It goes without saying: a summer in quarantine is a new concept for most of us. To avoid quarantine-induced summertime blues, we’re heading to our backyards and getting our grill on, vegan style! Summer grubbin’, starry nights, socially-distant hikes, here we come!
To help kick-off your stature as backyard-chef extraordinaire, here are five tips for rocking the grill, followed by a barbecue menu that redefines comfort food and will satisfy everyone in your home.
Tip 1: Choose the best grill for your needs. Big or portable; charcoal, gas, electric, hybrid, or stovetop grill pan, every grill comes with pros and cons, bells and whistles. Before buying, be sure to shop around, check out different types and brands, ask for opinions from fellow grillers, and, most importantly, choose a grill that will make your life as tasty as possible.
Tip 2: Get the right tools. With thousands from which to choose, here are five accessories every grill master worth his or her weight in marinated tempeh should have:
1. Two pairs of tongs: One for moving and turning food, and one for picking up the hot grate and moving coals
2. Skewers: Eight to 12 basic metal skewers for loading up with your summer fare
3. Grilling screen: For preparing tiny vegetables or pieces of tofu, tempeh, and seitan
4. Basting brushes: For applying oils, marinades, and sauces
5. Chimney starter: Forego chemical-laden lighter fluid with this cylindrical, metal wonder (Chef’s tip: Always play it safe with a dry chemical fire extinguisher. Your local hardware store or fire department will help you determine the best extinguisher for your needs.)
Tip 3: Mise en grill is a must. Before the first veggie burger, spicy seitan “wing,” or asparagus spear hits flame, have everything you need in place nearby. This includes having prepared ingredients, spices, marinades, and necessary utensils and equipment within flame’s reach.
Tip 4: Think outside the (veggie burger) box. The newest superstars of the grill circuit—tofu, tempeh, and seitan—join the world of spirited marinades and sauces to take center stage in summer’s greatest show on earth. With a few hours to overnight marinating time, bite-size pieces of this trifecta easily earn their grill stripes in about eight to 10 minutes (four to five minutes per side).
Tip 5: Don’t forget the drinks! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again, and again: Beverages are of utmost importance for any summer grilling sesh. When it comes to backyard fêtes with your household, beer should always be on the A-list. Have light and dark options in a nearby, grab-it-yourself cooler. Likewise, have chilled white wine (in an ice bucket) and a bottle of red close by. With the boozy basics covered, a pitcher of ice water and a round of specialty drinks are always in order for any barbecue fun.
Within those sparks and amidst that cozy aroma, the grill is the gift that keeps on giving like a familiar old friend. It is a place where time is counted not in minutes or certain months, but rather in burgers, corncobs, and laughter.
Get ready for your rise to grate-ness with my barbecue menu:
Party Starter: Salsa alla Sizzle
First Course, Side Dish, or Light Tapas: Vegan Dijon Macaroni Salad
Main Course: Ancho-Spiced Barbecue Burgers with Caramelized Onions
Dessert: Grilled S’Mores with Strawberries and Bananas
Cocktails & Mocktails: Fiery Fizzy Ginger Apple Drink, Ginger-Peach Sangria, & Piña Colada Mocktails
John Schlimm is the author of Grilling Vegan Style: 125 Fired-Up Recipes to Turn Every Bite Into a Backyard BBQ.