With summer in full swing, there’s no better time to light up the grill and get barbecuing. And there are so many options for vegan grilling these days—from hearty plant-based burgers to mouthwatering vegan bratwurst and chicken. So pick up that spatula and get ready to become an expert vegan grillmaster. Here’s our essential vegan grill guide.
Whether you are having a simple backyard barbecue at home for two or hosting a community cookout, there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure sizzling success. From tips on packing in flavor to advice on working that barbecue, we turned to the experts at vegan meat purveyors LikeMeat to upgrade you from barbecue novice to pitmaster.
Get the right grill gear
Just because your barbecue is going to be plant-based doesn’t mean you need to invest in a slew of special products. “Basically, everything you do with meat you can also do with LikeMeat products,” says Ben Brouwer, Digital Manager at LIVEKINDLY Collective Germany, which owns a portfolio of plant-based brands including LikeMeat.
The grill: Size matters
When choosing your grill, Nadine Horn and Jörg Mayer, founders of vegan food blog Eat This! and co-authors of the Vegan BBQ cookbook, want you to know you don’t need a fancy, high-tech one. “You can do lots of things with a half-decent grill,” Mayer says. “Really, a universal tip is to get a slightly bigger grill than you may think you need at first—more real estate on the griddle is priceless.” If you’re in the market for one, he recommends a decent-sized kettle grill with a lid as they’re affordable, reliable, and have good airflow, which ensures an even heat.
A charcoal kettle grill isn’t your only option though, especially if you want to minimize your carbon footprint. Considered more eco-friendly, a gas grill offers convenient temperature control and easy clean-up. Campers, meanwhile, can decide between a smaller, portable camping grill, or a simple grill grate to use with their campfire. If you’re grilling indoors, you can always use a stovetop grill pan in the comfort of your kitchen.
The tools: The keys to perfect BBQ
With the grill covered, what else do you need to get cooking? A grill spatula and some grill tongs are essential for placing and turning your vegan meat on the barbecue. Grill gloves are also handy to protect your hands from the heat while you’re working. Since vegan meats don’t have the same oil or juices as animal meat, it’s important to properly oil up your grill beforehand to help prevent sticking and burning while cooking. For that you can use either non-stick cooking spray or a kitchen towel lightly soaked in oil.
Depending on what you’re grilling, you may also want to pick up some metal or bamboo skewers. For example, Brouwer says Like Chicken works well when placed on skewers with slices of peppers and onions.
Pick the proper protein
The grill may be important, but so is matching the right vegan meat. Pairing your plant-based burgers with an outdoor kettle grill, rather than an indoor grill pan, can help them shine. By creating temperature zones, you can first properly sear and then heat the patty through.
Thanks to their versatility, LikeMeat’s products are a great choice for indoors or outdoors.
Brouwer says, “LikeMeat products sizzle and smell like meat when prepared in a pan, but certainly they gain a superbness from being on the grill.”
Digging into the outdoor grill options, the question of gas versus charcoal is often a matter of the flavor profile you’re looking for. For example: On a gas grill, which produces more steam, Like Chicken more easily retains moisture and stays juicy. Over a charcoal grill, however, it gets that distinct, rich, smoky flavor that many crave from their barbecue.
When looking at protein pairings while camping, Brouwer says Like Bratwurst would do well on either a campfire or a camping stove, but the former is the way to go for “the most authentic result.” After all, that natural smoke will just accentuate the flavor of Like Bratwurst, which already has a nice smokiness to it.
Become a sauce-spert
Another vegan grill guide pro tip: successful barbecue often starts before anything even hits the heat. Horn and Jörg Mayer recommend adding dried spices to mince-based products like vegan burgers and marinating pretty much everything else. Along with locking in more flavor, marinating helps decrease the chance of sticking when you place your protein on the grill.
“Tofu, tempeh, and seitan can benefit from a good marinade,” Horn says. “Half an hour is the minimum. If you can, you should let the products marinate for a couple of hours or even overnight.” For a simple and adaptable marinade, Mayer suggests a mixture of good olive oil, fresh or powdered garlic, salt, a bit of chili flakes, and red or white wine vinegar.
Plant-based Like Chicken is another product that benefits from a delicious marinade.
“Prepare a marinade of your choice as you like it, stir in the Like Chicken in a bowl, leave for an hour, and voila, you are serving the perfect grilled dish,” says Brouwer. His personal favorite marinade with Like Chicken is a combination of sweet soy sauce, finely-chopped fresh garlic, a bit of salt, and a splash of vegetable oil. If you’re working with Like Bratwurst sausages, Brouwer suggests just a light brushing of vegetable oil beforehand and then saving the sauce for serving. Canola oil also works since both have a high smoke point and are less likely to burn during grilling.
Master your technique
When it’s finally time to grill, the key is not to get too crazy with the heat.
“Treat your grill more like a combination of a stove and an oven. Barbecuing doesn’t mean to just shove everything over a huge fire and burn it to a crisp,” Horn says. “Low and slow is often the way to go.”
While you risk ruining your vegan meat if you charbroil it at very high temperatures, you can use a bit of high heat to quickly sear on your protein, which creates a savory crust and builds flavor.
With plant-based burgers, Horn and Mayer recommend cooking on a grill over direct heat for a couple of minutes to get a nice sear on both sides before shifting them over to a cooler position on the grill to finish heating them through.
With your LikeMeat sausages, you may be tempted to roast them on a stick right over your open campfire, but you risk drying out or even burning your food by doing so. Instead, let the fire die down and cook your Like Bratwurst, Like Schinken Bratwurst, or Like Rostbratwürstchen on a grill grate placed over the hot embers. That way, you’ll still get that signature barbecue smokiness without overcooking.
If you’re grilling Like Chicken, you can experiment with flavor by adding wood chips, such as applewood or cherrywood chips, to your kettle grill to impart an extra, subtly sweet smoked taste to the protein. Either place the wood chips in the grill’s smokebox (if it has one), directly on the coals, or in a foil pouch that you then place on the charcoal. You can also do this with a smoker grill if you have one handy.
Horn believes that one good thing about vegan grilling is that you don’t have to worry as much about “cooking through” like you do with real meat. “You can pretty much go with visual clues,” she says. “If it looks good and feels slightly firm to the touch, you’re good to go.”
“The Like products on the grill are cooked quickly, so all you have to do is check to see if the outside is a nice golden color,” Brouwer explains. The end result with LikeMeat’s various sausages and Like Chicken, he says, is a nice crisp outside with a deliciously tender and juicy inside.
Complement with condiments
Once you’re done on the grill, it’s time to bring everything together with some delicious wrappers, toppings, and condiments.
Brouwer recommends serving grilled Like Chicken on a lightly toasted bun with some lettuce, cucumber slices, and tomato. If grilled with peppers and onions, your Like Chicken skewers can also easily be turned into fajitas when paired with tortillas and salsa.
For Like Bratwurst, Like Schinken Bratwurst, and Like Rostbratwürstchen, all you really need is a hot dog bun and your choice of barbecue sauce, ketchup, or mustard to make a mouthwatering dish—but you can’t go wrong with adding some coleslaw on the side. If you want to enjoy a plant-based take on traditional currywurst, however, serve your grilled Like Bratwurst with a generous amount of curry ketchup, a sprinkling of curry powder, and some fries.
With all of these vegan grill guide tips in mind, you’ll be well prepared to enjoy a successful vegan barbecue from start to finish. You’ll get the smokiness, the savory goodness, and the satisfaction of a classic barbecue meal—and you won’t miss the meat.
This is a sponsored post.