Summer’s warm weather teases our primal instincts to be outdoors as much as possible, especially when it comes to eating. But sometimes, vegans feel that the grill is the domain of meat-eaters. Not so! Don’t get stuck indoors making meals over a hot stove. And don’t settle for frozen veggie burgers when there’s a world of food to explore. You can own that grill this season with our top 10 tips for vegan grilling:
- Don’t settle. While frozen veggies burgers are fine, there are lots of creative ways to cook plant-based foods on the grill. Think marinated seitan or tempeh kebabs; grilled polenta topped with summer vegetables; carrot dogs smothered in spicy lentil chili; and if you want a burger, try a marinated portobello burger instead.
- Timing is everything. Under or overcooked vegetables can ruin what could have been a great meal. Vegetables with high water content, like asparagus and bell peppers, cook more quickly than dense, starchy ones. A total of 8 to 10 minutes might be all you need. Plan to cook starchy or dense vegetables, like sweet potatoes, potatoes, and carrots, for at least 20 to 25 minutes or less if you par-boil them first. Cooking dense veggies in a foil pouch will create steam which can hasten cooking times.
- Burn baby burn. Grilling often means using high heat or flames. Use a high-heat oil (with a high smoke point) for the grill and for foods that go directly on the grill to avoid the nasty cancer-causing free radicals that come when unrefined oils are exposed to high temperatures. Avocado, refined olive (not extra virgin), and peanut oil are a few healthy choices.
- One size fits all. When grilling vegetables, either on kebabs or in foil packets, cut them into pieces of the same size so that they cook evenly. ‘Nuff said.
- We get by with a little help from our oil. It’s no fun when your food gets stuck to the grill. Here are two things you can do to prevent that from happening. One, use a pair of tongs to hold a tightly folded paper towel lightly dipped in oil to wipe the grate of your cold grill before putting any food on it. And two, make sure your grill is hot before placing food on it.
- Dress for success. Toss veggies in a bit of refined olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper to prep them for the grill. The oil will lock in flavors and moisture and salt will give them a little flavor.
- Use it or lose it. Using skewers or grill baskets (have you heard of mesh grill bags?) for foods like mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers, and pieces of zucchini means they won’t fall in between the grates. Heavy-duty foil is a perfectly good substitute when you double it up and crimp up the edges to create a basket.
- A little spice is nice. Many dry rubs and marinades recommended for meat work beautifully on vegetables, too. Just read the labels to ensure there are no animal products in the ingredients.
- Peaches, pineapple, and pears, oh my! Open up to new ideas about what goes on the grill. Watermelon, avocado, citrus, radicchio, romaine–grilling can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Natural sugars in fruit will caramelize and make for an easy, seasonal dessert (and better yet with a scoop of vegan ice cream!) Grill halved heads of romaine lettuce or radicchio for a smokey start to a salad. Even kale leaves can be quickly grilled for a delightfully different taste and crispy texture. Or grill up pitted avocado halves and stuff them with a summer salad like grain-free tabbouleh.
- And then there’s this. Pizza dough can be placed right on the grill to make a smokey outdoor pizza that will knock your socks off! Look for tips online. And if raw dough feels too tricky for you, buy frozen cauliflower or broccoli crusts (great for GF friends), naan bread, or pita bread.
So get your grill on vegans and let the good times roll!