The Vegetarian Barbecue: Grilling Goodness
What Goes on a Grill Besides Meat?
Ah, summer! It can be fun to cook outside and keep from steaming up the kitchen. You can host so many friends at an outside barbecue.
But it's feeling a little tricky these days. You've become a vegetarian. (Or married one.) Oh, and some of your friends are vegan! And you've just got that one grill.
So how do you host a vegetarian cook out? What veggie burgers (or veggie dogs) should you get? What vegetables cook up sizzling on a grill?
And what do you do if you're holding an outdoor extravaganza for herbivores, omnivores, and those who are somewhere in the middle?
Caution: Veggie Burgers Are Not 100% Vegetable!
Many veggie burgers and veggie burgers are not vegan. Veggie burgers often have a little dairy. Veggie dogs often have a bit of egg white.
But here's a partial list of vegan barbecue options:
Boca Burgers Original Vegan (hamburger-like)
Morningstar Farms Vegan Grillers (hamburger-like)
Dr. Praeger's California Burgers (low sodium, lots of veggies, very different than a hamburger)
Trader Joe's Vegetarian Masala Burgers (potatoes, aromatic spices, not hamburger-like)
Tofurkey Italian Sausage
Field Roast Grain Meat Sausage
A Well Credentialed Vegan Frankfurter
Tofurky Italian Sausage is, as you can see, a well credentialed veggie sausage. Tofurky is vegan. It has a little kosher symbol that denotes "parve". And just look at its badge -- it's outdoor grill approved!
I am not sure who did the approving. I doubt there is an independent certification agency that approves unlikely candidates for the outdoor barbecue.
However, it looks like it should fit the bill. Two things to keep in mind when you're grilling these: Brush the links with a wee bit of oil and don't cook them too long. (I guess the texture can get a little funny.)
Image Credit: This photo is mine. (So is the vegan sausage.)
Best Veggie Dog? - For Taste? For Texture?
Here we find a number of folks discussing veggie dogs.
In one of the articles below, a recently converted vegetarian discusses five different types of veggie hot dogs. Evidently, she convened her own little taste test panel and had a grilling party. She then ranked the vegetarian hot dogs from worst to best based on taster's comments.
I want to add this disclaimer to her results: I have tasted three or four out of the five veggie dogs reviewed -- possibly everything but the one she ranked number 1. I thought they were all pretty darn good. I don't know how I would rank order them, but I believe that I preferred Tofu Pups, the one her panel placed at the very bottom, over the Smart Dogs.
It's largely a matter of taste. Some of her buds really liked the Tofurky franks; others had a strong dislike.
I had to laugh because I discovered this article after I composed the paragraph about the Tofuky Italian Sausage credentialing, but I see this author is also cracking jokes about... well, who is it that grants that Tofurky "outdoor grill approval" anyway?
Moving on: The Chow Hound forum has also offered up some opinions about veggie dogs. There's just no consensus when it comes to taste!
When it comes to how well veggie products grill, though, there seems to be a bit more agreement. Just because a product tastes good when microwaved or fried, it doesn't mean its texture is well suited to grilling. And with regard to grilling, Tofurky just may be on to something...
The Tofurky Question
A lot of us are wondering: Where is Tofurky getting its "grill approved" status?
Who grants the "outdoor grill approved" credential?
Veggie Dog Recipes
- Vegan Beach Hot Dogs
Here's a recipe for making those vegan hot dogs fancy schmancy -- and (in the eyes of some) disguising them a bit. (This one is about dressing them up, not creating them from scratch.)
- Make Your Own Veggie Dogs
Now you'll really know what's in the hot dogs! Here's a recipe to make your own vegan hot dogs.
- Vegan Hot Dogs from Wiki How
This recipe uses tofu, wheat gluten, almond meal, and a lot of seasonings!
A Separate Grill?
Having a mixed burger/ veggie burger get together? One thing you won't want to do is cook things together in the same space. Even the corn on the cob may not get eaten!
At the very least, you'll want to clean very thoroughly in between, or designate a separate area on a large grill. If you do the latter, cook one after the other, not both at the same time, so things don't sizzle and spatter.
Tin foil can also be your friend!
It might be easier, though, to have a separate grill! Here's a small and inexpensive grill that's well reviewed.
Grilling Vegetables: The Basics
Here are the veggie grilling basics from AllRecipes.com. You can learn how to keep vegetables from sticking and skewer sticks from charring... and how to get those ears of corn to cook evenly. There are several ideas for corn on the cob here.
(A note that I want to add: If you use the aluminum foil method, you can also use the foil to keep the corn from touching the grill. But you should probably unwrap the package before serving -- it will be contaminated.)
Grill Pan - For Grilling Veggies
Another (partial) option for keeping things separate is to use a grill pan. (You'll still want to designate separate areas and watch out for spatters -- this pan isn't exactly a "meat-proof vest".)
The pan is a good option, though, for grilling veggies that otherwise... well, might get away.
How to Feed a Veggie Burger to a Meat Eater - The more condiments you have, the more tastes and textures, the less likely folks are to feel something is missing
How about a little table spread with some of these gourmet treats:
Herb salad mix
Tahini salad dressing
Sun dried tomatoes
Best Veggie Burger for Grilling?
Here are the results of another taste test. This time the subject is veggie burgers. The article is a good resource. They note not only which burgers are most meat-like but which are most veggie-like! Yes, some veggie burgers are nifty while doing their own thing. Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala burgers are not hamburger wanna-be's. They taste more like a samosa... but why not?
Once again I personally would do those rankings differently. I like Garden Burger, which the panel has placed near the bottom. I'd say it's one of the best non-vegan veggie burgers out there.
Ah, but at number one, they have placed Boca Boog... Boca Burger. I have been vegetarian since my late teens, and I like the flavor of just about every other veggie burger I've ever tried, including the low-sodium Dr. Praeger's burgers. Boca Burger, though... If it was the only veggie option I would eat it and be grateful, but I always did have my little pet name for that burger. Yet it's not the first time I've seen it at the top of the list. I've gotten the sense that Boca Burgers may be the burger of choice for those who don't like veggie burgers.
Part of the moral, I guess,is to try out a few different products -- even you don't like the best, you might like the rest! Chances are your vegan and vegetarian friends will be grateful for any food they can eat (and prefer your company to those burgers, anyway). But if you're hosting multiple vegetarian friends, or having an all-veggie gathering, it can be good to offer a couple choices.
- Veggie Burger Taste Test
Ten veggie burgers described and rank ordered.
You don't have to used burgers. Portobello mushrooms have that umami taste naturally. This is another good step-to step. The chef even explains how to get nice grill marks on the portobello.
More Vegetarian Grilling Options
Here are two more recipes for the vegetarian grill. They take a little more work than just tossing something onto the grill, but aren't difficult. In the first, we learn how to make veggie barbecue skewers using either seitan or tempeh. In the second, it's a veggie polenta dish.
The chef makes a very good point about the ease of vegetarian barbecue options: You don't have to cook veggie proteins as long as meat. You need to add a bit of fat to get them to baste and grill better, but they can still be quicker and easier than the traditional fare.
Totally Vegetarian Cookbook
You'll find the barbecued tempeh/ seitan recipe above (and some veggie burgers and dogs, too) in the Totally Vegetarian cookbook.
You can also learn to make a number of other alternatives to traditional fare.