Veggie Burgers Every Which Way (The Experiment LLC, 2011) is the perfect alternative to the rubbery, over-processed frozen burgers found at the supermarket. Author Lukas Volger offers more than thirty unique and delicious veggie burger recipes, more than half of which are vegan and/or gluten-free. This excerpt from “Veggie Burger Basics” gives helpful tips on how to make veggie burgers, from shaping to baking.
Shaping Veggie Burgers
I prefer my veggie burgers to be moderate in size: about 4 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. If you shape the burgers any larger, you run the risk of having them fall apart when you flip them. If they’re any smaller, they’ll seem like an after thought to the hamburger bun.
Veggie burger “sliders” are also a fun variation. Simply shape rounded tablespoons of the mixture into small patties and then sauté. See note below regarding cooking time and cooking method.
Cooking Methods for Veggie Burgers
I’ve been cooking veggie burgers for a long time—for years before I began to work on this book. And I cooked them in many different ways over the years: in a sauté pan, in the oven, on the barbecue, and [gulp] occasionally in the microwave. As I began to develop the recipes that appear in this book, I experimented with many different ways of cooking veggie burgers. Based on all of my past experience and then my more recent experimenting, I’ve settled on what I believe to be the one almost universally fail-safe method.
• Best Veggie Burger Cooking Method: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In an oven-safe skillet or nonstick sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the burgers and brown, turning once, for 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through. If cooking a larger quantity than will fit in your skillet, brown the burgers in batches and then transfer them to a baking sheet or roasting pan before going into the oven.
This combination of first “searing” the burgers and then finishing in the oven is the same method that restaurants use on cuts of meat. I realize it’s a fairly nontraditional approach to veggie burgers. I repeatedly found that when the size of burgers I wanted to cook were cooked only in a sauté pan, they weren’t fully cooked in the center, forcing me to either overcook the exterior or add more bread crumbs than I’d like so as to dry out the mixture. Just baking the burgers is fine, but in my opinion the absence of a crisp, “charred” exterior is far too much of a compromise. My method resolves this issue and offers the best of both worlds: a crispy exterior and fully cooked interior. It also facilitates a slightly wetter mixture—which means that fewer bread crumbs are needed— because the burgers will dry out a bit and firm up in the oven. Most of the recipes included here use this method, but if you’re not persuaded by my advocacy of the method and prefer alternate methods, I offer the guidelines below.
• To Panfry: In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the burgers. Let sizzle for about a minute and then turn the heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned, and then flip and finish cooking on the other side. You may want to cover the pan for 2 or 3 minutes of the cooking time so as to cook the burgers through. But be judicious about doing this, as you may inadvertently steam the burgers.
• To Bake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet, roasting pan, or other oven-safe pan. Bake the burgers for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until firmed and lightly browned on each side.
• To Grill: Just about everyone— even vegans and vegetarians— likes food that’s been prepared on an outdoor grill or barbecue. When you use a grill to cook veggie burgers, you can get decent results by treating it as more of an oven than a grill. Cook the burgers on either a small baking sheet or a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. The burgers will require about 15 minutes of cooking time over medium-high heat. Flip them halfway through. The strength of any grill’s heat varies greatly, so be sure to keep an eye on the burgers. Watch for them to brown on the exterior and firm up, indicating that they are fully cooked through.
• Cooking “Sliders”: Sauté the sliders in oil, turning once, for 6 to 10 minutes total. It is not necessary to transfer them to the oven to finish heating. To keep a batch of sliders warm, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 275 degrees Fahrenheit oven.
A Note on Oil: Unless otherwise specified in these recipes, I recommend using an oil that is mild, is as minimally processed as possible, and that has a high smoking point. I call for olive oil throughout the book, but feel free to substitute another oil, like grapeseed or canola oil, that you prefer.
Exciting Veggie Burger Recipes
Excerpt from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful and Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Burgers—Plus Toppings, Sides, Buns and More, copyright © Lukas Volger, 2010. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment, LLC. Available wherever books are sold.