Beyond Meat™ Burgers have been a bit of a phenomenon for quite a few months now, although the California based company that produces them released their first burger patty back in 2015. The reason, I think, that these, and similar products, are really only now filtering in to the public consciousness is that so many of the major fast food chains are offering meatless ‘burgers’ as part of their regular menus. I still have not tried a restaurant plant-based burger yet, but I came across the package you see above while shopping for other things and I decided to see what the fuss is about…
The Beyond Meat plant-based burger is made, according to the package ingredients, with water, pea and mung-bean protein, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein and other natural flavors, including apple extract and beet juice extract (for color). The company also trumpets the fact that the product is made without GMO’s, gluten or soy.
As you can see, the patties do look a bit like regular ground meat. The feel when you pick one up, however, is subtly different. I must say that I was a bit disappointed that the contents of the package were considerably less than its size suggested and, at $4 and change, it means that each patty costs about $2 each. That is quite a bit more than it would cost to make similar size patties with even lean ground beef.
My first experiment consisted of nothing more than using some of the meat to make a very small patty, which I duly pan-fried without any added seasoning. Once again, as you can see, the appearance of the cooked patty does look at least passably close to regular meat.
The texture was also fairly close, but much finer, and some what ‘springier’ than you would find by simply squashing ground beef straight out of the package and putting it straight on to the grill. Instead, it actually reminded me of Chinese ground meat preparations for dumplings and the like where the meat is finely minced and then stirred vigorously in one direction to get the meat fibers aligned before slamming the lot repeatedly and forcefully into the bowl to tenderize it. That method produces the same ‘springy’ texture and I have to say that I liked it here.
As for the flavor, to say that these patties taste like meat requires a bit of poetic license. There is a vaguely meat-like umami quality, but also something else that is clearly not meat. In fact, these patties tasted not unlike some soy burgers I sampled over a decade ago. I liked those ones way back then, though, and I liked these ones now.
For a more ambitious tasting experiment, I decided to make a little ‘meat-ball’ appetizer for two. I found that the texture of the product makes them quite easy to work with and forming the balls produce a much smoother sphere than the typically more lop-sided and ‘knobbly’ result I usually get when I use beef or pork.
Here, I kept the seasoning fairly simple and just added a little turmeric, ground coriander, garlic salt and pepper. When I fried the balls to brown them, I learned that you have to be a little bit more careful when turning them as the crust that forms can break away more so than regular meat, and the ‘fond’ it leaves does not dissolve quite as easily when deglazing the pan.
Here one serving of my appetizer … After deglazing the pan with a splash of beer (the closest liquid on hand), I added some minced garlic to the pan along with diced tomato and a little curry powder and extra water. I let this cook down and added a small knob of butter to smooth the sauce before adding back the balls to finish. The result, I think, was pretty good.
On the whole, I found this product to be nicely textured and flavored and easy to work with. At the price, however, I think I will continue using the real thing for the time being.