Prepare yourself for a backlog of blog posts. I may not have been blogging for all of these months but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t documenting my various purchases — makeup, skincare, foods, etc.
Over the summer, basically BBQ season, I was hearing a lot about vegan burgers, the Beyond Burger in particular, and I was intrigued. There’s another vegan burger called the Impossible Burger which actually “bleeds” that I’m even more interested in trying but apparently you can only get that one in restaurants. However, Beyond Burger is something you can get it at your local supermarket. A package of two 1-lb patties costs $5.99 at Whole Foods which is where I got mine.
I’m Chinese so I grew up eating vegan Asian-style meat substitutes alongside actual meat. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve been trying Western-style meat substitutes but I’ve liked most of what I’ve tried. I’m a big fan of MorningStar Farms’ vegan chicken patties. I think they’ve really nailed the taste and texture of vegan chicken, not so much with their vegan pork and beef products though. I wanted to mention all of this before reviewing the Beyond Burger to show that I don’t have a bias against vegan meat products. It doesn’t matter to me what something’s made out of as long as it tastes good.
Now onto the review!
I’m fairly certain that burgers like these are mainly designed for meat eaters who are transitioning to a more plant-based diet or perhaps for meat-eaters-turned-vegans who crave a blast from the past. I really can’t see hardcore vegans who are against killing animals liking the idea of eating a vegan burger that tries to mimic the taste and texture of animal flesh, especially a veggie burger that bleeds as in the case of the Impossible Burger.
Visually, the Beyond Burgers do indeed look like real meat at first glance. The pinkish color which they get from a mix of beet juice and annatto extracts looks true to beef. But I would say that their “meat” looks a bit too soft and finely minced compared to the normal coarser grind of real beef patties. A real beef burger typically has more definition whereas this looks somewhat mushy in comparison. I think if the Beyond Burger opted for a slightly coarser grind it would increase the similarity.
One thing that I didn’t expect from these supposedly healthier burgers is how greasy they are. I kept the burgers in the fridge until I was ready to cook them and pulled straight from the cold these burgers were swimming in oil. There was a pool of oil underneath the patties on the pieces of parchment paper they were sitting on as well as in the tray they came in. Seriously, so much oil! As long as your pan or grill is well heated in advance, there’s absolutely no reason for you to add additional oil to cook these patties.
I personally prefer thin burgers over fat ones, so I sliced each patty in half horizontally to give me four patties. That’s not moisture on my hand in the photo below. Just handling the patties left my hands completely coated in oil.
Besides the greasiness, the other thing that jumped out immediately at me that no other reviewers seem to mention is the smell of the Beyond Burgers. To me they smell savory, like tinned beef stew or dog food, but also like burnt plastic. I thought maybe I got a bad batch so I actually went to a Stop & Shop supermarket and got a second package but it smelled exactly the same. I don’t know if my nose is extremely sensitive (I am quite sensitive to fragrance in my makeup and skincare products) or what but these burgers smell very odd in my opinion. However, I figured that maybe the scent would go away once they were cooked.
I seasoned the patties generously with pepper, no salt because I wasn’t sure if these burgers were pre-seasoned and plopped them into a hot pan. The amount of oil that came out of these puppies while cooking…woah! So much oil.
As for the smell, if anything the weird plastic smell only got stronger. It definitely didn’t smell like beef.
I cooked the patties in the pan until they were very brown. With beef burgers I like them medium with a good char on the outside but still pink in the middle but with the Beyond Burger I knew I didn’t want it soft or underdone. I wanted a nice crust on it and served the patties on toasted buns with some sauteed onions, BBQ sauce, mayo and a slice of tomato.
I tried a little piece of the Beyond Burger on its own before adding all the accouterments and the most amazing thing about this burger is that there’s no MSG in it. I’m quite familiar with MSG because I keep it stocked in my pantry and use it extremely sparingly, and I had to double check the ingredients list to be sure it wasn’t there. This burger tastes like it’s swimming in MSG and yet I don’t see it anywhere on the ingredients list. Curious.
So do I think this is a believable beef burger substitute? No. There’s no way you’d fool a meat eater. You might be able to fool someone who hasn’t had beef in years but definitely not someone who had it recently. I actually had a beef burger the following day and there’s simply no comparison. In terms of flavor, texture, aroma, they’re completely different.
Although I think they’ve mastered chicken patties, I don’t think any vegan brands have gotten the texture of beef right yet. Beef is animal muscle so it’s fibrous and chewier by nature. The Beyond Burger has a crisper, grainier texture and reminds me of a coarse falafel or the MorningStar Farms pork and beef patties which had a similar texture. On top of that, the Beyond Burger has that weird plastic smell that I can’t believe no one else has pointed out. Thankfully, these burgers taste a little better than they smell, especially after they’ve cooled off a little and the aroma isn’t as strong. What’s odd is that if I had tasted the Beyond Burgers blind and didn’t know that were plant-based, I would say that they taste very artificial.
I’ve probably made the Beyond Burger sound disgusting but, overall, I’d say it tastes okay. If someone served it to me, I’d eat it but it wouldn’t be my favorite, not even by a long shot. However, its claim to fame is that it “looks, cooks, and satisfies so much like beef” and in my opinion it simply doesn’t live up to that. It’s certainly not something I would seek out again and if I had to choose a veggie burger, I would much rather have a mushroom or bean-based veggie burger than a Beyond Burger. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, I’m a fan of Working Class Foodie’s veggie burger recipe.