Beyond Burger review
Created by plant-based pioneer company Beyond Meat, the Beyond Burger is touted as "the world's first plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies so much like beef, it's in the meat section of the grocery store."
After much anticipation, it recently, finally made its way to my area's Whole Foods... where it was displayed in its own little side-cooler, rather than in the meat section, actually. But still, always down for a new experience in plant-based cuisine, I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to try this product, and am thrilled to share my impressions with you.
Before I get down to the meat of the matter (oh yes, I just did), I should place a couple of caveats to this review:
1) I've been vegetarian for 18 years, and I was quite young when I made "the switch," so I cannot, and will not, present myself as an authority on what beef tastes like... as I honestly only vaguely remember, and
2) Other veg*ns have expressed to me that they are off-put by the idea of eating something reminiscent of meat, and while I certainly understand this, I honestly don't share this mindset. I never had a revulsion to the sensory experience of eating meat; I stopped eating meat solely due to consciousness of the slaughter aspect. Some friends have asked me whether I felt guilty or repulsed eating these burgers... and I honestly did not, again because the sensory experience of meat-eating was never directly tied to any feelings of shame or disgust. In its immediate sense, my relationship with food has always been fairly uncomplicated and pleasure-centered. As such, I cannot guarantee to other plant-based folk who may have a different relationship with food that this product will not be "triggering" in a negative way. So, plant-based friends, please consider this review with this perspective in mind, and decide whether you wish to try the Beyond Burger in mindfulness of your own food perspective.
The preparation process was certainly different than my usual, day-to-day plant-based cooking. The patties are red, mushy, and yes, beef-like to an almost off-putting degree in their raw state. Handling them felt strange, not least because their coconut oil content rendered them quite greasy when raw. I felt compelled to wash my hands immediately after handling. The positive aspect of this is that they are malleable, which allows for some creativity. In particular, I researched tips on grilling really good beef burgers, and employed the so-called "dimple" method; by pressing gently in the centers of the burger to render them slightly concave, one prevents the burgers from shrinking up into dome shapes. This worked well in keeping the burgers thick but not shrunken; hooray for preserving the duration of the burger-enjoying process. I feel inspired to deconstruct the patties to make sliders or extra-delicious "beef" for pasta sauce someday.
I cooked these on a lightly-oiled grill-pan on the stove. While no, I haven't eaten beef in a long time, the smell emitted while cooking was uncannily reminiscent to that of summertime barbecues over the years... and not the part involving my Torfurkey sausages. Bo, typically the mellowest of my kitties, behaved like a true wild animal while they cooked, rolling around on my feet, sniffing the air, meowing, and pawing my legs all the while. If an obligate carnivore is interested, perhaps they are "realistic"...
Immediately upon flipping, I melted a Daiya cheddar slice on top of the burger. I've always been one for melty, cheesy goodness, and this only intensified in my plant-based life.
I went lettuce-wrap style, using hearts of romaine, both because most hamburger buns have a high glycemic load... and because it seemed more refreshing and appealing on a Florida summer day with 90%+ humidity. Warning, however: lettuce-wrap style greatly increases the chances that your burger will become messy-wrap style with the addition of condiments and pickles... but messy so often equates delicious, in my experience.
Now, for the most important part... the taste!
In all honesty... I absolutely loved it. The feeling of crunching past the crisp char-marks to a juicy, umami center is a decadent flavor experience I've only had recently with certain preparations of marinated tofu and especially juicy mushrooms... but with a toothsome, satisfying texture unique to this burger. It was nostalgic, yes -- I loved cheeseburgers as a little kid -- but perhaps due to my aforementioned personal relationship with food, I did not feel "fooled," and thus, felt only satisfied pleasure. With 20 grams of plant protein, I felt satisfied physiologically, though not weighed down or sluggish.
In short, the Beyond Burger was unique: uniquely satisfying, savory, and delicious. While pricier per serving than my usual protein sources (I paid $5.99 for a pack of two patties at my local Whole Foods), I absolutely plan to buy these again for a special treat on the grill.
From a culinary pleasure standpoint, save the caveats written above, I would absolutely recommend the Beyond Burger to others.
With love and wishes for many food adventures,