Early August 2019, Burger King announced to much fanfare the release of the "Impossible Whopper," a version of their signature Big Mac competitor made with the all-vegan Impossible Burger.
The Impossible Burger, still not yet available in grocery stores debuted in select restaurants around the world and has gradually gained in popularity leading up to its partnership with Burger King.
Fellow vegans have been rejoicing at the news with a healthy dose of reluctance to celebrate a company that has historically been "the enemy."
The Vegan Impossible Whopper
Now let us ask the proverbial question...is it vegan?
We decided to dig deeper into the technology and processes used by Burger King in their infamous "flame-broiled" cooking method.
As (re)confirmed by a former Burger King employee in this Reddit AMA, BK is indeed true to their promise that real flames are used to cook each patty. The former employee also goes on to enlighten us with tales of workers sometimes dropping the patties on the floor and serving them anyway.
Spoiler Alert: Your Impossible Whopper is Probably Not Vegan.
In this report from Bloomberg, Burger King's Americas President Chris Finazzo reminds us the Whopper is not even marketed as a vegan product in the first place.
...Employees will cook the trendy patty with the same broiler as regular burgers and chicken unless a customer asks for it to be prepared separately....[Burger King] doesn’t label the product as vegan and allows guests to ask for their Impossible Whopper to be cooked in the oven instead.
Want to see what's happening in Burger King when you don't ask for your IW to be cooked in the oven (or if your underpaid chef just puts it in the broiler anyway)?
So the official conclusion is, if you want to try Burger King's Impossible Whopper, you'll need to not only hold the mayo and cheese, but ask for the staff to cook yours in an oven. Hoping they actually follow through, this basic change will probably not give you the same taste you'd expect from BK's traditional cooking process.
But how bad is it to have it sent through the same system anyway? The Nieco broilers are similar to outdoor grills in that they allow the fat to drip away from the meat as they cook. But they're also made to put grill marks on each and every patty.
The flame grilling process will sanitize the food of bacteria but it will also preserve the animal fat into hardened charred and gummy substances that will invariably be pasted back on to new patties.
According to the same Bloomberg article, you're better off dining at White Castle, which uses a completely separate surface save for high-traffic occasions where the staff is asked to clean the regular cooking surface. The latter sounds more like a marketing bulletpoint than a realistic expectation. I can't imagine there's much motivation to stop and clean the cooking surface for the one vegan that walks in the door precisely when things get busy.
Carl's Jr uses Beyond Meat and promises customers they avoid contact with meat. How this actually translates to anti-cross-contamination practices is pretty nebulous.
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