Veggie Girl: Tasting the best burgers for your grill -- so you don't have to
You know what's really annoying? When you're having a cookout for some kind of holiday -- say, the Fourth of July -- and one of your guests mentions they don't eat meat anymore.
What the hell do you feed those people?
We'll be covering hot dogs in July, in honor of National Hot Dog Month, but for today, I took a taste of three different burgers to help you figure out which ones will be the best for your grill.
And the results were as follows:
First, a word about my selection criteria. I was looking for burgers that taste, well, like burgers -- all beef. This is something that the makers of vegetarian meat substitutes haven't quite gotten down pat. Chicken? Oh, yes. Turkey? Of course. But beef...well, if you want to taste the closest thing I've had to a hamburger since going veggie, then put down those grill tongs and head to City, O City for a Maximus Burger.
But if your heart is set on grilling something meat-like, then here are some options for you:
#3 Original Sunshine Burgers, $3.59 for three, available at Vitamin Cottage. These are the burgers snapped in the top left section of the plate. For a veggie burger, it was okay. But it's in the third-place spot because the image on the front of the packaging led me to believe this was going to be a beef-like burger instead of a full-on veggie patty. As you can see, this burger is green. As a veggie burger goes, it's not bad (made using sunflower seeds as opposed to soy), but it's definitely not even a little bit meat-like. And personally, if you're going with a veggie patty, I prefer the Spicy Black Bean Burger from Morningstar Farms, which has a little kick to it and a lot more flavor than this puppy.
#2 Morningstar Grillers Original, $3.34 for four, available at Target and most retailers. These burgers are in the top right section of the plate in the photo. I will say this: They really are better than Boca. (And for those of you wondering why I didn't taste test a Boca burger, here's the reason -- I hate them. They're salty and chewy, and the only way I'll put a Boca burger in my mouth is if I'm starving and at a restaurant where that's pretty much my only option -- Buffalo Wild Wings or Denny's.) The trick to these burgers is to make sure you don't overcook them -- a little grill flavor is all you need, and they will get tough if you don't take them off the coals in time. These were definitely more meat-like than the Sunshine Burgers; the texture is a lot like Morningstar's sausage patties. Actually, so was the taste. These burgers were slightly Boca-like in their flavor -- thumbs down -- but not nearly as salty as a Boca, and with a better texture. Not a bad choice, and definitely a much better value than the Sunshine brand.
#1 Amy's All-American Veggie Burger, $4.99 for four, available at Vitamin Cottage and Sunflower Market. These are pictured in the bottom section of the plate in the photo and were my favorite out of the three options. The flavor and texture was much meatier, and they don't have the overpowering tang of salt that I found in the Morningstar brand. There was a slight bean-like undertone to these patties -- like refried beans, almost -- but I like refried beans, and it didn't hurt the flavor at all, so I'll take it.
If you're going to ask whether any of these burgers are as good as an Angus beef patty, nicely browned on the outside and juicy pink in the middle, you can save your breath and your query -- they're not. If you'd prefer a meat substitute that tastes more like meat and have a thing for turkey burgers, then I'd highly recommend Quorn's Turk'y Burger. The patties are a bit small -- slider-sized, almost -- but Quorn uses mycoprotein instead of soy in its products. Using a fungus/mushroom instead of a soybean lends their foods a much more authentic flavor and texture, but they don't make beef patties, just meat-like "crumbles" that are good in tacos but would never hold together for a burger.
And there you have it. Stay tuned for Veggie Girl's take on hot dogs ... the good news: There's a brand of veggie dog that's indistinguishable from the "real" thing. In the meantime, Amy's burgers (which also come in Bistro, Texas, Cheddar and Quarter-Pound varieties) should be enough to sate your hunger, sans cholesterol or bloodshed.