Beyond the Impossible

I ate a plant!


We’re writing about burgers again. This time with a twist. Instead of beef we’re pitting Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger against Impossible Food’s Impossible Burger. I bought at least a pound of each and my wife and I went to work testing and tasting.

Beyond Beef = 1 lb at $9.99 | Impossible Burger = .75 lb at $9.99

First off, let’s look at some numbers. I typically use 80/20 (80% lean/20% fat) for my cheeseburgers, but in many comparisons online, you’ll see people compare 90/10 beef with both of these plant based options. If you’re making your burgers at home and you like to buy 90/10 beef, I think this is an honest comparison. But if most of your burgers are consumed in restaurants or takeout, you’re probably getting 80/20 with a higher calorie count than 90/10.

Here’s a table of calorie information:

TypeCalories per ounce
80/20 ground chuck71
90/10 ground sirloin49
Beyond Beef58
Impossible Burger60
Calories per ounce of each

And here’s a table of the pricing I found in the two large stores that I frequent in the Chicago area.

TypeMariano’s (Chicago)Target (Chicago)
80/20 ground chuck$4.99 per pound$5.39 per pound
90/10 ground sirloin$5.99 per pound$6.59 per pound
Beyond Beef$9.99 per pound$8.29 per pound
Impossible Burger$13.33 per pound$9.32 per pound
Comparison between two fairly large grocery chains in Chicago. Obviously your stores will be different.

Pricing for each plant-based alternative is sometimes close to double that of regular ground beef. And if you’re eating 90/10 ground beef (or even better, ground turkey) at home, you’re not going to see any calorie benefit by switching to plant-based protein.

What you are going to see in terms of health benefits from plant-based protein is a higher level of fiber than beef, much lower levels of cholesterol and higher levels of calcium and iron. Both the Beyond Beef burger and the Impossible Burger contain no trans fat and their total fat and saturated fat levels are below that of 80/20 ground beef.

Both the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger contain around a quarter of the sodium the FDA (USA) recommends you consume per day. We didn’t notice them tasting overly salty in our tests, but I have heard that some people do notice the higher sodium levels.

If you really want to get deep into the numbers, I found this medium.com post to be very educational and thorough.

Let’s now talk about how I made these burgers.

The burger buns

I baked King Arthur potato buns again. I’ve said it before but this just a great recipe for a burger or hot dog bun. It’s soft and pillowy and it takes a toast very well.

This time I used a technique to flatten the shaped buns prior to the final rise. Normally when I make this recipe I end up with fairly tall and round buns. This is great for some sandwiches, but fast food style burgers are typically not very tall. So I used a technique I learned from a brioche blog post where you are supposed to flatten your dough PRIOR to final rise. You do this with a bench scraper (Amazon affiliate link) or the bottom of a large measuring cup that has been slightly greased/oiled. Twist the flat surface on the dough and flatten as you twist. This gives you a flatter and smoother surface.

You can see what I did and how things rose in this short slideshow.

The plant-based protein

These two “meats” are pretty obviously different visually. Impossible looks a lot more like raw ground beef. Beyond looks a bit like pĆ¢tĆ©. The Impossible burger just looked a lot better to me since my mind was thinking of ground beef.

They both have an aroma when uncooked that isn’t terrible but it’s not something I expected. Beyond has a stronger aroma. One of the main ingredients in Beyond Meat is pea protein which is where Beyond gets its signature smell.

Cooking both patties could not be easier. The instructions are on the back of both packages. Basically I cooked them exactly the same way. I got a flat griddle surface hot (around 400 degrees F – 200C) and I cooked them 3 minutes per side.

You can view a few photos of the cooking process below.

The sample set

This was the most basic burger I could make with both of my plant-based options. I ended up splitting half of each burger with my wife and we jumped into sampling and discussing.

The ingredients of the sample burgers from the bottom to the top: homemade potato bun bottom, plant based patty, American cheese slice, a thin smear of mayonnaise, potato bun top. The mayonnaise went on the top because my wife was going to add more condiments and toppings and we didn’t want to fight the melted cheese. I ate my two halves just as you see them below.

Beyond on the left, Impossible on the right. Same homemade potato roll, American cheese and a tiny bit of mayo on the top bun.

The Beyond burger tastes more like a veggie burger than the Impossible burger. The Impossible burger gets closer to being a beef burger. My wife felt Impossible sort of had a low effort “pre-formed patty at a cookout” sort of flavor and texture going on. My comments were that the Impossible burger reminded me of a cafeteria burger and definitely a fast food burger.

When you eat the plant based meat alone, you notice that the Beyond burger is not very close to tasting like beef – it’s more like a veggie patty. But when you sear and get a little crust on the Impossible burger, you really do get close to a beef-like texture and flavor.

Beyond Meat also didn’t sear as well, especially compared to the Impossible burger. In this simple example I intentionally didn’t toast my buns so that this wouldn’t trick me into thinking there was seared crust texture when it didn’t actually exist.

I’m going to have a recap with conclusions at the bottom of this post, but first I’ll write about another plant-based burger I made.

The Beyond the Impossible Big Mac burger

The heel, club and crown parts of the bun.

At some point during the testing process I was struck with the idea to make a Big Mac copycat with both a Beyond Meat patty and an Impossible Burger patty. So I had to do it.

Again, I started with two quarter pound patties.

Next I needed special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun. šŸŽµ

I did not have a sesame seed bun, so I had to perform a trick where I split a bun and painted the top with an egg white mixed with about a tablespoon of water. After the top is fully painted, sprinkle sesame seeds (or whatever you want) on top and put the bun in a 375 F degree oven for about 6 minutes. This quick baking process might brown your bun a tiny bit, but what it really does is “glues” your seeds to the bun.

I sacrificed an extra bun to get the middle “club” piece of bun. McDonalds has a name for the three pieces of bun. The heel is the bottom, the club is in the middle and the crown is the sesame seed covered part on top.

I just split a bun and got my heel and crown from that and then my second bun, I shaved off a thin slice of the top and the bottom to get the club piece.

The pickles and special sauce

I finely diced up a yellow onion, shredded some lettuce and secured a slice of American cheese. Then all I needed to complete the Big Mac jingle recipe was the special sauce and pickles. Luckily I have recipes for those and used them.

Here are the pickles:

25 minutes
Spicy MSG pickles

Spicy and dilly and savory pickles are great as a snack or in a sandwich. A great addition to any refrigerator. I based this recipe off of this tweet from Joshua Weissman and added extra spice.

Get Recipe

And here is the special sauce I use:

5 minutes
Special sandwich sauce

Great substitute for mayonnaise but way more flavorful. Perfect on a burger or even as dipping sauce for fries and onion rings.

Get Recipe

And here’s my finished Beyond the Impossible Big Mac burger.

Beyond the Impossible Big Mac burger: šŸŽµ Two all-not-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. šŸŽµ That’s Beyond Meat patty on the bottom and Impossible Burger patty on the top.

An extra

As usual, I made another burger with the last of the Impossible patties that I weighed out. This one was big on flavor with gorgonzola and sweet griddled onions. After this experience, I strongly feel that you could easily pack flavor into a plant based burger with condiments and cheeses and fool someone who didn’t know what sort of meat was in the burger.

Gorgonzola and brown sugar onions on an Impossible Burger patty.

Conclusions

I liked my experience with the Impossible Burger better and think the taste and texture of that protein after it is cooked is more like beef. Beyond Beef seems to end up with a cooked patty that is similar to that of a veggie burger (like Boca Burger brand) or a frozen prepared vegetable burger. This doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it different. If you’re used to bean based or veggie burgers, you might like Beyond better.

I think the biggest adoption issue these plant based burgers face is the pricing. Because the two plant-based proteins aren’t extra healthy and because they are – in some cases – double the price of ground beef or turkey, I don’t see people transitioning in large numbers from beef to plant-based right now. A friend on twitter reminded me that the meat industry gets government subsidies (at least in the United States) and these plant-based alternatives do not fall under that category. Maybe in this future this could change and pricing will be more competitive.

Overall, if you put calories and pricing aside, plant-based proteins are better for our environment than a beef burger. It takes almost 90% less emissions to make an Impossible Burger and requires much less water and land than what is required to produce the same amount of beef.

I have no doubt that in the future (if humans survive long enough) we will be transitioning to more plant-based alternatives in our cooking. I was impressed at how close the Impossible Burger got to replicating a ground beef fast food style burger if it was cooked properly. For me, it’s all about the texture and ground meat seems to be the easiest texture to emulate.

I’m not going to start eating only plant-based alternatives to ground beef, but if changes are made to the products or if new options become available, I will certainly be willing to try them and I will be watching to see where things go for these companies.

Impossible patty, American cheese, green leaf lettuce, tomato, pickles and special sauce on a potato bun.

Check back next week and possibly I’ll make another sandwich or two. Maybe I’ll even eat another plant!?


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