It doesn't always have to be meat – foodies of all stripes now agree on that. Alongside aromatic vegetables and fish, a new option has emerged for the barbecue: companies like Beyond Meat have carried out intensive development work to create products that imitate the feel, look and texture of meat products. Their goal is to deliver a meaty experience – that is actually plant-based. Anyone preparing to cook a Beyond Burger or other meat substitutes should be aware, however, that their handling on the barbecue should differ from that of real meat.

Cooking temperature

While for a nice steak the art is to precisely achieve the optimal cooking temperature, this challenge does not apply to meat substitutes, since these products do not undergo the denaturation processes that affect the tenderness of cuts of meat. While a burger patty made from minced meat benefits from a raw to medium core, a patty made from pea protein that is not cooked all the way through can taste very strange. It is therefore advisable to cook the latter at a high temperature and ensure the product is completely heated through. Not because this necessary from a hygiene standpoint, but simply because it improves the flavour and even a core temperature of 60 degrees Celsius will not harm a vegetable patty.

Go easy with the seasoning

Meat substitutes are quite different in terms of their aroma and degree of flavour. With burger patties made from real meat, the aromatics will be instantly familiar to most barbecue fans – pairing them with other ingredients and seasoning them with salt and pepper happens almost intuitively. For meat substitutes, it is advisable to fry a test morsel in advance so that you can adjust the accompanying ingredients accordingly. Once the patty has been seasoned and well salted, there is no need to set off a firework of aromas around it. Other meat substitutes, however, may have a comparatively mild flavour – much like unseasoned meat. In this case, it may be necessary to follow up with strong sauces and, for example, intensely flavoured cheese. Ideally, you should check the exact flavour profile of such products before you go shopping.

The right expectations

Fans of real meat will typically approach substitutes with caution. With this in mind, if you lead your barbecue guests to expect an exact imitation of meat, you will no doubt see some disappointed reactions. Therefore, it is important to classify meat-substitute products correctly and not to "sell" them as imitation meat. For example, when hosting meat lovers, you can simply change the wording and discuss the merits of a vegetable patty. Those looking for a substitute for meat in the literal sense will usually be disappointed. But if you approach a plant-based burger variant with curiosity and analyse the aroma of the patty in its own right, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Patties made from real ingredients

It's even easier to embrace vegetarian alternatives if you don't resort to substitutes made from an abstract protein mix – and instead buy or make your own patties using real ingredients. Mushrooms, aubergines and grains are excellent basic ingredients that can create a lot of "umami" and depth of flavour. Trust us, the meat comparisons are sure to stop by the time everyone is heartily enjoying a juicy mushroom patty served in a toasted burger bun!
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