BBC Good Food investigates the first plant-based vegetarian 'meat' burger, using genetically engineered ingredients. Does it taste like the real thing?
I was lucky enough to go to the USA three times this summer and the highlight of my time out there was being able to try the famous ‘Impossible Burger’. On occasion, I’m a fan of meat substitutes, but I really miss the satisfaction of a good old ‘dirty burger’, so I was super excited to get my teeth into this famous burger I’d been lusting after on Instagram for months.
What is the Impossible Burger?
You may have heard about the Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that bleeds and sizzles when it cooks. It’s made using an ingredient called haem (or heme, an iron-containing compound that's abundant in animal muscle) and aims to mimic that basic moreish meaty flavour. Since it’s made from plants, it has a much smaller environmental footprint than its classic beef counterpart.
What does the burger taste like?
I went to The Public House in San Francisco and sat down with anticipation and excitement. I ordered it with American cheese, of course. It was really wonderful and met the craving I had since turning veggie. The feeling I wanted was the joy that comes with a warm, fatty and salty burger wrapped in an amazing brioche bun, pickles, sauces, salad and cheese. This definitely had that naughty, fatty taste and texture I was looking for.
The outside of the burger is coated in coconut oil, so it has a crunchy savoury outside like you get on a beef burger when you fry it. And there it was inside: that pinky soft middle. It was simply delicious. The flavour was really good – the best veggie burger I’ve ever had. However, I was hoping it would be indistinguishable from a meat burger so I was slightly disappointed that I could still tell the difference.
My expectations were pretty high after seeing all the hype on social media, so I was expecting it to be exactly like meat, but I don’t think they've quite gotten there on texture... yet. I’m sure they'll improve it and it was honestly amazing, but just a tad too soft and mushy. If asked to give it a rating, I would give it eight out of 10 – the top end of the scale being on a par with my old favourite from MeatLiquor! My husband, who normally eats beef, also had one and even he said it was very good. Pretty impressive in my book.
What other kinds of veggie burgers are on offer?
A few months later I tried another version in Los Angeles, this time at Umami Burger. Here, they do a special umami coating that has anchovies in it, so they advise you to have it without the sauce if you're veggie. I went for a double patty, with double American cheese and all the good stuff. Again, it was pretty legendary. Even better than the first time. It seemed to have been prepared or cooked better as it had a bit more bite, and it was gorgeous.
I also went to Veggie Grill in LA and tried the other famous ‘Beyond Meat’ burger. It was good, but for me, the Impossible wins. I think it will be big news and hopefully, the environmental impact of cattle farming can be diminished if people switch to this type of burger over beef. Ultimately, people will only buy the Impossible Burger if it can replicate the joy of eating a naughty, salty, fatty dirty burger without the extra side of guilt.
Try making your own veggie burgers at home with our guide to the perfect plant-based patty.
Enjoyed this? Read other vegan guides...
Would you try the Impossible Burger? Leave a comment below...