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Veggie Dogs

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 | Tags: ,

Veggie dogs have twice as much protein as a regular hot dog, but half the calories, a fraction of the fat, and zero cholesterol, and no mystery meat! With all that protein and so little fat, however, some veggie dogs can taste rubbery and dry. We search for a veggie dog that can hit it out of the park when it comes to flavour and texture.

The Basics

  • Veggie dogs are typically made using one of two soy-based ingredients:

    • Soy protein, extracted from whole soybeans. They’re cracked open and “defatted” in a process that strips their carbohydrates and isolates their proteins.

    • Tofu is made from soy milk, rather than soy protein. The process involves coagulating soy milk, then pressing the resulting curds into blocks.

  • To improve the binding qualities of soy and develop meat-like texture, non-protein ingredients are incorporated into the veggie dog, including carrageenan, cellulose gums, and starches.

  • Flavouring is critical because neither tofu nor soy protein taste anything like a hot dog. Their natural, slightly cereal flavour is masked, and then a hot dog flavour is built on top using natural and artificial flavouring agents to create the characteristic meaty notes, as well as important background notes such as fatty, roasted, etc.

  • Look for veggie dogs with a low sugar content if you want a more savoury, meaty flavour.

  • Given that the process of creating a veggie dog is similar across varieties, the best veggie dog is generally the one that appeals most from a flavour standpoint. Beyond the “beef frank” veggie dogs, there are quite range of different options in veggie dogs and sausages, including smoked bratwurst, Italian, chipotle, and so on.

Other Considerations

  • Once the package is opened, store any remaining dogs very tightly wrapped.

  • If veggie dogs are nearing their expiration date—or if you want to prolong their shelf life—just pop them in the freezer, then defrost and prepare as needed.

  • Follow the instructions on the package for how to cook the veggie dogs, as there can be quite a bit of variation between brands.

  • Since veggie dogs are prone to being a bit dry in texture, make sure you don’t overcook them, especially if you are preparing them with a dry pan or grill, rather than in water or a bit of oil (which should help make them a bit moister).

Be Aware

  • There has been some controversy around genetically-modified soybeans used in many meat substitute products. To avoid genetically-modified foods, look for organic veggie dogs.

TEST CRITERIA

While testing the cookbook How to Grill at a local baseball field, we barbecued four of the leading brands of veggie dogs, and asked some discerning players to help with a taste test. We cooked up:

  • Yves Jumbo Veggie Dogs (soy protein): $3.69/12
  • Sol Cuisine Sol-Dog (tofu): $3.49/12
  • Tofurky Franks (tofu): $3.19/12
  • President’s Choice Blue Menu Soy Hot Dogs (soy protein): $2.99/12

Veggie vs. Meat Test

Originally, we didn’t let any of our testers know that these hot dogs were vegetarian, but it wasn’t long before the jig was up. Although they preferred some of these veggie dogs over others, we couldn’t fool them into believing that they were really eating meat.

Taste Test

  • Yves Jumbo Veggie Dogs were fairly well-received, but weren’t anyone’s favourite.
  • Sol Cuisine Sol-Dog had a texture that was way too dry.
  • Tofurky Franks were our big loser by a landslide. Their flavour and texture were both unpleasant, and they were the most distinctly “un-meaty” of all our brands
  • President’s Choice Blue Menu Soy Hot Dogs had the meatiest taste and texture, and were the only brand that didn’t make us and our tasters feel like we were “settling” for a veggie dog. They were also lowest in sugar and made of soy protein.

OUR TOP PICK

The President’s Choice Blue Menu Soy Hot Dogs were the hands-down favourite, though our testers weren’t fooled. The Yves Jumbo Veggie Dogs were a runner up.

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