This week, The Takeout staff was inspired by a comment from Otto42.5 in a story about who actually eats Beyond Meats/Impossible Burgers (it’s not vegans). That comment:
This intrigued us on many levels. But let’s attack this challenge backwards: We’ll make its first—let’s call these Halfway Beyond Burgers—and explain whether it works or if it’s even necessary.
As suggested by Otto42.5, we mixed a 50-50 blend of a Beyond Burger patty and 85%-lean ground beef. We added a light sprinkle of seasoning salt and black pepper before loosely forming the patties together.
The biggest knock against Beyond Meats is the smell of the pea protein that fills your kitchen. We thought by halving the quantity of the fake meat, it would mitigate the aroma. This did not happen. That unmistakable smell still permeated at full strength.
Cooking these patties on our cast iron skillet (with a pat of butter), it was difficult to gauge the correct doneness. As much as we tried, we couldn’t achieve a perfect medium pink with the beef. Even though it came out fairly well done, the fats from the beef still added much juiciness in the burger. Finally, we added a slice of smoked gouda and served it on a brioche bun, with no additional accoutrements, to better taste the patty.
How was it? It tasted fine but unsatisfying. It’s the realization that it’s not quite a beef burger, because it tastes unmistakably of a Beyond Meat burger but at 80% strength. But it’s also not a plant-based burger, as the idea of eating something with lower cholesterol goes out the window with the added meat. By having both, the advantages of each cancels out the other.
Then the question comes of who exactly this hybrid fake meat-real meat burger is for. Beyond Burger costs $8 for a pack of two at my supermarket, so it makes no financial sense to blend it with beef to supposedly improve the flavor (The more cost-efficient—and delicious—way, is to blend ground beef with chopped mushrooms, which reduces the fat without sacrificing flavor.) And as our experiment showed, the combination of Beyond + beef doesn’t improve the taste.
Ultimately, the idea sounded nice on paper, but in practice, the results were uninspiring. The only rationale for combining fake and real meats is, in fact, a comical one. The elevator pitch would go like this: “Are Beyond Burgers too expensive? Stretch it out—with beef!”