So which meatless burger truly has the sizzle to satisfy?
We assembled a panel of four Globe and Mail journalists for a blind taste test of four of the leading patties: David Berman and David Milstead (both decidedly big meat eaters) and Sonali Verma and Rachelle Younglai (both non-meat eaters). The results, of course, are highly unscientific. Yet, one product emerged as a clear favourite.
The meatless revolution: Is this the start of a big new industry or a fake-beef bubble?
1: Lightlife Burger (Maple Leaf Foods)
Berman: The crusty exterior resembles the charred effect you can get from seared meat. It’s a yummy patty, but I can tell this isn’t meat. Maybe that’s a good thing for vegetarians.
Verma: Nice umami. Its light texture is appealing, and I like the thick, rounded patty. It’s surprisingly good – I didn’t expect this.
Milstead: This has no discernible meat taste. It’s like a corn patty but not as good.
Younglai: It has a nice crunch on the outside and an interesting vegetarian flavour.
2: Beyond Burger (Beyond Meat)
Berman: With a smoky flavour and a texture that even mimics the fatty bits in a real hamburger patty, this one could fool me into thinking I am tasting meat. In a good way, too. But do vegetarians want that?
Verma: It smells a bit mustardy – but in a good way. Wow, what texture – chewy, juicy; I like the fattiness and springiness as I eat it. Nice mouthfeel. It’s delicious, has great flavour and good visual appeal as well.
Milstead: This has more meat flavour and texture but also an off-putting chemical taste.
Younglai: As a vegetarian, this is what I think meat tastes like. I did not like the texture or the flavour.
3: Beefless Undeniable Burger (President’s Choice)
Berman: This patty neither resembles meat nor offers a pleasant alternative. The texture is a bit rubbery and actually the taste is rubbery as well.
Verma: Notes of cardboard, sawdust, cotton wool. No real flavour here or texture. Looks pretty awful as well – yellow, flat. Oh god, please don’t tell me that this is what most people think of when they think of vegetarian food.
Milstead: This looks like a cookie but is genuinely awful. It has a texture unlike – and worse than – any “food” I’ve ever eaten.
Younglai: This is pretty vile. Why is it so hard?
4: Yves Good Veggie Burger
Berman: The texture is meat-like, but the patty tastes bland. What flavour I do get seems a bit sweet – almost like honey.
Verma: This isn’t the worst, but it has a slightly odd flavour. The aftertaste reminds me of the vitamin B capsules I once had as a child. This is the type of patty that dries out quickly if not served immediately.
Milstead: It looks like meat until you put it in your mouth; then it tastes like nothing discernible. I apologize for saying anything bad about No. 1 after the last two. After this, I am rededicating myself to beef and no substitutes.
Younglai: For me, this is almost like comfort food.
Beyond Meat’s sky-high stock market valuation may not be beyond reason after all – the Beyond Burger emerged as our clear favourite. But if our taste samplers are any indicator, Maple Leaf Foods’ Lightlife burger is a strong contender.