This meat-free burger is the next Cronut.

By Stephanie Wu
July 26, 2016
Impossible Burger

The official debut of the Impossible Burger—a meat-free burger that looks, feels, tastes, and even bleeds like beef—was held Tuesday at New York City's Refinery Hotel.

The burger will be available to the public beginning Wednesday at David Chang's Nishi restaurant in Chelsea, which opens at noon. The burger sells for $12 (with fries).

Based on what we tasted at the debut, you can expect a long, long line.

The Background

Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown and food scientist Harold McGee have spent the past five years—and $80 million dollars—working on what they hope is the future of the food industry: delicious food that has a light carbon footprint, and with none of the ethical issues that have long plagued the meat industry.

“You can make food that's nutritious and cheap, but it's hard to make it delicious,” said Brown. “To solve that, we had to develop a molecular understanding of what makes meat delicious.”

The Magic Ingredients

The key ingredient is heme protein, which creates the so-called “blood” in the patty and gives it an intense, meaty flavor that's typically associated with ground beef. The other ingredients in this plant-based patty—“normal stuff we've been eating for thousands of years,” according to McGee—include coconut oil, soy protein, xanthan gum, potato protein, and textured wheat. It was important to the creators that the product cooks like ground beef in every way.

Chang, an early taster who will be the first to serve it, has worked with his chefs to prepare it as meatloaf, dumplings, ragout, and even as a tartare.

It can be cooked to order, from medium rare or well, the same as regular meat. Plus, says Brown, there's “no antibiotics, no hormones, and no pink slime.”

The Difference

Like most veggie-based burgers, you're not really saving a lot in the way of calories here. The Impossible Burger is similar calorie-wise to a regular burger, though there is slightly less fat and more protein. However, there's no cholesterol.

Impossible Burger

Eating one of these burgers, instead of a normal cow burger, is the equivalent of saving the amount of gas in an 18-mile drive, said McGee. And you'd save the amount of water equivalent to what's used in a 10-minute shower.

If Impossible Burger can scale up and convince consumers to get on board, this truly is the food of the future.

Where To Find It

Starting Wednesday, July 27, at noon, the Impossible Burger will be served at Momofuku Nishi. There will also be a vegan version of the burger, with no cheese, and a patty melt.

If all goes well, Chang could expand to other Momofuku locations. And the creators are working to partner with restaurateurs in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well.

This could very well be this summer's new food craze—a Cronut for the burger set.

First Impression

The patty, much like meat, cooks in its own fat (coconut oil, in this case) on a griddle. And the aroma is undeniably delicious. It smells buttery, almost popcorn-like.

Taste-wise, it's everything you'd expect from ground beef: salty and crispy, with a crunch on the outside and good amount of chew on the inside. You can see the difference in texture between the outside and the inside, particularly if you order it on the rare side, the middle is still slightly pink.

This is a far, far cry from your mushy veggie burger, and it packs way more flavor than most turkey burgers. And the single burger was filling, with tons of protein. My burger didn't bleed, but it wasn't cooked to order.

The Verdict

I don't expect anyone to mistake this for meat. It looks, feels, and smells like meat, but it's not as fatty as most burgers. But it's so delicious that it doesn't matter. You could argue that a potato bun, American cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and sauce make just about anything burger-like, but this truly stands on its own as a terrific food product.

A $12 burger is not accessible for all. But in New York City, where the best burgers regularly sell for more than $20, and where people will gladly wait in line for a Ramen Burger, Shake Shack, and Superiority Burger, there's definitely a market here.

The novelty factor, the exclusivity, the chance to taste the future of food—make no mistake, this will sell out.