Welcome to the golden age of fake meat.
Companies like Impossible Foods ($750 million in pre-IPO funding) and Beyond Meat ($8.7 billion post-IPO market cap) are watering venture capital mouths as if they're buzzy tech companies. Impossible, the Silicon Valley-based pioneer of meatless hamburger patties that actually mimic the real thing, blazed into the fast-food game last week when its meatless Whopper hit Burger King, the sixth-largest restaurant chain in the U.S.
While the health benefits may be dubious (see nutrition info below), an industry titan moving away from the environmentally calamitous practice of raising cattle is a net win for our boiling planet. But how's the damn thing taste?
Pretty amazing, we're happy to report.
Two quick negative caveats: BK, with its dingy restaurants and suspect quality, feels like a brand that's been tailspinning for 10 years; Impossible, with its plant-based burger that touts blood-like juiciness, has never surpassed cafeteria-grade tastiness, at least in this critic's experience.
But for the Impossible Whopper, none of that matters. At this tier of fast food, we're seeking the activation of junky pleasure centers, not gourmet Saint Dinette-esque burger transcendence. The meatless Whoppers delivers.
Flame-singed around the edges, the Impossible patty doesn't attempt to duplicate anything handmade; it's a thin cookie-cutter disc. When you nibble it in isolate, it commendably recreates the texture of ground beef, crumbling with lab-agonized authenticity. Taste-wise, it's every unspectacular-yet-tasty hamburger you've ever experienced, though its purported faux-blood juiciness is compromised. Maybe BK's flame-grilled cooking method nuked this selling point, maybe my particular burger was overcooked. Either way, dry as all get out.
But, again, this nitpicking doesn't detract from the end product. Once you chomp into the middle of the Impossible Whopper, a sublime melange of patty/mayo/ketchup/pickles/onion/lettuce/bun grabs you. It's pure trashy burger nirvana, unencumbered by the lack of dead cow -- you're gonna get a handful of perfect bites. The players that prop up the Impossible patty -- prepackaged and massive cakey bun, listless produce, my mistake of not adding cheese -- aren't top-notch, in keeping with the messy state of the BK brand.
But dammit, they get the job done. It'd be downright thrilling, and, given market demands, seemingly inevitable, to imagine what a Wendy's or Five Guys could do with Impossible's game-changing product. In the meantime, kudos to the king for being the first nation-wide major player to deliciously buck beef.
Availability: Nationwide for a limited time
Fat: 34 grams
Sodium: 1,080 milligrams
Carbs: 58 grams
Protein: 25 grams