Cook’s Illustrated Veggie Burgers

May 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm (Beans, B_minus (2.5 stars), Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Spring recipes, Vegetable dishes, Winter recipes)

Cook’s Illustrated’s veggie burger recipe is (as always) fastidious to a fault, and as a result quite labor intensive.  It’s also a bit light on vegetables.  But the burger tastes good and holds together well, even on the grill.  It’s definitely a good place to start when learning the art of creating veggie burgers.The CI recipe is available all over the web, so I won’t post the recipe here. Instead, I’ll just try to communicate their key observations.

First, there are two main differences between the regular recipe and the light one.  In the light recipe the veggies are cooked altogether using only 1 tsp. of oil.  In the regular recipe the mushrooms are cooked separately, and each batch of veggies uses 1 Tbs. of oil.  Also, rather than regular mayo, light mayo is called for in the light recipe.  For the mayo I used a homemade garlic aioli, made from olive oil, that was not at all light.   It was, however, what I would call “real food”, which many light mayos are not.

CI says that excess moisture is a big issue for veggie burgers.  They say to strain the lentils in a fine-mesh strainer, and then spread them out over a paper towel-lined baking sheet and pat dry with additional paper towels.  I strained my lentils in a strainer but the paper towel step was just too fussbudgety for me.  Instead I just let the lentils sit in the strainer while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.  They seemed plenty dry by the time I was ready to mix everything together.  To reduce moisture the bulgur is also supposed to be drained in a fine-mesh stainer.  I followed instructions but pretty much no water was released, so I think this step can be skipped (at least if you use medium grind bulgur like I did).  Finally, CI admonishes that the veggies must be cooked until all moisture has evaporated, and the veggies have started to brown.  I followed this instruction but again skipped the step in which the veggies are spread over the paper towel-lined baking sheet.  I just let them cool in the pan.

CI says mushrooms are essential for adding a “meaty” taste and texture, and nuts (they chose cashews) add a huge amount of flavor.  I didn’t have any unsalted raw cashews so I just used the roasted, salted ones I had on hand.

For texture CI says to puree the mixture in a food processor to make the flavors more cohesive and get rid of any big chunks of vegetables.  I only have a mini-processor so this step was a pain, but I think it is essential if you want the burgers to hold together.  I wonder if my stick blender would work?  Or maybe I should just bite the bullet and buy a real food processor.

CI says they tried low-fat sour cream, cheese, eggs, and reduced-fat mayo as binders, and liked the mayo the best.  They said nayonnaise also works as a binder but the flavor is bad.  They didn’t comment on whether the other binders were just slightly less preferable than the mayo, or whether they didn’t work at all.  I’ve seen lots of recipes that call for eggs as a binder rather than mayo.  If they work I’d prefer eggs, since I never have mayonnaise on hand.

Tasters complained that the veggie burgers (even after adding the binder) were soggy.  To soak up excess moisture CI tried flour and bread crumbs.  Flour made the burgers taste pasty.  Bread crumbs worked pretty well, but some tasters complained that the burgers were heavy and resembled meatloaf.  So CI instead recommends panko (which I actually managed to find here in Saarbruecken).  However, in the future I would prefer not to add white panko to my veggie burgers.  I wonder what non-white ingredients could be used to soak up the excess moisture without affecting the flavor.  Wheat germ? Wheat bran?

CI says that frozen, defrosted veggie burgers increase in moisture content, and thus before freezing the uncooked patties it’s essential to add about 1 tsp. panko or 1/2 tsp. bread crumbs per burger.  I didn’t try this–just froze the patties either raw or pre-cooked.  Once I defrost them I’ll report back on how well they freeze.

Nutritional stats when using low fat mayo and only 1 tsp. oil to cook the veggies plus 1/4 Tbs. oil to cook each burger: 240 calories, 10 grams fat, 1.5 gram sat fat, no cholesterol, 31g carbs, 9g protein, 5g fiber, 250mg sodium.

Rating: B

Derek: A-

1 Comment

  1. austin gardener said,

    so the 12 dozen veggie burgers dad brought home have cheese in them.

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