to you if you need to sweat an eggplant for a particular Mediterranean recipe.
How to sweat an eggplant
- Cut the eggplants lengthwise in half or in quarters, in slices lengthwise or in round slices according to the recipe you are going to prepare.
- Take a colander and place it over a bowl or the sink to collect the drained eggplant water.
- Put the eggplant slices in the colander in layers, in alternate directions.
- Sprinkle coarse salt or regular salt over each eggplant layer and let it rest for a minimum of half an hour. An hour is best.
- If you do it the Italian way, cover with a plate upside down and place a weight on it. According to our experience, it accelerates the draining process.
- Once the salted eggplants have drained the excess water, rinse the aubergines under tap water, press them gently with your hands and dry them with a cloth or paper towel.
- If you are dealing with thin eggplant slices, you can skip the slight pressing we mentioned above. Just rinse and dry them.
As in many instances when you are cooking, you can drain an eggplant while you are doing other things in the kitchen or around the house. Besides, sprinkling salt over the slices and putting them in a colander takes less than five minutes.
As an example, a recipe that definitely improves enormously with sweating eggplant slices is pasta alla Norma