Taste test: The new Impossible Burger is a triumph of food engineering

Impossible Burger 2.0
Impossible Foods

I’m calling it early this year. The new Impossible Burger is the most impressive thing on display at CES 2019. Hands down. Forget about Samsung’s monstrous new OLED screen, forget whatever Google is doing this year. As far as I’m concerned, the most incredible thing at the show this year is a hamburger made from reconstituted plant matter. I am well aware that it’s only Tuesday and that the CES show floor just opened up, but I seriously doubt I’m going to see anything else here that tops what Impossible fed me yesterday.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the original Impossible Burger — a plant-based “hamburger” that debuted a couple years ago and is currently available at burger joints all over the globe. You’ve probably heard about it, and there’s a good chance you’ve actually tasted it, too.

What I am currently gushing about is the Impossible Burger 2.0 — the new-and-improved version of the company’s original plant-based hamburger. Impossible unleashed it at CES this year, and after tasting the new formulation at a press conference last night, I’m here to tell you that version 2.0 puts version 1.0 to shame. It’s a massive improvement.

Now don’t get me wrong — the original Impossible Burger wasn’t bad. The first time I tried it, I remember being impressed by how meat-like it was — but something wasn’t quite right. It had a weird aftertaste (like overcooked corn) that lingered in the mouth, tipping you off to the fact that what you were eating wasn’t actually meat, and reminding you with every chew that your mouth was full of fraud.

This new version doesn’t suffer the same drawbacks. Everything is dialed in — the smell, the color, the texture, the flavor — it’s all so similar to the profile of real hamburger that unless you’re really scrutinizing it, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference. I’m sure it won’t fool hardcore carnophiles, but I’m honestly not sure that most people would be able to tell a well-cooked Impossible 2.0 apart from regular hamburger in a blind taste test. It’s that close.

The fact that Impossible was able to achieve such an astonishingly meat-like burger (one that’s also more nutritious than real hamburger) using nothing but plants is simply incredible. Keep in mind that this isn’t a lab-grown burger made from animal cells — it’s a bunch of plants and plant-derived compounds that, through a mixture of science and culinary wizardry, come together to create a substance that looks, feels, tastes, and behaves like animal tissue. It bleeds for fuck’s sake! How insane is that!?

So why does it matter? Why am I raving about what’s ultimately just a high-tech veggie patty? Here’s why: Because by shrinking the flavor gap between real meat and fake meat, Impossible is making it easier for everyone to make more environmentally conscious food choices — and that’s a big deal. A huge deal, actually. Animal agriculture is the number one cause of environmental destruction in the world, so reducing humanity’s consumption and cultivation of meat is arguably one of the most effective ways that we can combat climate change.

Thing is, meat alternatives have been around for ages, but they haven’t really gained widespread popularity among anybody but vegetarians and vegans because, to most people, veggie patties simply don’t taste as good as real meat. That’s why the new Impossible Burger is so game-changing. Now, more than ever before, picking the eco-friendly option doesn’t mean compromising flavor — and that’s something that could legitimately save the world.

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