Review of the Impossible Burger

I really love burgers. They are one of my favorite foods. When I heard about the Impossible Burger a few months ago, I knew I had to try it. It is made completely from plants, yet is supposed to cook, smell, look, and taste just like a real beef burger. Could this be possible? I really wanted to know.

I’m definitely in the meat-eater camp, but I am interested in reducing land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and water usage. I’m also interested in sustainably feeding the world’s population, so I’m very pro meat alternatives. Especially ones that taste good.

It definitely looks like meat! Check this photo out:

I know that marketing photos and claims can sometimes be deceiving, so I wanted to try this for myself. It isn’t carried in stores yet, but the Bareburger chain has it on their menu across the US. There happens to be one near me, so I convinced Amanda to go this afternoon so I could try it.

I got the standard: Impossible Burger, American cheese, carmelized onions, special sauce, dill pickles, and a brioche bun.

What Impossible got right

When the Impossible Burger showed up at my table, I was surprised at how much it looked like a beef burger:

The texture is just like a nicely packed burger patty. Cooked to medium, the Impossible Burger is juicy, stays together when you bite into it, and has the same mouthfeel as a beef burger. I took the bottom bun off and it looks like the Impossible Burger sears just like beef and gets a nice Malliard reaction crust:

Here is a photo of me taking the first bite:

After the first bite, let’s take a look at the inside:

So, it really does look and feel like a real burger. Passes 2/3 of the test.

Where Impossible fell short

Unfortunately, though the Impossible Burger looked like and had the same texture as a beef burger, it didn’t taste like beef. That was clear from the first bite. Instead, it had a soy/nutty/bean flavor that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The main flavoring in the Impossible burger, heme, comes from fermented soy. [CORRECTION: Fermented modifies yeast strains with soy genes.] Maybe that is it. The wheat and potato ingredients are likely pretty bland in and of themselves.

It wasn’t bad, just different. I really wanted it to taste like beef, and I even expected it because of all the hype. So I was a little let down. That said, it wasn’t a complete loss. The Impossible Burger took on the flavor of its toppings whenever there were any included in the bite, so that was a pleasant surprise. Good toppings are just as important as good meat, so letting toppings take the spotlight isn’t a bad idea.

I think mixing some Worcestershire Sauce into the burger patty might go a long way to improving the flavor. It won’t get all the way there, but it will pack more of an umami punch. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be vegan anymore because of the anchovies in the Worcestershire. Perhaps there are non-anchovie versions of it that pack the same punch?

I’ve definitely had worse beef burgers than this. The Impossible Burger beats out dry, overcooked, or old/low quality beef burgers any day. But this version doesn’t beat out burgers made with good beef, cooked correctly, and topped with quality toppings. I had an excellent burger at Bridge View Tavern last night so I could keep it fresh in my mind. The Impossible Burger definitely fell short of its beefiness.

So, I give the Impossible Burger a 2/3 overall. It looks like and has the same texture as a beef burger. But it doesn’t taste like beef.

Don’t throw in the towel yet…

I don’t think the Impossible experiment is worth giving up just yet. A burger is one of the hardest tests to pass for beef alternatives because burgers rely heavily on the flavor of the beef itself, which seems to be the most difficult thing to replicate. Impossible does need to reach this high bar to fulfill their vision, but this version doesn’t quite make it. That said, given that Impossible passes the look and texture tests, there is still a giant market for this version of the product.

So, what are some uses of ground beef that don’t rely primarily on the taste of the beef to carry the dish? Where does the texture of beef shine and other ingredients carry the dish’s flavor?

Each of these dishes rely on the texture of beef and a little umani from it, but not necessarily a deep beef flavor like the hamburger does. Since the Impossible Burger readily takes on the flavor of other ingredients, I think the other spices and ingredients in these dishes will go a long way toward compensating for the Impossible Meat’s flavor shortcomings while putting its texture and nutrition on display.

When Impossible Burgers finally hit retail stores, it will open up a lot of possibilities for other dishes. This is currently the best beef substitute out there.

Impossible Foods, if you want to send me a bunch of your burger meat, I’ll do a lot of testing with different dishes and write about it! Hit me up at chuck@grimmett.co or @cagrimmett.

Roasted Whole Cauliflower

This is my new favorite way to make cauliflower. It is great dish to make for a dinner party or a pot luck. It is vegetarian-friendly, can easily be made vegan-friendly, and doesn’t require much active work.

The seasoning in this particular recipe is inspired by the seasonings on elotes, Mexican street corn. At the end of this post, I have ideas for other seasonings that work well with cauliflower.

Roasted Whole Cauliflower

Necessary Tools

  • Oven
  • Large, oven-safe pan or skillet
  • Knife for slicing and serving
  • Measuring spoons
  • Bowl and spoon for mixing ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 whole head of cauliflower (I used a yellow head, but any color will do)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1/8 cup cotija cheese
  • 1 tbsp Adobo seasoning (garlic powder, salt, oregano, turmeric, black pepper)
  • 1/8 cup cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Peel all of the leaves off of the outside of the cauliflower, but do not cut through the main part at all. Keep it as in-tact as possible.
  3. Mix all remaining ingredients together in a bowl. If you want to reserve some of the cheese to also sprinkle on top, you can. I did.
  4. Slather the mixture on the outside of the cauliflower.
  5. Put the cauliflower on/in the oven-safe pan and roast for 40 minutes.
  6. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, slice like a pie, and serve.

 

Cauliflower in the skilletCauliflower in the skillet, ready for roasting
Whole roasted cauliflowerA slice of whole roasted cauliflower

Variations

  • Use olive oil instead of mayo/sour cream on the outside for a browner, crispier shell.
  • Use plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo/sour cream.
  • Use your favorite curry powder as the main spice.
  • Use cumin, oregano, and coriander as the spices.
  • Use garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper as the coating.

Apple Butter

Amanda and I love apple picking. We go out in our flannel shirts, pick apples, eat cider donuts, sip hot apple cider, then come home and make apple butter and bake apple pies. It makes for a wonderful weekend.

This year we picked Macoun (cross between the McIntosh and Jersey Black) and Empire (cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious) apples.

Macoun apple at Wilkins FarmApple Picking

A half-bushel of apples (pictured above) is enough for two pies, two batches of apple butter, and a few apples left over to eat.

We start making the apple butter around 7pm and let it cook in a crock pot overnight. The house smells amazing when you wake up in the morning. After just a few more minutes of work, you are ready to slather it on toast.

Here is our recipe:

Handwritten apple butter recipe

Apple Butter

  • 5-6 lbs of peeled, cored, and finely chopped apples
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/16 teaspoon cloves (4 whole cloves ground in a spice grinder)
  • 1 pack of gelatin powder

Instructions

  • Peel, core, and finely chop the apples. After rough chopping them, then pulse them in a food processor. You should end up with around 5.5 lbs. Use a kitchen scale.
  • Grind up any whole spices you are using.
  • Combine all ingredients in a crock pot, mix well, cover, and cook on high for an hour.
  • Turn the crock pot down to low after the hour is over, stir the mixture, put the cover back on, and go to bed.
  • If you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, stumble over to the kitchen and stir the simmering apples.
  • When you wake up 8-9 hours later, the house should smell amazing. Don’t sleep in too much; the apple butter only takes 11-12 hours of cooking time. Uncover the apple butter (which should look dark brown now), stir, and let cook uncovered for another hour to thicken up.
  • After you’ve cooked off the excess liquid, sprinkle the gelatin packet, and blend until smooth with a hand blender (they are cheaper than you think.) If you don’t have one, whisking will work fine, too. Don’t try pouring this all into a regular blender; the heat will cause it to paint your ceiling and walls as soon as you turn it on.
  • While the apple butter is still hot, spoon it into sterilized glass jars and screw the lids on. They should seal themselves within a few hours as the contents cools down.
  • The unopened jars should keep for months, but once opened they should be refrigerated.