Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Review of Beyond Meat's "Better Burger" veggie burgers

I try and cook a variety of foods, not limiting myself to eating only certain things (though my IBS is doing MUCH better since I ditched wheat (though I can eat bread I make out of Einkorn flour in small quantities, as it's completely different DNA than "frankenwheat".)

But even though I eat animal products maybe once or twice a week, I get only non-factory farmed meat where the animals are responsibly and ethically raised. The conditions factory farmed animals live in make the box Alec Guinness resided in the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai look like the honeymoon suite at the Park Hyatt. Also, If you've ever seen the inside of a factory farming slaughterhouse you'll likely never eat meat again. But meat like that is expensive, so I do a lot of ancient grain and bean heavy days as well to offset the costs.

Some say just give up red meat and have more chicken!  It's healthier, and it can't be as hard on the planet to raise chickens as huge cattle?  Wrong.
Americans eat almost 100 pounds of chicken per adult per year. Chickens require more water and power to process than any other meat (about 4,000 gallons per ton) and that leftover water is pretty much toxic sludge.  That's even more environmentally irresponsible than cattle.  Also being a scientist, I am too well aware that in the middle of that potentially tasty chunk of meat is a set of internal organs full of pathogenic bacteria. The giant frozen "Bag O Cluck" at the discount grocers is NOT something I wish to thaw and get my hands in.

No - I'll stick with organically fed, free range, carefully prepared chicken, and just a few times a month, paired with whole grains and lots of veggies.

But one food I found it hard to cut back on was a burger.  I LOVE hamburgers and finding a veggie substitute has been nothing but disappointment.  Sure some of them make a tasty sandwich, they just don't taste like burger.  Sure the patty may look like a burger but they don't taste, smell, or have the mouth feel of one. Not even close.

So when I read about Beyond Meat, which has a burger that "bleeds" (well real meat doesn't exactly "bleed" the red juice is myoglobin, red muscle pigment, which is different than hemoglobin, the blood pigment) with the magic of beet juice, with a claim to have a texture just like beef I had to try it. 

I have an alternate way home from work if there is an accident on my primary route and it takes me past a Whole Foods, where Beyond Meat is currently sold (check with your WF to see if they have it, not all may yet).

"Just say No to Faux".  I have so many people that know I eat meatless a good deal of the time and have two vegan friends ask "if you have ethical issues with eating meat all of the time, why eat fake meat, why not just eat only veggies and grains?"

People eat meat free for many reasons.  For some, it's health (my blood work when I hit 50 showed very high uric acid levels in my blood even though I d not have the typical triggers for it, it being likely genetic, and likely triggered by menopause).  Reducing meat has brought the levels down where I don't have to take medication for it (the medication has some nasty side effects).

For some. it's the planet.  The raising of livestock for food uses 70% of the water used on the planet each year and damages 10's of thousands of acres of land.

For others it's ethical, not wishing to harm a living creature in order to eat.  Some people also find the whole feel and texture of raw animal flesh gross and don't want to cook it.

But for many that fall into one of these groups, they still crave the texture and flavor of cooked meat, and "go faux".   Doing so allows one to maintain their beliefs or health yet still enjoy a variety of foods tastes and textures.

So I picked up a couple of packets (they are actually in the regular refrigerated meat section).  At $5.99 for two patties, that's twice the price of ground beef but there are few man-made vegetarian products that are cheap. The packaging is a bit overdone - I think they could probably make it smaller, and use less paper and plastic, but as people discover this product perhaps they will.

The patty was fairly small, here it is on a salad plate next to a spoon but it was surprisingly thick.

Ingredients are pretty straightforward and I was happy to see no wheat, soy, gluten, or GMO products.  There is a little yeast for flavor, and though not low fat it's all veggie fat including healthy coconut oil.
Cooking is easy - make sure the patty is completely thawed (mine were still slightly frozen from shipping when brought home the other day). Preheat a grill or pan to medium high (learning towards high).

Since I read some hints on-line on how to cook, I cooked one burger per the directions (to 165 F internal temperature) and one as suggested to closer to a  medium rare (150/155 F).

Some red will remain around the edges even when fully cooked.  Cooking it beyond this stage will leave you a dry burger that will taste just like the cardboard flavored ones you've been avoiding.

I have to agree with the online suggested method of cooking to "medium rare" - it retained more juice and had more of a beef and less of a "veggie" taste, as I think the extra juice masks the flavor of the pea protein pretty well. (pea protein is not "bad", I drink smoothies made with pea protein laden Vega powder all the time, it 's  just not particularly "beefy" tasting".)

The perfectly cooked patty. Still a bit red around the edges, but a solid 155 degrees internally, hot enough to be safe, but not so hot there is no juice left (a tad under 3 minutes per side in a hot, lightly oiled cast iron skillet).

The texture?  The pea protein does give it a meaty, chewy texture which is very much beef like, though there's a bit more elasticity to it than ground beef. It also held together really well, with a slightly crispy crust (I used a teaspoon of olive oil in my pan) avoiding that mushy texture that most veggie burgers end up with. It also has that "greasy/juicy" thing going that I love about the craft burgers I'd get at restaurants  (for the Better Burger, that comes from the healthy coconut oil). Plus, the burger doesn't flatten out, but stays nice and plump.

I removed some of the topping so you can get a better picture of the interior.

Taste - in a side by side taste test you are most assuredly going to pick out the real beef patty. However, this is as close to beef in taste as any veggie burger I have tried and it pretty well nails the texture/juiciness of beef if cooked carefully. With a little mayo, a gluten free bun from the local gluten-free bakery and some greens it totally killed my burger craving and was very filling as well (a little over 500 calories as assembled). It had a surprisingly beefy taste, and I think adding a little salt- free steak seasoning to the patty next time would make it more so.

I will definitely be purchasing this again as it was seriously more "beefy" than the other faux burger options. It is higher in sodium and fat than what I usually eat so I'm not going to eat them all the time, but at 20 grams of protein and slightly fewer calories than ground beef, it totally took care of my occasional burger craving. My husband still prefers beef hamburgers (though he mixes in leftover brown rice and black beans in with his burger to use less meat without sacrificing taste).

So go try a package.

A cow will thank you.


  1. Interesting. I haven't seen these but will look out for them. When did you buy them? I haven't had meat in years and haven't really missed it but you are right, the veggie burgers are not very good!


    1. C - I bought them two days ago. According to their website in your state they are available at
      Cottonwood Heights
      Draper (South Valley)
      Trolley Square
      Sugar House
      Park City
      They were seriously filling - I had the burger as pictured at noon with a small salad (ok, and a cookie) and 7 hours later, I'm really not hungry and just going to do a cup of bean soup for dinner.


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