Working with plant-based meat can be a sticky situation–and not just with your hands. Beyond Burgers and Impossible meatballs can cling to a traditional skillet, ruining the crispy brown exterior you’ve worked so hard to develop.
But before you kick your stainless steel to the curb, consider the recipe you’re making. The type of pan you use depends on the outcome you're trying to achive. This will ensure the best-tasting (and looking!) results every time.
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When to use a nonstick pan for cooking plant-based meat
If your plant-based meat needs to be flipped, stirred, or otherwise disturbed during cooking—and you aren't going to be deglazing with a liquid—use a nonstick pan. This ensures the deliciously crispy bits stay on the meat, not the pan. In fact, as a general rule, nonstick is typically the way to go. According to Sam Block, who worked on our Cooking with Plant-Based Meat cookbook, plant-based meat’s inherent stickiness means that more often than not you should be reaching for your nonstick pan.
Here are some examples of recipes you’ll want to use your nonstick pan for.
- Burgers. The best burgers are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Our Plant-Based Double Smashie Burgers are no different. To aid in the browning, we weigh the patties with a heavy Dutch oven to ensure maximum contact with the hot pan. Use a nonstick skillet to ensure the entire patty makes it onto the bun rather than a spatula full of well-seasoned crumbs.
- Tacos. Traditional chorizo is all about the spicy fat that coats the tongue. In Plant-Based Chorizo and Potato Tacos with Salsa Verde, a nonstick pan is your friend. With a bit of extra oil to mimic that rich, meaty texture, the spices saturate the crumbles and absorb into the potatoes for a taco filling unlike any other.
- Meatballs. A nonstick skillet helps develop a nicely browned exterior on your plant-based meatballs, and keeps them intact. Cooking with Plant-Based Meat provides a few tips to keep in mind. After forming, chill your meatballs for at least 15 minutes, and when cooking, turn them frequently to help them maintain their spherical shape. Remember: handle with care!
Cooking with Plant-Based MeatThe recipe experts at America's Test Kitchen show how to cook 75 recipes successfully with modern meat mimickers—producing juicy, savory, meaty flavor—that make meat-free eating into a luxurious (and even preferable!) experience.
When to use a stainless steel pan for cooking plant-based meat
In a case where you’ll be scraping up fond by deglazing with a liquid (typically in a saucy dish) use a stainless steel or any other traditional skillet you have on hand. For these instances, it’s important that you don’t need your plant-based meat to hold a particular shape. Our Vegan Shepherd's Pie is an excellent example of the benefits of fond, plus the skillet doubles as a serving dish!
The pasta chapter of Cooking with Plant-Based Meat dedicates an entire section to building the best “meat” sauces with fond. These ultra-browned bits are rehydrated while deglazing, so you don’t have to worry about anything sticking later on.