Mar 14, 2022
One of the most frustrating aspects of eating at dining halls as a college student is the difficulty of finding a quality protein that will make a filling meal. This is probably why I’ve adopted an almost vegetarian diet and although I’m thinking of going fully plant-based, I still sometimes miss the taste of meat. So when Next Meats sent me samples of their plant-based short rib, skirt steak, and beef bowl, I decided to see if I could fully commit to a diet of less meat.
Next Meats was founded in 2017 in Japan by Ryo Shirai and Hideyuki Sasaki. After three years of research and development, their first products were launched in 2020 and they currently sell plant-based skirt steak, short rib, beef gyudon and chicken. The company, which opened up a new production facility in 2021, launched in the US market early this year and now can be found in supermarkets on the East Coast and California, as well as online for delivery.
Uncooked Next Meat in the frying pan
I invited a vegetarian friend over to try it because I wanted to get her thoughts on it as well. It was my first time cooking plant-based meat, even though I’ve eaten things like Impossible and Beyond Meat. My friend also doesn’t cook a lot of plant-based meat and typically eats eggs and beans since they’re easier to cook and cheaper.
Next Meats’ products came frozen, and although they can be refrigerated, I kept it frozen and found that it didn’t take long to go from frozen to cooked. We cooked it the way we normally cook meat in a frying pan and ate it with white rice. Since the samples were pre-cooked and pre-seasoned, we didn’t add anything else to the pan except some oil. At first, it was a bit difficult to cook because the product started as a single, unappetizing chunk, and there weren’t any instructions on the packet about how to best cook the meat.
We used a spatula to separate it and it gradually began to look more like meat. Although we were concerned about how long to cook it for and whether it would be better tender or seared, the smell and texture of the meat helped us decide when it was done cooking. Compared to normal meat, the plant-based meat had a similar crispy texture on the outside edges when seared and smelled the same, which is probably because of the way it is seasoned.
Cooked Next Meats
The flavor of the short rib wasn’t very meaty and it reminded us of Chinese vegetarian duck which is made from bean curd. In fact, all of the samples Next Meats sent me reminded me of that dish which is likely because they are made from non-GMO soy. I liked the flavor of the skirt steak more because it was sweeter and we could taste the flavor of sesame oil.
My favorite was the beef bowl and it felt easier to cook since the beef was already shredded; even though it still came as a frozen chunk, it was easier to separate and to eat. The flavor was very authentic and reminded me of how my mom prepares beef, which has been hard for me to imitate. It had the perfect balance of sweet and salty, and the pieces of onion were a nice addition.
Overall, we enjoyed trying Next Meats’ meat and thought that they were tasty products, even if they didn’t taste exactly like real meat. And while Impossible and Beyond burgers taste more like regular meat, there aren’t many brands making plant-based meat inspired by Asian dishes which is why I would eat Next Meats’ plant-based meat again. The authentic flavors, combined with the convenience of the frozen packaging, makes it an easy and filling meal.