Nowadays, many people are either quitting meat or eating a lesser amount of it. Also, they include more plant-based food in their diet for the health benefits as well as for the overall improvement in health. Apart from this, people switch to plant-based diets like a vegan diet due to religious reasons as well as for causes like embracing environmentalism. Due to these reasons, there is an increasing demand for vegan meat products. In this article, we will discuss in detail how vegan burgers are made to look and taste like a beef burger.
What Gives Burger Its Qualities?
To understand how vegan burgers are made to look and taste like the regular ones, you must know what makes a burger a burger. Listed below are the different factors that affect the quality of a burger:
- Color: The color of an uncooked beef burger is red or pink depending on the amount of blood it contains. As you cook it, this changes to pink or reddish inside and brown or black on the outside. If it is well cooked, the inside becomes brown. Also, this affects the taste and texture of the burger.
- Texture: The next important factor that influences the quality of a burger is its texture. A well-cooked burger is chewy, but not soggy or starchy, and it has enough moisture, making it juicy.
- Smell And Taste: The smell and taste of beef burgers go hand in hand. This, along with their color and texture plays a key role in the experience of eating it.
- Fat: Tasty and delicious beef burgers have a good amount of fat in them. Also, it makes the burger juicy and gives it a slightly creamier texture when chewed.
- Nutrients: Like any meat-based product, beef burgers are a good source of animal protein and vitamin B12.
Mimicking these qualities is the main challenge of making authentic and tasty vegan burgers. You must also know that these products are not only targeted at vegans or vegetarians, but also at those who eat beef burgers.
Mimicking The Color Of Beef
The red color of beef and other red meats like pork is due to the molecule called myoglobin; that is found in their muscles. Its color can change from red to purple to brown. This depends on the amount of oxygen in the beef; myoglobin traps oxygen, which helps cells to produce energy. Myoglobin is denatured when the meat is cooked, and the color of the meat changes from red to brown.
The red color of vegan meat products like burgers is due to plant-based heme proteins used for making them. You must know that this protein, whether plant or animal-based has similar molecular structures. In its simplest form, the heme molecule is a ring of carbon atoms with nitrogen atoms inside this ring. Some vegan burger manufacturers use heme protein sourced from the roots of legumes.
Listed below are the important criteria for myoglobin substitutes used in vegan burgers:
- The red color must be stable when the vegan burger is in storage.
- The plant-based myoglobin substitute must not affect the flavor of the vegan burger.
- The color of the vegan burger must change from red to brown only when cooked; this criterion is the most difficult to achieve.
Mimicking The Texture Of Beef
Vegan burgers must also mimic the texture of beef burgers. When you cook raw meat at 55 to 60°C it is medium-rare; i.e., it will be firm, juicy, and moist, and its color will be pink. If the temperature is 65 to 75°C, it will be well done; i.e., it will be firmer, less juicy, drier, and will have a brown color. The texture of the meat is due to muscles; they are made up of strands of fibers that are tightly and neatly aligned. Also, the variation in the texture of different meats is due to the variation in the alignment of strands of muscle fibers. Replicating this is one of the biggest challenges of making plant-based meat products.
To replicate the texture of beef in vegan meat, manufacturers must find carbohydrates and proteins that mimic the behavior of muscle fibers. When it is cooked, they must form gels that simulate the cooking of meat. Some of the plant-based sources of proteins used are zein from corn, gluten from wheat, soy protein, and pea protein.
Mimicking The Smell And Taste
The first step in mimicking the smell and taste of beef burgers is identifying the molecules responsible for this. These molecules are then artificially created in the laboratory, or their plant alternatives are found. Some vegan meat product manufacturers manipulate heme proteins and place these molecules in a desirable environment. This ensures that correct chemical reactions occur when the vegan burger is cooked.
The taste and texture of the beef burger are also due to its fat content. So, manufacturers of vegan burgers use plant-derived fat that mimics animal fat. Two of the most widely used ingredients that fit the bill are coconut and palm oils.
We hope that this article clarified your doubts on how vegan burgers are made to look and taste like a beef burger.