My First Burger in a Decade
I grew up in a house where the primary cook/grocery shopper was a vegetarian, so I didn’t eat a lot of meat. In fact, my meat consumption was pretty limited to poultry, and anything beyond that was something I had to either cook myself or get at a restaurant. So, naturally, as a lazy, broke teenager, I didn’t eat much meat.
The first, and last time I can recall eating a hamburger was when I was about ten years old. I was at the state fair with my father and needed dinner. I don’t remember why, maybe it’s because I couldn’t find chicken tenders, but I ended up with a burger. Now, let me make a recommendation: do not eat your first hamburger at the state fair. It will be your last.
So, after over a decade of avoiding hamburgers at all costs (seriously, I was the kid who would opt for a bun with ketchup instead of a burger), I’ve decided to do a few taste tests. As a content marketing intern at a ground meat company I figured now was as good a time as ever to rediscover the world of ground meat (and I wanted to try the product) so it was agreed that my almost nubile experience would make for a good blog. Heading into the relatively unknown, I also didn’t want to be completely uninformed about what I was trying so I figured a few samples were in order.
Over the past few weeks I have tried X different burgers as well as sampling their plant-based alternatives including the Impossible and Beyond Burgers. My friends have been telling me these new brands all the rage, so I thought this would be as good a time as any to see if they’re worth the hype.
First up: Burger King Whopper and Impossible Burger
I chose Burger King for a few reasons. First, they had a cheap delivery fee (there’s a global pandemic going on, you think I’m going OUT?). Second, they have both of the options I was looking for: a burger and an Impossible Burger. Finally, given that I haven’t had a burger in over a decade I thought that Burger King would be a good starting point for me.
Now, I’ll tell you first that I was not a huge fan of either. In particular, the traditional Whopper. I think this all trickles down to the fact that I’m not used to the taste of burgers. But overall, it was pretty dry, a bit crumbly, and really tasted like a burger.
If being forced to pick between the two, I, traditionally a non-burger eater, preferred the Impossible Whopper. But why is that? All things being equal, isn’t the Impossible Whopper supposed to taste exactly like a regular burger? It’s the burger that “bleeds,” right? Well, in my experience so far, not really.
The Impossible Whopper was pretty much the same color as the regular Whopper, grey, but a bit spongier. There was no bleeding, no pinkness, just a few char marks on the top. In fact, the majority of the flavor could probably be attributed to those char marks. It definitely didn’t have a strong beef flavor, or really all that much of a flavor at all. This is probably why I preferred it. The flavor of the ketchup I put onto some of it really had the opportunity to shine through.
So, overall I’d probably still stick with my tried and true bun with ketchup. While I did have a slight preference for the Impossible Whopper because it did taste less like a real burger, it was also more expensive. For me, neither was a real winner.
Round Two: BurgerFi Burger and Beyond Burger
BurgerFi came highly recommended to me by a cousin who used to work there, and it has a Beyond Burger on the menu, so it ticked all of my criteria boxes.
This truly was a blind taste test. Both burgers came in unlabeled boxes and, other than one patty being thicker than the other, looked exactly the same. I spent a long time just looking at the burgers trying to figure out which was which. I couldn’t, so I eventually ate them.
After a bite of each one I was about 95% sure which was which, but there was enough hesitation in my mind that I did actually FaceTime the cousin who recommended it to me and ask her to confirm. It turned out that I was correct, which gave me some affirmation that I don’t have coronavirus because I can still taste.
These two tasted kind of scarily similar. The fact that one came from a cow and one did not kind of freaked me out. The biggest differences I could tell between the two were that the Beyond Burger was much thicker than the regular burger. It also had a bit of an odd texture, which is how I figured it out. The regular burger was chewier and felt more like meat, but there was no real recognizable difference in taste.
If I were ordering again I’d have to go with the regular burger. While the flavors were almost identical, the regular burgers texture was definitely preferable. Next time I’d also like a shake and fries.
The Final Test: Crossover Quality Meats Burger, 80/20 Ground Beef Burger and Beyond Burger
For my final test, I’m comparing a Crossover Quality Meats burger (a blend of chicken and beef) with a grocery store burger and Beyond Burger, all of which I’ll be cooking at home myself.
Now with these, because I was cooking them from start to finish I had a much wider range of observations about the products. The Beyond Burger felt very fragile while raw, it was wet and had the texture more of a pulp than a burger. The 80/20 ground beef burger and the Crossover Quality Meats burger both handled exactly like your typical burger patty.
The different burgers cooked pretty differently too. The Crossover burger and the 80/20 burger both browned up nicely (who doesn’t love some good maillard reaction?) and had your usual shrinkage when cooking a burger with any kind of fat in it. As soon as I put the Beyond Burger in the pan it started letting out some pink juices and bubbling up a little bit, and then burned super quickly. I was worried at first that it wouldn’t be finished cooking with how quickly the outside was burning, but when I cut into it the inside was perfect, the outside was just a little more charred than I would have liked.
Now, let’s get to the taste. The 80/20 burger tasted exactly like any regular burger you could think of. It reminded me the most of the burger I had at the fair over a decade ago. It was greasy, super moist, and exactly what anyone thinking of a burger would anticipate.
The Beyond Burger had a far different texture and taste. The texture was somewhat similar to the one from BurgerFi, although I think a bit better since I had cooked it and paid attention to it so it was done to perfection on the inside. The outside was a bit more charred than I would have liked because it burned so quickly, but the inside was actually pink. I wouldn’t have been able to mistake this for a burger though. For one, it didn’t really taste like it, and for two, the texture is just different than any burger. This burger is good, but is clearly not a burger.
Finally, the Crossover burger. This one was much thinner than the other two, which makes total sense as having a thin burger aids in cooking it all the way through and this must be done as it has poultry in it. There was no discernable difference in taste between this burger and the regular 80/20 burger. Essentially, the only difference was this burger was thinner and less greasy, which I far preferred.
So, after testing all of these burgers, which one is the best? A good, original burger may seem like the easiest answer here, but, when thinking about what my goals are, I try to remember that eating beef all the time really is so bad for the environment. I want a tasty option, but I also don’t want the world to end in a ball of flames just because us humans couldn’t skip eating a cow here and there.
I’ve got to say that while I liked some of the plant-based options, at the end of the day if you’re a true burger lover, they really just weren’t the same (and they were more expensive). That means, if the regular burgers are out, and the plant-based burgers are out, what’s the best option?
My choice is the Crossover Meats Burger. If you want great taste, lower environmental impact than your average burger, and a better cost, then this is the answer. By combining beef and chicken, Crossover reduces the environmental impact by up to 50%, reduces price up to 20%, and keeps that same beef flavor.
Let’s not let the world go up in a ball of flames. For any burger lover, your choice should be clear. Cross on over to Crossover Quality Meats.