One of the greatest challenges to achieve the perfect plant-based meat analogue is replicating the muscle like fibers which deliver the firm bite consumers expect from meat.
According to Melissa Machen of Cargill, “Marbling is the intramuscular fat between fibers in a muscle. Marbling offers consumers a more juicy and flavorful eating experience. Beef, for example, is graded based upon the amount of marbling. Vegetable oils like coconut oil and palm oil may be used to impart the “marbled state” in plant-based steak alternatives or plant-based burger alternatives.”
However, vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature, which makes it very challenging to achieve a marbled appearance in the product. To resolve this problem, oil can be blended with other ingredients like gums and starches at cold temperature resulting in a solid material that can be reduced in size to resemble small pieces of fat particles. The fat particles can then be incorporated into a plant-based steak or burger at cold temperature to assume a marbled appearance. (There are also methods to achieve this using entirely clean label ingredients for plant-based meat applications.Please contact FSL to discuss.)
According to Vineet Jindal, PhD, Customer Innovation Manager at AAK, “Companies need to create a plant-based fat system that appears like conventional steak marbling, and they also need to incorporate and bind the fat system in plant-based “muscles”, so it appears like marbling in steak.”
“In addition, the marbling also needs to release the aroma of that particular meat during and after cooking,” he said. “The integrity and appearance of the product also needs to be maintained during and after cooking.”