I’m a proud meat eater, but for all of the assorted health and sustainability reasons, I’ve steadily decreased my intake over the years. And as a curious consumer, I’ve also always been open to alternatives, but the options have been mostly dry, dull, and decidedly non-meaty.
Then came the next generation of meatless wonders: the Hungry Planet, Beyond, and Impossible burgers (available on the menu at Natural Café, Finney’s, Luna Grill, and elsewhere), the X Burger (whose frozen patties we’ve bought at Sprouts for home enjoyment), and others that do a much better job of holding moisture, offering more chew, and being more, well, meat-like.
But I still wanted to work on fake meat with my own hands, to see how much it compared to beef when prepared at home. So last month, when Gelson’s became the first retailer in town to sell the Impossible Burger ground “meat,” I was there on day one, picking up a couple of the $9, 12-ounce packages and quickly heading home for a Friday-night grill session. (Upon running into my boss outside, whose family runs a cattle ranch near Lompoc, I was quickly labeled a traitor.)
At home, I dumped the blood-red, slightly gamey-smelling “meat” into a bowl, right next to another bowl where I prepared beef with the same ingredients: a small handful of finely chopped yellow onions; pinches of salt, pepper, and garlic powder; and a splash of teriyaki. Though grainier than the fatty beef (I combined a pack of ground sirloin with chuck), the Impossible patties were quite malleable and forgiving to the onion intrusion, forming into four large sliders with ease.
On the grill, they held their form even better than the beef as blood-like fluids bubbled to the surface. After an effortless flip, on went a slice of American cheese (organic, mind you), and then they were plopped on brioche buns with tomato slices, iceberg lettuce, and a little ketchup.
“That’s the best non-meat I’ve ever had,” said my friend Sarah, and we all agreed. Discerning palates wouldn’t necessarily mistake it for beef, but the Impossible patties did possess a very meat-like quality, offering savory flavors and a juicy texture that’s all you need in a burger experience. I made them again a couple of days later, wrapping mine in lettuce leaves this time, which only intensified the animalistic experience.
Don’t expect me to swear off beef for good anytime now or later, but I’ll be buying Impossible meat again soon, eager to see how it performs as meatballs, as taco filling, in a Bolognese sauce, or however you’d like to fill in the beef blanks.
The Impossible Burger meat is available at Gelson’s (3305 State St.). See impossiblefoods.com.