The Secret to Making Fake Meat You Want to Eat
As food process engineering professor Atze Jan van der Goot explains, most meat analogs are produced by cooking some kind of bean until its proteins are denatured. The resulting slurry is then passed through an extruder—the same kind of machine that might make pasta—but under pressure. As it emerges from the nozzle, this bean paste expands, resulting in a spongy mass that can then be flavored. The challenge is texture: It’s almost impossible using this method to evoke the muscle and fiber of a steak.
“Mimicking muscle is the holy grail of making plant-based meat,” Van der Goot says. The difficulty comes in trying to align plant fibers the way they’re aligned in muscle. That’s where the new machine offers a solution: It can be programmed to mimic protein, be it chicken, fish, or pork, up to 1,000 times more precisely than extrusion. There’s also no limit to the size of the resulting vegan steaks—they can be printed by the foot.