- November 1, 2022
- by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
- 0 Comments
Can You Eat Raw Plant-Based Meat? No – Here’s Why
Wondering if you can eat plant-based meat raw? The answer is no—find out why you shouldn’t try this and what happens if you do.
Plant-based meat is a popular addition to many vegan and vegetarian recipes. From soups to tacos, it’s both versatile and delicious.
But can you eat plant-based meat raw? While it may be tempting to skip cooking your favorite plant-based meat and simply crumble it over a salad or add to a sandwich, eating plant-based meat raw isn’t recommended.
Not only is eating plant-based meat raw a food safety risk, doing so will means that it will lack the quality and taste you’d expect. Read more about why eating plant-based meat raw is not recommended.
Why you shouldn’t eat raw plant-based meat
Plant-based meat is meant to replace real meat in recipes. Some brands come close to replicating the experience of eating real meat, whereas others are unique in both flavor and texture.
Unlike raw meat, which has the risk of foodborne illness due to bacteria present on the meat, plant-based meat is made from plants. This means it doesn’t have the same bacterial risk.
But this doesn’t mean it can’t result in a foodborne illness if not properly cooked.
In fact, it’s generally recommended that you don’t eat plant-based meat raw as it can still come with food safety risks. This is the case with any food that’s not properly handled, cooked, or stored.
Following standard food safety practices like washing your hands and surfaces before cooking plant-based meat, as well as using a meat thermometer to ensure the proper internal temperature, has been met can help with preventing unwanted bacteria from making its way to your plate.
One exception to this rule to avoiding eating plant-based meat raw is plant-based meats like deli meat replacements.
Generally, these products are safe to consume raw and are made to offer the best quality and taste without cooking. Cooking and/or preparation instructions for these products are indicated on the label.
For example, Tofurky deli slices are intended to replace deli meat. The package instructions state, “how to Make: These slices are ready to eat out of the pack cold or heated.”
However, other plant-based meat like beef crumbles, burgers, or sausages are not intended to be eaten raw and include proper cooking instructions on the package.
Importantly, food safety is not the only reason why you wouldn’t want to eat raw plant-based meat.
Most plant-based meat manufacturers recommend cooking the meat before eating due to taste and quality reasons.
Some plant-based meats use raw plant products that require cooking for improved taste, whereas others may have an improved texture after cooking.
No matter the reason, it’s best to follow the manufacturer instructions when preparing plant-based meat so that you have the best experience.
As with any food, if you’re pregnant, nursing, or have an otherwise weakened immune system, it’s best to consult with your doctor before eating any raw plant-based meat, including deli meats.
Guidelines for different plant-based meats
Plant-based meat manufacturers have specific guidelines for how best to prepare their products.
Most companies provide cooking instructions based on producing the best quality and taste of their products in addition to ensuring the safest product possible.
Cooking instructions for these products can be found on the package label or on the company website. Often, the company website will also have an FAQ page where additional preparation, cooking, and storage information is found.
However, none of the websites answer the question about eating their products raw, so customer service was contacted to answer the question: Can you eat your products raw?
Customer service responses for five of the top plant-based meat companies are listed below. All responses were gathered via email using the customer serving contact form on the company website.
“We don’t recommend consuming the Beyond Burger without cooking it first,” says the Beyond Meat customer service team.
“While it is a 100 percent plant-based burger, we still use raw vegetable ingredients, which require cooking for quality purposes. Our Product Team has tested and found that an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit results in the best quality burger.”
Can you get sick from undercooked Impossible burger? “Our products were made to be cooked; we think they taste better that way (though chefs have successfully made Impossible Burger tartare in the past),” says Impossible’s customer service team.
“They should be handled with the same caution as any other raw protein, and there are always risks to consuming raw or undercooked foods.”
“Please know for the best results we recommend cooking the product with the information that is under the preparation instructions, says the Field Roast customer service team.
Note: Cooking time and temperature varies based on the Field Roast product.
“Our products that require cooking to 165° Fahrenheit typically contain minimally processed ingredients, such as blanched vegetables,” says the Incogmeato customer service team.
“While these processes kill most bacteria that might be present, and frozen storage temperatures prevent bacteria from multiplying, some bacteria may still be present.”
“Under certain conditions, i.e. poor storage, not cooking to proper temperature, bacteria can grow and potentially present a food safety risk.”
“If the package states ‘COOK THOROUGHLY,’ then it means that the product should be cooked to 165° Fahrenheit prior to eating. Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t fully rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.”
“Yes! You can eat any Hodo products straight from the package,” says the Hodo customer service team.
“All of our products are fully cooked, so you don’t need to heat up any of them if you don’t want to. We generally recommend heating up our Plant-Based Cubes, since that brings out the flavor in the spices a little more.”
While most of the companies recommend following the package instructions for cooking and do not recommend eating their products raw, one company stands out as an exception: Hodo.
This company states that it’s OK to eat its products raw because all of them are fully cooked.
This is an important distinction, since cooking plant-based meat completely helps prevent bacterial growth that may cause a foodborne illness.
This is like the plant-based deli meats that don’t require cooking. They’re safe to consume without cooking prior to eating.
What about undercooked plant-based meat?
As with real meat, undercooking plant-based meat can come with the risk for foodborne illness. It’s recommended that all plant-based meats be cooked according to the package instructions.
When a minimum temperature is recommended on the package or website, use a meat thermometer to ensure you’ve met the proper cooking temperature.
If you’re used to cooking real meat and have recently transitioned to a plant-based diet, it’s important to understand a few differences between cooking real meat and plant-based meat.
First, some plant-based meats have ingredients that give the meat the appearance of real meat. For example, Beyond Meat and Impossible both have a reddish tint that mimics the appearance of real beef.
Because the color doesn’t necessarily change with cooking like it does with real meat, it’s even more important to use a thermometer to ensure the proper temperature has been met when cooking.
This means you should not rely on visually inspecting the meat to determine the internal temperature as you might with real meat.
Second, the juices of real meat will often turn clear when reaching the desired cooking temperature. This is unlikely with plant-based meat, as the color typically doesn’t change with higher cooking temps.
The bottom line
So can you eat plant-based ground meat raw? Avoiding eating plant-based meat raw is a good practice for quality, taste, and safety purposes (unless the package explicitly states eating it without cooking is recommended such as with deli meats).
Always follow the package cooking instructions for the plant-based meat you purchase and be sure to implement the best food safety practices when preparing your meal.
This will help to ensure you not only have a safe meal, but one that’s delicious, too!
- Tofurky website
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