Taste Test: Meatless Burgers on the Grill

How do plant-based meat alternatives cook up?

burger test patties
Photography by Rick Browne.

Having spent about two-thirds of my life around a barbecue grill I decided to see how the two most popular “non-meat” burgers would cook up and taste alongside everyday, 80-20 hamburger meat.

The Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger were easy to locate for this test. I discovered plant-based “beef” costs more than double ground beef. After I got over sticker shock, I bought two packages of plant-based “beef” patties. The price for both brands, Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger, worked out to $2.99 per patty. Comparatively, a single regular beef burger cost $1.37.

When I prepared all three for the grill, I used a circular pastry cutter and scale to make sure each was the same size. I discovered that both non-meat burgers are very sticky and not pleasant to handle with bare hands. When preparing meat for the public I wear silicone gloves, but in my own home I trust myself and use my bare hands. But not this time.

I added no spices or herbs to any of the patties, just put them on a preheated charcoal grill for four minutes on both sides. Then I let them sit on the unheated side of the grill for three minutes.

For the first sample, I placed the burgers on plain hamburger buns with no condiments.

The Beyond Burger had a nice taste, but I did not like the mushy texture and mouthfeel. The Impossible Burger tasted like a grilled burger and had a hamburger-like texture and mouthfeel. The regular burger, surprise, tasted like a beef burger and had a pleasant texture and mouthfeel.

All three looked exactly like well-cooked burgers from the outside. The Beyond Burger smelled like a beef burger and had some reddish liquid leaking out but had no pinkness inside. The Impossible Burger was pink inside and smelled like a grilled beef burger. The regular burger smelled and looked like the medium-rare burger that it was.

3burgertest2

Next, I put the same condiments on each burger. A slice of raw onion, some sweet relish and a small amount of mustard and ketchup. All of them were very tasty and neither I nor two people who joined the tasting could tell the difference in taste and mouthfeel. Except, however, the mushy, soft, texture of the Beyond Burger.

As I discovered in my burger tests, I don’t think anyone could tell the Impossible Burger and a regular beef burger apart, if properly prepared and when dressed with your favorite condiments and seasonings. The Beyond Burger would be much easier to recognize.

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Grill master

Rick Browne

Rick Browne is a renowned barbecue pitmaster, chef, journalist, photojournalist, author and TV cooking show host, who now lives in the Rogue Valley. He has written 16 bestselling cookbooks about barbecue, grilling, outdoor deep-frying and smoking.

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