MISHAWAKA — Burger King has made it possible to order a meatless burger that is oh so close to the original.
The new Impossible Whopper looks like it has a ground beef patty in the middle. It smells like meat. It even chews like a burger. I did a side-by-side blindfolded taste test between the original Whopper and the Impossible Whopper with a patty made from plants.
“This product is almost indistinguishable from beef,” said Dan Fitzpatrick, chairman and CEO of Quality Dining Inc., which operates 188 Burger King restaurants in Indiana, Michigan and Florida, including 70 percent of those operating in the South Bend market.
He’s tried a lot of veggie burgers.
“It doesn’t taste, chew like it was beef,” he said.
Fitzpatrick was most excited about this product that was rolled out at all BKs nationally on Thursday. After testing the Impossible Whopper in a few markets, Burger King is now the first quick-service restaurant chain to offer a new generation meat-free burger, according to Kelli Stopczynski, QDI’s director of marketing.
Americans have been eating burgers on bread since the late 1800s and the modern fast food restaurant sprang forth to dominate our consumption after World War II and over the years also came to serve tacos, chicken or fish. Burger King and others attract business by innovating and offering something new. Sometimes those innovations become objects of affection (McDonald’s McRib). Other times they don’t last (Wendy’s breakfast menu).
The burger remains king, but people are turning to meatless options for a variety of reasons. Some don’t want to eat something that had a face. Others are doing it for health. Some aren’t fans of how the modern American beef industry treats cattle and the impact those cattle have on the environment.
I love burgers made from beans or beets, but they aren’t like a hamburger. Making a burger that mimics meat became a quest and in the last decade Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods brough products to market. The Impossible Whopper patty includes soy and potato proteins, coconut and sunflower oils, and something called “heme,” a protein molecule containing iron that occurs naturally in plants and animals.
The original Whopper ($4.39) has 660 calories, 28 grams of protein, 40 grams of fat and 90 mg cholesterol. The Impossible Whopper ($5.39) has 630 calories, 17 grams of protein, 34 grams of fat and 10 mg of cholesterol. A chunk of those calories and fat come from the bun and toppings.
The patties are put through the charbroiler for several minutes, just like the beef patties. The only difference is they aren’t seasoned just before, according to Burger King representatives. If you’re vegan and want the patty made in something that didn’t touch beef, you can ask for that.
FIRST TO TASTE
At the McKinley Avenue location on Wednesday, I was the first to try an Impossible Whopper.
The taste test, arranged with QDI, came as crews across the country are being trained to sell and prepare the burgers.
I’ll be honest. I hadn’t eaten a Whopper in years. I don’t eat a lot of fast food burgers for health and because I don’t like the environmental impact.
Blindfolded, I was served the Impossible Whopper first and the first bite felt and tasted like a hamburger, though it lacked the aroma from broiling a burger over a gas flame. The original Whopper’s patty was smoother and chewed a bit more easily. I did identify each burger accurately, but the difference was so subtle.
I love meat, but am trying to more plants, and though this is a first generation of this kind of burger, I’m a fan. It uses less water, land and doesn’t produce the methane from cow farts that hurt the environment.
There are a lot of reasons to try these burgers.
“If it tastes good, if it’s convenient, if it’s something people can act on, if it’s right in front of them, if it’s something they enjoy, they’re going to buy it,” Fitzpatrick said.
I really hope that a lot of people buy these. I will be one of them.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.