by Rachel Krantz for USA TODAY 10Best

Top butchers explain how to make great vegan meat

Vegan meat has come a long way since Boca Burgers were the most innovative alternative. And vegan meat sales are way up this year, partially due to the pandemic.

But what does creating successful plant-based meats look like? We spoke with leading vegan butchers to find out.

Many vegan butchers aren’t looking to exactly replicate animal protein so much as use their flavor profiles

Monk's Meats uses a variety of plant proteins and different techniques to create a meaty texture for their customers.

Crafting a successful vegan meat isn’t just about taste

Animal flesh has different amounts of protein, fat and sugar that combine to give each meat a distinct taste. In the end, though, a lot of the taste comes down to the seasoning.

Sadrah Schadel – co-founder of No Evil Foods – notes that the experience of meat also has "a heck of a lot to do with smell," so in addition to emulating a variety of textures and mouthfeels, they focus on replicating the scent of animal meats.

Some vegan meats require more attention

Plant-based meats that require several steps to make or a variety of methods to cook, such as marinating or smoking, are often more challenging and more time-consuming.

The biggest challenge for California-based The Butcher’s Son is knowing how your vegan meat cooks, how it cools down, and how it feels when you’re eating it during different cooling periods.

Kale Walch – co-founder of The Herbivorous Butcher – notes that chicken, despite its overwhelming popularity, is one of the most precarious plant-based meats to work with. "Vegan chicken is delicate, so we don't treat it as harshly as we would the vegan pork or beef products."

So which vegan meats are the best?

It all comes down to the butcher. For The Butcher’s Son, the top-selling menu items are always chicken. For No Evil Foods, The Stallion Italian Sausage and Comrade Cluck No Chicken slightly outperform the rest.

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