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How Plant-Based Meat is Made
Understanding the process of creating meat-like products from plant-based ingredients
What is Plant-Based Meat Made Of?
Plant-based meat is a type of meat alternative that is made from plants rather than animals. It is a growing trend in the food industry as more people are looking for healthier and more humane options when it comes to their meat consumption. While the term "plant-based meat" might sound straightforward, there is more to it than simply combining a few plants to create a meat-like product.
How is plant-based meat made to taste like meat?
Two popular plant-based meat brands, the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger, are designed to closely resemble animal-based meat's taste, appearance, and texture. They both offer a "meaty" experience, thanks to their use of plant proteins that mimic the taste and texture of traditional meat. Both products are free from cholesterol and cruelty, making them healthier and more humane alternatives to animal-based meat.
Ingredients in plant-based meat
Traditionally, plant-based meat was made from a combination of vegetables, beans, and oats. However, companies like Impossible Foods are using more innovative ingredients to mimic real meat's taste and texture. Common ingredients in plant-based meat include soy protein concentrate, pea protein, and legumes such as tempeh, tofu, and lentils. Other ingredients may include jackfruit, chickpeas, quinoa, and vegetables.
To enhance the flavor and texture of plant-based meat, spices and plant oils such as coconut, sunflower, or canola oil are often added as binding agents. It is worth noting that some plant-based meat options, like those from Impossible Foods, contain genetically modified soy.
The main goal of plant-based meat companies is to recreate the taste of meat. To achieve this, they often use natural flavorings, spices, and yeast extracts to mimic the taste of real meat. The Impossible Burger, for example, uses heme, an iron-containing molecule, to enhance its flavor and give it a more authentic beef taste.
In addition to these ingredients, the flavors in plant-based meat can also come from the fat content in oils, and the seasoning used. Overall, the goal is to create a taste that is similar to real meat.
The texture of alternative meat is often praised by those who enjoy it because it closely resembles the tenderness of actual meat. This is typically achieved through a process called extrusion, in which the ingredients are forced through a small opening to create the desired shape and texture. Some companies also use texturization technology to add moisture to the extrusion process, resulting in a slightly stringy texture. Overall, the goal of achieving a realistic texture in faux meat is largely successful and highly appreciated by those who enjoy it.
One aspect of plant-based meat that makes it visually similar to traditional meat is the careful selection of ingredients and the use of specific texturing techniques. Additionally, some companies will use an extruder to push soft fats through the plant-based meat to give it a more realistic appearance.
Another popular method used to replicate the appearance of traditional meat is the use of heme, a compound found in the Impossible Burger which creates the appearance of "bleeding" when cooked. Other brands may use beet juice to give their plant-based meat a red, meat-like appearance.
Overall, these techniques help to make plant-based meat more visually appealing to consumers who are accustomed to the appearance of traditional meat.