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If I grill veggies and then grill meats (or vice versa) on the same surface, is heating and brushing the grill an adequate method to assure I haven't offended a vegan or vegetarian?

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    There is also a new Vegetarianism.se that might be of help. – Jolenealaska Apr 13 '17 at 1:39
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    Related: orthodox Jews' objections to cookware used for meat vs. milk, and the rules they apply to themselves when not at home. – Carl Witthoft Apr 13 '17 at 12:53
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    I feel this question isn't really about cooking. Definitely seconding the suggestion to take it to vegetarianism.se. – Erik Apr 13 '17 at 13:05
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    Comments are not for answering the question; please post an answer if you wish to answer. And this question is on topic here, so I don't intend to migrate it, even if it's also on topic elsewhere. – Cascabel Apr 13 '17 at 14:17
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    Related Question on Veg*nism.SE -- vegetarianism.stackexchange.com/q/551/70 – Erica Apr 13 '17 at 14:31

15 Answers 15

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My response to this kind of question is always just ask, and if you absolutely can't, err on the side of caution.

I'm assuming here that you're talking about a pretty thorough heating and brushing. If you're leaving a bunch of meat stuff on the grill, that someone could conceivably taste, that's not good - you certainly shouldn't be risking food that actually has meat in it. But if it's essentially clean, with pretty much everything burned and scraped off, you're in a much better state.

I believe most of the vegetarians I know would be okay with that general plan. They're pretty pragmatic about their diets, they they know that some people eat meat and aren't going to have two grills, and they'll regard it as pretty similar to you using a pan that previously was used for meat but has since been washed. I would be sure I was doing everything that I could, thorough heating and brushing, separate (or washed) utensils, and so on, but I wouldn't be overly worried at that point.

But there are also people who keep to much stricter diets for all kinds of reasons (see Journeyman Geek's answer, for example), who would not be okay with this.

The only way you can tell the difference between the two is to ask, or to know someone well enough that you don't have to ask. This is really a pretty general principle when it comes to potentially strongly-held beliefs: if you want to do right by someone, don't expect to be able to use generalized categories to get the answer, assume you need their answer.

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    Many would be absolutely OK if you asked them beforehand, but would put you on a heated and brushed grill for assuming they are OK with it :) – rackandboneman Apr 13 '17 at 7:53
  • @rackandboneman If you're referring to the "I believe", that's more about the "most" - I already know for sure about a lot of friends/family. – Cascabel Apr 13 '17 at 14:15
  • Always ask! To some (like me), it's just disgusting that there was dead body on the surface. So attitude vary a lot. Looking at this from the other side, if someone would ask me "are you fine those were prepared on same surface", I would really appreciate that someone took my preferences into consideration and was open and detailed about preparation details (even I would not be able to eat). – Grzegorz Wierzowiecki Apr 16 '17 at 21:52
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Depends on the person but typically... no.

I'm not sure how bad cross contamination is in terms of food safety, but grills are high heat, though you might not always heat the food through.

Many observant vegetarians however would minimally prefer separate dedicated utensils and cooking surfaces not used for meat. I personally wouldn't eat it, as a vegetarian (for religious reasons) and many ideological ones would probably consider it unacceptable.

If you want to be safe, don't.

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    This is a good point about knowing who you are cooking for. I assumed from the way that the OP phrased the question that they were not a commercial operation, so I think it again comes down to "just ask". – KennyPeanuts Apr 13 '17 at 10:31
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    This is really the critical bit. A lot of Indian families who have "vegetarian days" or mixed diets actually have separate veggie/non veggie cutlery. Its definitely a just ask – Journeyman Geek Apr 13 '17 at 10:33
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    @JourneymanGeek Interesting that someone who isn't a "full time" vegetarian would still prefer separate cutlery for meat and veg. Why is that? I don't see the religious or ideological conflict in eating lentils with your meat fork, if you plan on eating a lamb chop tomorrow anyway. – Nuclear Wang Apr 13 '17 at 12:31
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    @NuclearWang : there are a lot of cultural and religious practices that don't make sense to outsiders. Just because it doesn't make sense to us, it doesn't mean that we should disregard it. For example, I went to school with a Cambodian, who had a practice of never touching food. One day, after a project ran late and someone went and got a few pizzas, Fu grabbed a slice and started eating. Someone pointed out that he had touched food ... which triggered Fu to involuntarily puke up all over the place. To him, the problem was real, and that's all that mattered. – Joe Apr 13 '17 at 13:18
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    Well, its sort of a geas sorta thing. They go "we'll be veggie on monday for this god and wednesday for this god and are about as strict as a full time veggie them – Journeyman Geek Apr 13 '17 at 13:22
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Imagine if someone grilled a cat or dog, and then rinsed the grill surface to cook your burger. Would you be happy? This is how you have to think about it.

I am not vegan or vegetarian but used to live with someone who is. I always used separate pots and pans and utensils. Don't recall ever having a cook out or how I handled that. You can designate one of your grill sections to be non-meat and not have meat come into contact, and use a separate flipper, but your guest may not realize and assume you are mixing surfaces, etc. and will become stressed.

It is probably best to have an open discussion on how both of you can manage the situation to make everyone comfortable and respect everyone's lifestyle choices (including yours which is to eat meat).

Updated since I am getting some negative feedback my point is being misunderstood. Pick whatever food or substance you consider to be absolutely disgusting and would cringe if that was previously laying on top of the cooking surface that your food is now being cooked on.

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    You've clearly never tasted dog (sarcasm). This answer makes as much sense as whining about cultures that don't have our European horror of dining on insects. – Carl Witthoft Apr 13 '17 at 12:56
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    This answer makes sense in the context it was meant - sufficiently strict vegetarians, and non-vegetarians who don't eat cat or dog. It'd be better if it took a broader context, but I'd hardly dismiss it or compare it to unreasonable whining. – Cascabel Apr 13 '17 at 22:04
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    As a vegan, this answer's analogy accurately reflects the almost sense of horror one gets, and is the kind I would use if I was explaining something. It is certainly not 'whining', and truly the experience felt. – SSight3 Apr 15 '17 at 12:19
  • I hope it's okay that I removed the part that was attracting the most negative attention. I think the point is made just as well if not better without it; comparing omnivores to cannibals comes across more as insulting than constructive. – Cascabel Apr 15 '17 at 23:48
  • That is fine. I just wanted to make sure there was at least one item all people could identify with being horrified at even the thought of eating. – Thomas Carlisle Apr 17 '17 at 21:30
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There is a huge variety of motivations and feelings involved in the choice to not eat meat. If you're serving a large group, it would be best to choose the safest option and use separate surfaces and implements. However, if just serving some close friends, it may be worth asking them if this is suitable, assuming you are confident this question will not annoy them (it very well may!)

One answer has mentioned that vegetarians universally grow to find meat products disgusting. In my own experience, I do not have a disgust reaction to the thought of animal products, I simply feel strongly that I don't want to eat any.

One option not yet mentioned: if you're cooking in a single batch instead of a continuous supply, you could grill the veggies first, then the meats after. As Doc Brown would say, "It's perfect, you're just not thinking fourth-dimensionally!"

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    That's my usual solution (with a major scrubbing before using, and some time on high heat if using gas). The times when I didn't have that luxury, I used a disposable aluminum pan, and cooked the non-meat stuff in there, with separate utensils) – Joe Apr 13 '17 at 10:41
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Just adding another dimension to this good question. Hope it helps someone.

Sometimes when Muslims can't get halal meat they tend to go for vegetarian meals. I can't speak for everyone, but in my opinion the sort of contaminations you described will make vegetarian meals doubtful for them.

I think this may be one of the reason why restaurants like McDonalds etc. don't describe their veggie/fish burger as halal, as they fry non-halal meat in the same oil.

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The thing about offence is that you can never be absolutely certain. You can only do your best.

If the guests are your friends, you can ask them. If it's a commercial situation or similarly catering to unknown guests, you should have a separate surface though many (even most) fast food places don't.

You'll presumably be cooking for several people at once. If one wants halloumi and then another wants a burger what will you do? (I'd be the one going for halloumi and I'm not a vegetarian, just to confuse you). What about if you do a batch of sausages and they get snapped up so you'd like to do another but the veg kebabs are on there?

Having given this a little thought recently, I would use a second barbecue with its own tools for vegetarian food.

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Most vegetarians will (strongly) dislike finding meat juices or the like on their food, because at a certain point there really kicks in a sense of disgust for meat, aside from the mental reasonings behind the choice of not eating it, so you should for sure strive to clean well the surface.

Most though will not be so fundamentalistic as to be repelled by the sheer fact that you used the same implements to cook meat, no matter how much you cleaned them before.

If you're running a restaurant thus you might consider using completely separate stuff to appeal to some more people, but in case you're cooking for friends most of the times a clean-up will be enough. For some people even that won't be necessary.
So in the end you'd better just ask to your friends.

4

I grilled some chicken once on a charcoal grill. I scraped it down and ran a wet towel over it and then grilled some tomatoes. The tomatoes tasted like chicken and were terrible. You need to be careful as some meat flavors can overpower a vegetable dish even in small quantity.

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You could grill meat on half of the grill and vegetables on the other half.
Be sure to leave some space in between so foods will not contaminate each other.

  • while I don't have a clue on how meat could "contaminate" other food ( contaminate with what??), someone could be nitpicking and say that the meat could drop fat into the coal, and then the smoke would "touch" the vegetables. – Tommylee2k Apr 14 '17 at 9:09
  • @Tommylee2k not everyone is reasonable about food. I know many that would not eat vegetables if cooked on the same grill... that's an extremism I don't understand. – Alessandro Da Rugna Apr 14 '17 at 10:03
  • @Tommylee2k "contaminate" in this context just means to mix together (It's not implying that the food is spoiled). – user52649 Apr 14 '17 at 17:12
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    Actually from the point of view of strict vegetarians, the right word is exactly contaminate... – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 14 '17 at 19:33
  • @user30031 I meant spoiled – Alessandro Da Rugna Apr 15 '17 at 9:49
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I'm surprised I didn't see this already - you might use foil.

Packets of foil, with veggies and seasonings and butter sealed inside, should be able to be tossed on the grill with minimal possibility of cross contamination during cooking. Also, it will taste good. This technique can be used for making different kinds of food too, wetter or sloppier or fragile or with very different flavor profiles, and let them also be heated on the grill.

For the very careful, who might be worried about cross-contamination from the outside of the packet while it is being opened, two layers of foil (even just tossing a sheet on the grill under the packets) should be enough to keep the food quite safe.

An odd alternative is using some other wrapping - I've seen, for example, corn-on-the-cob grilled still in its husk, which is then peeled off to expose a nicely steamed cob (and the husk serves as an extended handle). You could probably try wrapping some other leaf, if you have a reason to prefer that over foil (like adding flavoring) - if the leaf is discarded, it should keep the food clean. If you have a reason to go looking for alternatives to foil, you might come up with all sorts of possibilities.

Alternately, you might try baking pans (disposable or even dedicated pans), though the thinner the pan the easier heat will transfer through. This might let you cook larger batches, or, well, wetter foods using a grill.

Of course, I would also second the previously mentioned options of letting the veggies be cooked first (aka separating through time), and, most specifically, asking the vegetarians in question what options they would be comfortable with.

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You should ask your guests. It's the only way to be sure. Reasons for practicing vegetarianism vary widely, and span a gamut ranging from religious to ideological. Quite a few religions that promote vegetarianism have strict rules against the sort of cross-contamination you're worried about, while over on the other end there are plenty of vegetarians who won't balk at it, so long as you don't throw a steak on their plate.

I'll note, too, that while being a good host is admirable, it has its limits. As a committed omnivore, I would never think to demand that my vegetarian hosts make a special effort to include meat on my plate when I visit.

Simply ask. If you're met with what seem like excessive demands, explain that you're not able to accommodate them.

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Same thing happened when I had Jewish friends over, among other non-Jewish friends. When I realized I had sausage and chicken to grill, I simply grilled the chicken first and then the pork.

So... grill the veggies first and then the meat?

Or may you want to just steam the meat and then fry it in a pan with some vegan type of grease, of course. Vegans tend to also criticize grilling as a source of cancer.

  • Veggies usually take the least amount of time to cook and cool the fastest. That's why you cook them last. This will just make for cold vegetarian meals. – fredsbend Apr 14 '17 at 22:43
  • Not if you cook them separately and with a different methodology which retains most of the flavor of vegetables. – NicVerAZ Apr 14 '17 at 22:46
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    Citation for the last sentence? I've honestly never heard that :) – Erica Apr 15 '17 at 0:05
  • Maybe just avoid making specific health claims? It's getting a bit far removed from the question, and health and nutrition are off-topic here anyway. – Cascabel Apr 15 '17 at 0:15
  • @fredsbend - quick fix is just let the vegetarians get their food and start eating early. That's how we used to do it in cookouts, vegetarian food first, then nonveg after. The prize of eating early was offset by the trouble if one wanted to get more, so everyone was pretty cool with the tradeoff - and (our) grilling cookouts were usually casual enough that it wasn't a big deal for people to be eating at different times, since people were eating at different times anyway as things were made in batches. – Megha Apr 16 '17 at 9:04
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No. Do not use same grill. My wife has alpha gal , which is an allergy to red meat acquired from a tick bite. Cross contamination from cooking on the same grill and misunderstanding what “vegan” cooking means is prevalent. There are a “few” restaurants who’s chefs/owners understand and have a separate setup for your vegan cuisine. The outcome, from an allergy perspective is lots of pain and swelling for several days.

Now...that said. Your guest might not actually be vegan by definition, and would be ok, just ask.

And that concludes my presentation, on behalf of my wife,on why people are vegan, and true vegan cooking. I’ve included a link below, on the word above, as this is an allergy that has been in the limelight for several years but not promoted.

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It depends on the person. I know of people who:

  1. Ask for gloves to be changed at subway because one of the previous diners could have ordered meat which would be touched.
  2. Vegetarians who do not eat in the same restaurant where meat is also server because though the stoves / grills may be different, it's tough to use different utensils such as knives.
  3. Vegetarians who don't eat when someone at the table eats meat since the smell is offensive to them.
  4. Vegetarians who don't live in the same street where there is a butcher shop.
  5. Vegetarians who don't visit some fishing camps or some bays because they cannot see fish fighting for their lives.
  6. Vegetarians who don't frequent some restaurants where the patron can choose the live creature before it gets cooked.
  7. Vegetarians who don't eat in places that serve exotic food (calf hearts, pig heads in the same shape as the swine etc)

I go for (1, 4) and don't care about the rest as it makes living in some countries tough. However I do sympathize with the people who follow the other practices.

If you find the above tough to relate to, think of cuisines where the animal is served and eaten alive. It's not too uncommon.

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    And perhaps the most impossible of all to deal with: People who will not anything that has ever, at any point, been in contact with anything which has previously touched anything animal. I’ve met one such person, and the practical upshot of her food choices was that she found herself unwilling to eat anything that she had not grown and prepared herself. She even refused to use manure in growing her vegetables. Thankfully, by definition, you’ll basically never be in the position of having to cook for someone like that. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 15 '17 at 15:15
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    There are some advantages to growing your own food. Many of the salmonella incidents are because infected animals brush against plants. Also to not using manure. Juicy vegetables such as tomato are a direct representation of the soil where they grow. If you are sensitive enough you can taste the soil where they have grown. – user1952500 Apr 15 '17 at 17:15
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    I agree that growing your own food has advantages—and if your soil is fertile enough, manure is frequently unnecessary. But refusing to eat or drink anything, including things like salt, flour, olive oil, even water, whose production you haven't completely controlled yourself from beginning to end (because that's the only way to be sure it hasn't touched anything animal) is quite likely to have a lot more disadvantages than advantages to your life overall. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 15 '17 at 17:29
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I'm vegetarian and I've participated in plenty of barbecues. My experience is that hosts usually either don't mention the topic or inform me (rather than ask) that they're putting meat on the same grill as veggies. And I'm perfectly fine with that! So my answer to your question is: to be on the polite side, you might ask. However, don't feel pressured to prepare a completely separate meal, especially if you clean the grill as you mentioned. If your guests are extremely strict, they should reach out to you BEFORE the party, as people with severe allergies tend to do. And preferably bring some food with them. Enjoy your day!

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