Impossible Whopper: Our reporters pull back the wrapper and see how it compares
Confession: I can recognize Burger King — more specifically the chain’s iconic Whopper — by smell when someone enters the room with it.
It’s a sad thing to admit, but that’s what happens when you’re young, broke and always on deadline. I’m not proud of it, but I know my Burger King.
But can I tell the difference between the classic, beef Whopper and the newly introduced, plant-based Impossible Whopper?
Burger King announced Tuesday that Columbus is one of four places in the country where diners can order the Impossible Whopper, a burger with a patty made entirely from plants.
The burger was tested in St. Louis last month to much fanfare, and stores nationwide should have the plant-based patty on menus before the end of 2019. But the earlier roll out here is big news for people who don’t eat meat in a region where veggies are most times dripping in pork fat or fried in bacon grease.
So, Tuesday afternoon, I got in my car and drove about a mile from the Ledger office to stop at Burger King on 1218 Veterans Parkway in search of the new burger.
The burger’s announcement in St. Louis tied up phone lines as eager eaters tried to get the mock-meat burgers shipped to California and elsewhere across the nation. In Columbus, it barely clogged lines as a handful of cars crept through the drive-thru around 3 p.m.
I ordered one Impossible Whopper and one classic Whopper. The standard Whopper, clad in the standard dressings of lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise and ketchup, was $4.09 without tax. The Impossible, with those same standard fixins, cost a dollar more at $5.09.
I chatted with the woman working the drive-thru to kill some time while I got my card out of my wallet to pay. She said that few people ordered the burger, but that she expected more patty seekers in the coming days.
“Come back through and tell me how it is,” she said as she handed the card back.
Inside the bag was a little burger-shaped handout that explains the makeup of the Impossible Whopper. The burger represents a partnership between Burger King and California-based Impossible Foods, a company that develops plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products.
Its primary ingredients are soy and potato protein, coconut oil and sunflower oil, according to the handout.
The most interesting component is heme, an iron-rich protein Impossible Foods takes from soybean roots and transfers to yeast for mass production. The combining ingredients work to mimic the texture and taste of ground beef.
A warning to hardcore vegans and vegetarians: the Impossible patties are cooked on the same broiler as the beef. So, you might want to ask the patty not be put through the broiler. (For the purpose of our article, I had the plant-based patty that was run through the broiler.)
Can you tell the difference? Yes. Is the Impossible Whopper good? To me, yes, and I can count the number of veggie burgers I’ve ever eaten on one hand.
Tim Chitwood, a fellow Ledger reporter and Burger King lover, and I did a blind taste test shortly after I picked the burgers up. We pretty quickly guessed which patty was which. Each burger was cut in half and served on a plate labeled #1 or #2.
Both patties had the signature grill marks but it appeared the Impossible Whopper was a little bigger.
The Impossible patty had a sharper, saltier, almost soy sauce-esque taste compared to the all-beef patty. The Impossible patty was firmer and chewier as it took just a little bit longer to get the first bite down. The biggest physical difference is the shape of the patty itself. The Impossible Whopper’s patty was an almost perfectly formed circle. It looked too perfect to be beef.
Still, while my brain told me it was not the all-beef Whopper, it was hard to believe what I was eating had no meat at all.
The effort to create a meatless Whopper and mimic the taste of a fast food burger, it seems, was a success. While not a perfect substitute, it’s pretty close. I’d order this again.