October 14, 2002
This is not Chicken
posted by Carl

quorn is not chicken

Don't be fooled by the picture; this is not a chicken cutlet. Sometimes we get lazy and don't want to cook. Usually when this happens we get take out, but today we decided to try raiding the frozen foods section of the local minimart. We found the Quorn tucked away in the farthest corner freezer, either misplaced and neglected, or hidden away like an unfortunate mistake that someone wants to forget.

Quorn is a meat substitute that is made from "mycoprotein", an odorless, tasteless microorganism that is related to mushrooms. Actually, this is mostly according to Marlow Foods, the manufacturer of Quorn. Others, including mushroom researchers, think that it is more correct to classify mycoportein as a new kind of mold. The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has even asked the FDA to prohibit Marlow Foods from marketing Quorn as a mushroom related food. Then there's the issue of people getting sick from eating Quorn. The FDA considers Quorn to be generally regarded as safe (GRAS), perhaps because it has been available in the UK for over 15 years. However, a small number of people have gotten sick after eating Quorn products and CSPI wants the FDA to recall the products until more thorough studies are made. (Unfortunately, the CSPI website is down at the moment but check Google for quorn and mold to find more details.)

Knowing all this, we decided to try out the Quorn meat-free cutlets. I found the texture of the Quorn to be very similar to a processed chicken cutlet. Even though it had a familiar texture, I still had the sensation that this was a synthetic, manufactured product. Since the mycoprotein itself has no taste, they have combined it with lots of salt, onion and garlic powders, not to mention the "crisp garlic and herb coating." I felt that it was too dry, but I also find most chicken breast to be dry, and slathering it with ketchup made up for this shortcoming. Overall, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was eating some '50s version of the food of the future: mock chicken that is grown in vats to fulfill all your dietary needs. Either that or Soylent Green.