Hot dogs are the American flag of summer meats. The tube-shaped, sheath-packed meat-sticks plump away on charcoal grills and in baseball stadiums everywhere from Memorial Day to Labor Day, serving up freedom with a side of ketchup.
Unfortunately, there’s a group of U.S. citizens who can’t enjoy the taste of a blistery frank, nestled in a fluffy, white bun: vegetarians. Sure, it’s by choice, but whatever — hot dogs are hot dogs and the desire for a summer dog only increases when you can’t have one.
Thankfully, the soy industry has provided vegetarians with a similarly shaped food alternative in the form of veggie dogs. And while veggie dogs are possibly the only thing with ingredients that sound scarier than a hot dog’s (Oscar Mayer’s 12-ingredient mechanically separated turkey, chicken, pork and corn syrup versus MorningStar Farms’ 40-ingredient hydrolyzed soy protein, corn gluten and red dye 40) they are also notoriously difficult to cook.
Throw a conventional hot dog on a Weber, wait for a Maillard reaction (aka browning) and some grill lines and then pop that thing off; most dogs are pre-cooked so you just need to heat them to your taste.
Veggie dogs, on the other hand, generally need to reach an internal temperature of 165ish degrees and most brands recommend boiling as a preferred cooking method. Gross.
So here are some tips to apply — or to tell your grill master — when you’re trying to join the dog pack.
1. Always bring your own dogs. Most people don’t have veggie dogs sitting around.
2. Meat substitutes stick to the grill, so brush the dog with some canola oil before grilling.
3. Cook the dogs on a preheated grill using indirect heat. Placing dogs on direct heat will cause the skin to bubble and burn without actually heating the inside.
4. Caitlin Bertsch, lunch counter manager at Park + Vine, recommends a short grilling time (eight to 10 minutes) for dogs. “They cook pretty quickly and can dry out fast without looking burnt,” she says. Veggie dogs don’t react to heat the same way meat does. Fat keeps grilling meats moist; hydrolyzed vegetable protein does not. Keeping a veggie dog on the grill too long will make it rubbery(er).
6. Always bring some fruit and veggies to grill, too. Bertsch recommends dousing veggies in olive oil with salt and pepper, herbs or garlic before grilling. “Make sure the grill is super hot and grill each side for about 10-15 minutes,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to try something different! Park + Vine served grilled watermelon and peaches at their anniversary party this past Friday.”