When I was a kid, my mom once took me out for burgers at one of my favorite local places. I was just old enough to start thinking of myself as something of a sophisticate, so I thought I’d try something new on the menu—I ordered the veggie burger. I was not thrilled with the result. It wasn’t meaty, it didn’t have any bite to it, it fell apart easily. But then, how was I to know? It said the word “burger”—right there on the menu—after all.
Well, mine was not the only disappointing run in with the so-called veggie burger. For years people have lamented the lack of a healthier alternative to beef in burgers. Yes, yes I know. No one is eating burgers for health. But wouldn’t it be nice if I could eat a burger and not…well…eat a burger?
Modern food science has heard that refrain from the American people, and answered with a new generation of meatless burgers. These new burgers are far from the make-it-in-a-blender-at-home bean burgers or their whole-oat cousins. They offer meaty flavor, meaty chew, the ability to sear and char them. They even employ vegetable juices so that they “bleed” pink while you cook and eat them.
But none of that matters if they can’t pass as a burger, does it? Here’s the thing, though: they can. Some people are actually fooled by them. Now, maybe you wouldn’t be. Maybe you know beef when you eat it and cannot be tricked by these veggie-protein replacements, but whatever you think of the new generation of meatless burgers, they are here to stay. So, we’re taking a look at how to cook them properly. Short answer? Cook them to temp! Just like a real burger.
Impossible burgers still need to be cooked to temp!
Despite the fact that these new burgers have no meat in them, they still need to be cooked to a proper internal temperature. The proteins that they are made of are not pleasant to eat raw but become more palatable as they cook and coagulate. Many of the major brands also imbue their burgers with flecks of vegetable fats such as coconut oil to replicate the juiciness of a real burger, and those need to be cooked to taste and feel right.
Though the risk of food-borne illness is smaller for these burgers than for actual meat burgers, there is still some chance. They are made from legumes, grains, and vegetables, and those can become contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. Thus, cooking them thoroughly is also a safety issue.
Depending on the brand you buy, the recommended temperature for cooking these burgers can lie between 160°F and 165°F (71° and 74°C). To make sure you hit that temp just right, be sure to use thermometers like the Smoke X™ and the Thermapen® Mk4
How to cook meatless burgers: a dependable method
To cook the perfect meatless burger, follow the same method we recommend for cooking real-meat burgers: grill them in two stages. Two-stage cooking allows you to sneak up on doneness without zipping past it, ensuring a juicier final product.
To two-stage grill your burgers, heat one side of your grill on high, or, if using charcoal as we did, light your charcoal and gather it under only one side of the grill. Once the grill is heated, season your patties and place them on the side of the grill without heat. Set up the air probe of your Smoke X2™ or other cooking alarm to monitor the air temp of the pit, which you want to maintain between 350° and 400°F (177° and 204°C), and use the other probe to track the temperature of the burgers. Set the high-temp alarm for the burger-probe to 110°F (43°C) and cook with the lid closed. (Make sure your probe cables aren’t reaching across the direct heat side of the grill. That direct, high heat can burn the cables and ruin the probes.)
When the alarm on the burger sounds, remove the alarm probes and move the patties over to the high, direct-heat side of the grill to char during the last part of the cooking. Flip them occasionally during this time so that you get nice grill lines and charring. Also, start monitoring their internal temperature with your Thermapen. As you approach your final temp, you can dress the patties with your favorite cheese so that it melts on the heat. Once the patties hit 160° or 165° (71° of 74°C), remove them from the grill.
Top them just like burgers, and serve them up!
When we made these, I was skeptical. But they really are very meaty and quite good when you dress them up properly. And because we cooked them carefully to the right temperature, they were juicy while still having that tasty char flavor. If this had been served at that diner all those years ago, I might not have even noticed!
Give them a try sometime. If you cook them right, and to the right temperature, you may just be surprised.
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