With the recent advancements in vegan meats creating delectable burgers and sausages, home cooks are looking to make their own versions of these vegan meat products. It’s shocking that these products are so good. But what makes them so good? The first thing people like me will do is look at the ingredients to try to figure out what is making this vegan patty work. Most people settle on the one ingredient that they know the least about. In this case, methylcellulose is a common ingredient that many pinpoint as the key to making the magic happen. While methylcellulose does play a big part in the patty, simply adding a dash of methylcellulose will not instantly turn soy or pea protein into meatless meat. So what exactly does it do?
“How does methylcellulose work in vegan patties?”
The way methylcellulose works is unique in that it gels as its heated and melts as it cools. Methylcellulose is not a one type ingredient. There are many…many different types of methylcellulose. Each type has a different viscosity, gelling temperature, and melting temperature. The viscosity plays a part in that as the patty is being formed it will help hold its shape. But some people will mistake the viscosity for the gel strength. Just because it is viscous doesn’t mean the gel strength is also high. For instance Methylcellulose HV (high viscosity) has a very low gel strength. So as the patty is heated the methylcellulose will gel and hold it together. So in theory the higher the gel strength the firmer the patty will be. I’ve seen and heard of many people testing different ways to add the methylcellulose to meatless patties. Adding into the dry ingredients is one method to absorb any extra moisture and hold them together. But for meatless patties the best way I have heard is to make a sort of fat emulsion. The methylcellulose would be added to a liquid and then some fat would be emulsified into the methylcellulose liquid. Once it resembles dense, almost solid, mayonnaise the blend can be added to the meat mixture. This fat and methylcellulose mixture will coat the protein and help bind them and form a patty. I’m frequently asked what methylcellulose I would personally use in a vegan patty. For my money A15C Is the type that we suggest since the gel strength is high, and it will begin to gel at 120°F which is similar to when proteins start tightening in beef. One thing we suggest is not over-relying on the methylcellulose for texture. Methylcellulose is not the only ingredient that is making the meaty texture. The proteins you choose and other ingredients are making up the majority of the patty. But the methylcellulose is there to bind and enhance the texture. Keep your eyes on future episodes of our youtube series WTF and blog posts because all this talk has given me some inspiration to making our own patty… stay tuned!