Barbecues can be a wonderful thing: the chargrilled flavour, the smoky smells, eating outdoors. Barbecuing adds a whole new dimension to meat-free cooking and there are endless imaginative vegetarian and vegan barbecue recipes out there that demonstrate this perfectly.
The downside for me and many veggies, however, can be the overall experience itself. Politely navigating an omni barbecue can be a minefield. Even with the best intentions from hosts and other guests, you take your eye off things for a second and utensils get shared, your meat-free corner of the barbecue gets invaded, and things become suddenly stressful.
The stressful element no doubt goes for hosts too; I’m sure lots of people think twice before inviting a veggie to a bbq and panic at the thought of a vegetarian coming for a barbecue.
You might remember at Christmas I shared some tips for both guests and hosts on what to do if a vegetarian is coming for Christmas dinner. A lot of the same things stand true but there are certainly new and different challenges with a barbecue, so here are my top tips for creating a very veggie BBQ! Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments!
1. Talk to your guest beforehand
- Not sure what to serve up? Want to make sure your vegetarian or vegan guests are comfortable with how the food is being cooked? Talk to them! We don’t expect everyone to already have the answers and will feel more comfortable attending knowing there’s been chance to make recommendations – without having to feel pushy or fussy, since we’ve been asked.
- Don’t use the same utensils for meat and veggie food. Have a set available for each and, if possible, try to label them in some way to prevent other people at the barbecue from mixing them up. The way food cooks on a barbecue means there’s an even higher than usual chance of small pieces of meat being transferred onto other food.
- Create a separate space for cooking. Just designating half or a quarter of the grill as a meat-free area is unlikely to work – a visible marker works better, such as a tray on the grill, a higher shelf of the barbecue or even a separate barbecue all together. Though I wouldn’t usually recommend a disposable anything, this is when a separate disposable barbecue is ideal.
3. Be adventurous
- Supermarket-bought sausages and burgers are great for a barbecue and all veggies will appreciate having them available. However, there’s so much more to meat-free barbecues than these so why not stretch your culinary legs and try out something you would never have thought of putting on the BBQ? These ten sizzling vegan barbecue recipes are a good starting point!
1. Talk to your host beforehand
- Your host is probably more worried about having a vegetarian or vegan guest than you are about being that guest. Have a quick chat beforehand and make sure they know what you can and can’t eat. If they are providing the food, recommend readily-available brands where possible and don’t be afraid to let them know if you don’t like certain foods (you know I’m talking about mushrooms here. Not a fan? Speak up or you’ll get them!)
2. Come prepared
- If you’re concerned about cross-contamination, then politely ask your guest if it’s ok for you to bring a disposable barbecue with you. Chances are they won’t mind one bit and you will make their job easier by giving them one less thing to worry about on the day, since how easily your veggie food can be separated from any meat on the barbecue will depend entirely on the grill space available. At my house we have two separate barbecues and guests will always know that only the red one (easy distinction!) is for meat – this is unlikely to be the case in many gardens, especially if neither of your hosts are veggie themselves.
- Worried you’ll find yourself with a processed veggie burger and nothing else? Take along some goodies for both on and off the barbecue and show off how great a meat-free BBQ can be!
3. Branch out from open-grilling
- If you know cooking your food next to meaty goods will bother you, take along tasty dishes that don’t need to be on the barbecue or make ones that can be cooked wrapped up in foil and will naturally be separated from the meat dishes. Even if your hosts have a good understanding of your needs and have gone to great lengths to be accommodating, barbecues tend to be quite “hands on” and everyone wants to chip in at some point, turning food and adding new bits to cook. The bigger the crowd, the more chance there is that things will get mixed up.
As always, the key to reducing stress for everyone is communication… and great recipes! Be sure to check back this week for some more inspiration to have a very veggie BBQ!
Are you a veg guest or hosting a veg guest at a barbecue this summer? What top tips would you add?