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Learn Grilling 101 from the barbecue master.

Tips for perfect patties.

Plus, recipes for Four Seasons Vegetable Burgers and Chick Pea Burgers

Cooking Class

High-Flavor, Low-Fat
Meatless Burgers

by Steven Raichlen

I'm not a vegetarian, but my wife and stepdaughter are. So I know about the frustration non-meat eaters feel this time of year when invited to a cookout. The usual scenario is a relentless onslaught of meat—steaks, chicken, ribs, and especially hamburgers. If lip service is paid to the non meat-eater at all, it's usually in the form of grilled vegetables, which are pretty to look at and tasty, to be sure, but not particularly filling.

Even carnivores are becoming interested in meatless burgers these days. A typical hamburger contains 20 percent fat—enough to deter anyone who cares about arterial health. The frequent outbreaks of salmonella and other bacterial contamination are enough to make even the most diehard meat eater long for a vegetable or grain-based burger.

Making Your Own

You can buy vegetarian burgers, of course. Most are about as tasty as the cardboard they come packaged in. What you may not realize is that vegetarian burgers are easy to prepare at home and are a lot more flavorful than their commercial counterparts.

One of my favorite vegetable burgers comes from the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle. The creation of a chef named Kerry Sear, they were introduced at the hotel's casual restaurant, Garden Court. They even look like hamburgers, as the fresh beets give these "burgers" the crimson hue of rare beef.

The other burger featured here takes its inspiration from Middle Eastern falafel. Chick peas are pureed with vampire defying doses of garlic and cumin. Potatoes are added to hold the burgers together.

Try Steven Raichlen's Recipes:

Four Seasons Vegetable Burgers
Chickpea Burgers

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  • Meatless burgers tend to be more fragile than their beef counterparts. Special care is needed to keep them from falling apart. Chill any meatless burger for several hours on a plate spread with plastic wrap before cooking. The easiest cooking methods are broiling and sautéing.
  • If you want to grill a meatless burger, use a vegetable grate—a perforated metal plate that fits on top of the regular grate of your grill. Preheat it to very hot. Generously spray it with spray oil. Gently slide the burger on top of it. The holes in the metal plate will allow the smoke flavor to come through. Gently use a spatula for turning. Be patient: your first few burgers may stick.
  • Another easy way to grill veggie burgers is to use a grill basket—a flat, hinged wire basket available at grill shops. Spray the basket with oil and load in the burgers. The beauty of this system is that you turn the whole basket, not the burgers.
  • The vegetable burgers call for cooked rice and mashed potatoes. It's fine to use leftovers and this will make the preparation a lot faster. To speed up the preparation, grate the vegetables in your food processor. (Use the grating disk.)
  • As with beef burgers, it's the garnishes that make the patty. Serve the following burgers on toasted or grilled buns with lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, ketchup, and mustard.


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