On a rainy day in Seattle, Mike Wolf and I set off on a mission. We were going to sample the much-hyped Impossible burger. As a vegetarian who hasn’t tried a beef burger in 4 years or so, I was pretty psyched to sink my teeth into one of these look-alikes. But would it be everything I dreamed of?
Look at all of that excitement!
First off, a little background about Impossible Foods: the Silicon Valley-based millennial darling trying to make meat alternatives that are as good as the real thing. Their plant-based burgers are sweeping the country by storm, garnering a mega Instagram following and pretty favorable reviews. While the patties were originally available at only a few trendy restaurants, they’re now on menus in a lot of major cities.
Impossible patties contain wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein and their ace in the hole: heme. An iron-containing compound found in blood, heme is what gives red meat that rich, umami taste. Impossible Foods’ scientists have found a way to extract heme from plants, which they hope will give their burgers a magic meatiness missing in so many veggie burgers.
Unlike plant-based burger competitor Beyond Meat, which is sold in grocery stores across the country and online, Impossible burgers are only available in restaurants. They premiered on the menu at celebrity chef’s restaurant Momofuku Nishi in 2016 and have since expanded to restaurants around the country. This business model might change, though, as their website hinted that they do have retail plans in the pipeline.
So did it live up to expectations? Mostly. The Impossible burger is definitely good: it’s savory, has a good texture, and even has that umami flavor that comes from red meat. I suppose that’s thanks to the heme, which is also what makes the Impossible burger “bleed” when cooked rare.
Don’t worry, we washed our hands first.
Sadly, ours was very well-done, so we couldn’t test the bleed. But that’s alright. The burger was still juicy, despite a seared, caramelized exterior. I was surprised by how much it reminded me of burgers of yore, and I even tasted a distinct animal-like funkiness (thanks, heme!). It wasn’t quite as chubby and rosy-tinted as the photos on their website, but it still beat my expectations. I didn’t even add ketchup, and I always add ketchup.
I also appreciated how fatty it was, chiefly thanks to coconut oil. Impossible isn’t trying to make a health-food burger—just one that tastes as good as meat. In fact, their patty has comparable levels of protein, iron and fat to an 80/20 beef burger, though it doesn’t contain cholesterol. This makes sense if they’re targeting a wide, flexitarian audience, instead of a health-conscious vegan one.
Of course, there’s the possibility that my perspective was skewed since I haven’t had beef in a few years. So Mike Wolf took a bite of each to compare and contrast.
The true taste test.
We got cheese on our burgers and, according to Mike, there wasn’t a huge difference between the two patties. In fact, if you topped your burger with bold flavors like blue cheese, special sauce, and pickles, you might not even notice that you weren’t chomping into a quarter pound of cow flesh.
The Impossible burger also had a delicious taste of self-righteousness. We all know that meat isn’t exactly great for the environment and that we should probably be reducing our beef consumption. Impossible’s website claims that by replacing one meat burger with one of their wheat protein-based patties, you’ll spare 75 square feet of land for wildlife, save water equivalent to a 10-minute shower, and spare 18 driving-miles worth of greenhouse gases.
Now for the downsides: Most notably, the Impossible burger is expensive. It cost an extra $4 to replace a beef patty with an Impossible one, at least at the restaurant we went to. That put the beef burger at $5.99 plus tax, and the Impossible burger at $9.99. Customize it with cheese and a topping or two, and things start to add up. It’s not a huge difference, but if they’re aiming to nab flexitarians price could be a big deciding factor.
In the end, I really enjoyed my Impossible burger experience. In fact, if someone suggests a burger night, I would go out of my way to find a spot that serves their patties (they have a map for that). Now if they could get started on making plant-based pulled pork, it would be much appreciated.
Cook in cleveland says
If you want pulled pork, try jackfruit!
Dane Saddler says
yup, excellent replacement
Thanks for an honest review. Adding videos and high-quality pictures in the article really adds a great value.
When it comes to the burger: I haven’t tried it. As I live in China, there is no way I can try it here without going to Hong Kong….quite sad. But I have to say that I was surprised by the price tag. I mean: the impossible burger should not cost more than beef. It reminds me of a environmental documentary that I saw quite a long time ago saying that soda was cheaper than bottled water in the USA……waaaaaaaaaaaaaay to go!
Wendy Montana says
Not going into my back ground but I am not able to afford my believes, I am saving my money to go to a restaurant (From Impossible web site with its location finder) in the area of Capital Hill here in Seattle. I think I will enjoy it seen I had not had a burger in about two years.
Finding that Heme which I read is the same Heme for both plant-leghemglobin and animal-Myoglobin, not being well educated as the many scientist in the lab of Impossible foods, here is an article stating:
The circular dichroism spectra of leghemoglobin a from the root nodules of soybean have been compared with those for sperm whale myoglobin in the fat- and near-ultraviolet and the Soret and visible regions of the spectrum.
I do not know how much prior research of out there for Impossible foods, this is the first time I knew that plants and animals oxygen caring Heme can be compared,
From this article I think it was the time to find what it was to replicate real meat taste:
The science behind the ingredients has taken years to develop, but the actual process of manufacturing the product is straightforward. “The ingredients are simpler than a cupcake,” says founder and CEO Pat Brown, who is wearing a T-shirt that says “Happy cows come from mad scientists.” That’s by design–Impossible wanted to be able to easily scale up with a process that could use existing manufacturing facilities. The company’s first factory is in a repurposed bakery in Oakland, California.
I also think Impossible Foods burger needs to be prepared the right way, maybe if I bought some in my grocery store and cooked and thought this is not that great, getting the first taste made the right way will help to bring out the meatiness will be in a good restaurant.
For now I do wish I could afford to buy impossible burger like I would for an okay burger (fast food chain) but until then I understand how the cost can be more than animal meat, grocery stores vegetarian burger companies many times more expensive then meat in the meat department.
U do realize the impossible burger is made in the same broiler as the beef burgers therefore it is not vegetarian and/or vegan? As a vegetarian I would not eat it knowing this. Burger King needs to get it together and prepare these separate from cow meat so vegetarians and vegans can enjoy them. I hate to tell u but u ate a burger with beef particles and beef grease on it. No wonder it tastes authentic.
Marilyn Rossa says
BK will prepare its Impossibles on a non-meat grill if you request it.
Had the New Impossible burger tonight. Was very tasty, and very filling. I did think it was rather expensive, but still thought that I would like to try it again someday soon, that is until I started to have some stomach distress later in the evening. Lots of unpleasant gas and bloating. And then diarrhea. Don’t think there will be another Impossible burger time for me.
Ethan Whilden says
This was my experience as well. LOTS of gas and bloating for about 24 hours after consuming it. And yes, I’m sure the burger was the culprit.
Jack Spraul says
After eating one half of an impossible burger and one half of an original Whopper, side by side, I’ll stick with the beef version. Actually, I’ll stick with the burgers from Five Guys!
I tasted a whopper – and an original. I ate the original (blinded) – I left 3/.4 of the impossible burger to the trash. I you’re a vegan and want a substitute – I can see this being highly rated – but – as someone just trying it – holy cow (no pun intended) – it tasted horrible – compared to the beef. It tasted OK – just tasting it