Monday, January 4, 2010

Meatless Wonders 101 (Wheat Meat or Seitan)

Homemade "chick-un" nuggets...no meat.
Homemade veggie dogs...no meat. Homemade "chick-un" cutlets...no meat.
Have you ever wondered how meatless meat substitutes are made? You know, the ones that come in a package priced per ounce like gold? Veggie dogs, chick'n nuggets, chick'n patties, veggie sausage, veggie pepperoni...all made from one handy ingredient: Vital Wheat Gluten. In the old days my mom would take fresh ground whole wheat flour, add water and knead it for 15 minutes, and then rinse the starch out of the dough under running water. That would leave this gummy mass of protein that she would use to stretch our food budget by making fake gluten meat. "Seitan" being the technical vegetarian name for it. Seitan...not Satan. If you are on a gluten free diet, this stuff is not for you. I'm good with it. My vegetarian husband's only complaint about Seitan is that it tastes too much like meat! So...let's begin shall we?

I know how to make it that old fashioned way in a pinch, but have found great joy in just buying the gluten protein flour in a can. Honeyville Grain has it for around 11$ for a #10 can. This makes the equivalent of 10 lbs of meat. So, it's cost effective for me to have vegetarian food stuff. If I bought 10 lbs worth of pre-packaged meatless products, it would cost me right around 50$.


One thing, if you aren't vegetarian and want to use flavoring, I highly recommend using a low sodium broth. If you cook it on the stove until half of the liquid evaporates, it makes wonderfully flavored meat-less meat. Vegetarians can use vegetable stock with great success in this way. If you have a good quality MSG free, low sodium stock powder, you will not need the liquid stock. I make my own stock or purchase already made stock. This box was at our local "dollar" store. So, still very inexpensive. If you don't want to buy the big can of gluten, there are boxes on the baking aisle at most grocery stores (see picture) that sell for a dollar and a half and make 1lb of meatless meat.
Here's my secret recipe. Don't freak out.
1 package (6 1/2 ounces) or 1 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup highly seasoned stock (or 1T MSG free, low sodium bullion plus 1 cup stock)


You will also need:
1-2 feet heavy aluminum foil (don't use the cheap stuff...it won't work as well)
oil or pan spray to keep Seitan from sticking to the foil (easy release foil works wonders!)
4 quart crock pot ( or solar oven) and a quart of water

Combine the stock with the gluten powder.
Mix about 2 minutes until a gummy mass is made and there isn't any dryness left.
Take one cup of the mixture and place on 1 1/2 feet of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with a non-stick coating or oil. I use oil.

Roll into a tight log...
Twist the ends of the foil tightly.
It will look like a hamburger chub. This is called a force meat. It is wonderfully effective in producing a very firm texture similar to meat. I've seen gluten cooked other ways, but have never had a great love for the textures in other cooking methods.
You can bake the chubs in the oven on a sheet pan 250 degrees for 3 hours. I prefer to immerse in a 4 quart crock pot full of water or take out to Solar Oven in a water filled 4 quart dark pot. Turn crock pot to high setting and cook 2-3 hours. Solar oven 3-4 hours. The lower cooking time I use for thin sausages and hot dogs.
What do I do with the chub once it is cooked? Well, it's like a roll of cooked meat. I cube it up and use it anywhere a recipe calls for chicken pieces (casseroles, stews, over rice etc.) Sliced it can be eaten like meat medallions with any sauce or gravy or breaded and turned into chicken nuggets. If you make smaller chubs you can add sausage seasonings and make anything you would use sausage with like pizza, Italian dinners, breakfast burritos. For a more ground burger texture, I would go with TVP or run the gluten through a meat grinder after making it into the chub. This would give you a meatier texture. There is no cholesterol at all in this "meat" so it's heart healthy. Very little fat (half a gram in 1/3 cup)and it adds that texture of meat at a fraction of the cost. Plus, it's easier to store a can of gluten than 10lbs of meat in your food storage. It isn't meat, so the texture won't be exactly like meat, but it's very very close.
There you go.

Seitan Nutritional information
1/3 cup (30g)
Calories: 160
Protein: 23g
Carbohydrate: 11g
Total Fat: 0.5g
Fiber: 2g

7 comments:

clan of the cave hair said...

I need to know more about this, like to use the chub, what do you do with it? Do you slice it and use it as patties? Can you crumble it and add taco seasoning a-la taco bell? I love meatless meals, but have yet to convince my family of their value...give me some ammo!

Chef Tess said...

Very good question Lisa. Okay for the chub, I cube it up and use it anywhere a recipe calls for chicken pieces (casseroles, stews, over rice etc.) Sliced it can be eaten like meat medallions with any sauce or gravy or breaded and turned into chicken nuggets. If you make smaller chubs you can add sausage seasonings and make anything you would use sausage with like pizza, Italian dinners, breakfast burritos. For a more ground burger texture, I would go with TVP or run the gluten through a meat grinder after making it into the chub. This would give you a meatier texture. There is no cholesterol at all in this "meat" so it's heart healthy. Very little fat (half a gram in 1/3 cup)and it adds that texture of meat at a fraction of the cost. Plus, it's easier to store a can of gluten than 10lbs of meat in your food storage.

Chef Tess said...

Lisa,I went back and posted your question with my answer in the original post. Thanks for the heads up, as I know there are a lot of folks who where probably wondering the same thing.

mlebagley said...

This one is definately going in 'the book'. Thanks yet again for a great (and healthy!) idea!

Lynn said...

Thank you for all of this good information. My son reminded me that I did make this 20 years ago. It was from a boxed mix and did not turn out very well. I will try this for sure. My kids all grew up vegetarian. 2 of the 3 still are. We make family dinners and this would make a good addition.
Thanks again.

Chef Tess said...

Lynn, I think you will find the texture much better if you use this cooking method where you roll the mixture tightly and simmer the rolls. It's that slow cook that seems to make such a great difference. Also, be sure to season it pretty well. All purpose seasoning, garlic, onion. Seems to make a difference when you use vegetarian stock.

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