What Is Impossible Meat, and How Do You Cook It?

updated Jan 21, 2020
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Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Impossible meat is a meatless ground beef substitute that actually tastes like meat—or so the company claims. Their burger, called “The Impossible Burger,” is made to taste like a burger, cook like a burger, and even bleed inside like a burger. Because of its undeniable similarity to meat, Impossible meat has become one of the two leading ground beef substitutes nationwide. The other is Beyond Beef.

Though the Impossible Burger has been available in restaurants since 2016, Impossible Foods has only recently begun selling their raw burger patties and ground beef in grocery stores. 

Why is Impossible making realistic fake meat?

Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown, a former Stanford biochemistry professor, has called beef production a “destructive and unnecessary technology,” citing the statistic that animal agriculture takes up more than half the world’s land and consumes 25% of the world’s fresh water.

Brown founded the company in 2011 to create a beef replacement, believing that it would ultimately help fight climate change. Impossible Foods launched the Impossible Burger nationwide in 2016, and plans to double the company’s size and impact every year. According to their current mission statement, Impossible’s goal is to eliminate the need for animal-based meats by 2035.

How is Impossible meat different from other meat alternatives? 

Impossible Foods has a slightly different approach to making alternative meats. Rather than cobble together ingredients from a variety of plants, they’re bioengineering ingredients to make something that cooks, smells, and tastes as much like real meat as possible.

Unlike other meat alternatives, Impossible’s products include genetically modified food — their meat alternative tastes like meat because, even though it’s plant-based, it contains some of the same chemical compounds as real beef.

Impossible’s key ingredient is “heme,” a molecule in hemoglobin that helps give meat its meaty flavor. Brown’s company developed a way to derive heme using a nifty engineering trick involving soy and yeast: If you take the DNA out of a portion of the roots of a soy plant, and insert it into the DNA of a certain type of yeast, and ferment the yeast, then you get heme. It’s, essentially, genetic engineering.

From a flavor standpoint, it’s a major breakthrough, though some have raised concerns about having so much technology on their dinner plate.

How Nutritious Is the Impossible Burger?

The Impossible Burger contains as much iron and protein as a comparable serving of ground beef from cows. However, it has no cholesterol and has fewer grams of fat and calories per serving than beef. While it does use genetically modified foods, it contains no animal hormones or antibiotics. 

Where can I find the Impossible Burger? 

Right now, the Impossible Burger is increasingly available on restaurant menus across the country, but it’s just starting to move into grocery stores, and can be difficult to find. You can purchase Impossible meat fresh and frozen in select stores on both coasts in the US, but it’s not yet available nationwide. It is occasionally available online, though the pricing and quantities are usually more than a home cook might want.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What do I need to know before cooking the Impossible Burger? 

If you can get your hands on some, you use it just like ground beef. Start with a preheated pan, then season as you would ground beef and pan-fry until cooked through. You will want to serve it immediately—it doesn’t sit well. Impossible meat works well formed into patties, skewers, meatballs, bao, kofte—any place you would use ground meat, really! Also, you can add it to foods at any point in the cooking process, so it’s a great candidate for long-simmered sauces and soups like chili.

Note that like regular beef, Impossible’s meats need to be cooked before eating and also has an expiration date, so if you’re not going to use it right away, purchase it frozen. The company advises against freezing Impossible meat after it has been thawed.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The Best First Recipe to Try with Impossible Meat

Your turn: Have you cooked with Impossible meat? What’s your favorite way to prepare it? Tell us in the comments.