I don’t recall eating Quorn at any point in my life until I recently attended an event at the Underground Cookery School where Quorn recipes were on the menu. One of the reasons that Quorn had never appealed to me was because I didn’t feel like I needed an alternative to meat. Another reason is because I just didn’t know what the hell the stuff was made of. Even now that I do, I’m not sure that I’m any more convinced to introduce it to my diet…
Quorn is a source of protein that is used in place of meat. There are a huge range of products available from Quorn from ready meals to deli-style options, and they tend to be named after types of meat.
As an avid meat-eater, it took me a while to come round to the fact that you can get Quorn meat-free chicken fillets, Quorn meat-free roast beef joint and Quorn meat-free turkey steaks. I didn’t like the idea that they were directly compared to meat.
However, I totally realise that without this, the product wouldn’t be so successful. The associations with specific meat produce allows you to identify with the Quorn products. It makes Quorn easy to substitute into your existing favourite meat-based recipes, with very little adaptation, should you want to.
What is Quorn made of?
Ultimately, Quorn is a processed food. Due to the nature of the protein within it, it has to be processed in order to be usable.
This also means that there are a couple of those infamous ‘hard to pronounce’ ingredients used to firm up the product into a useable state.
Here’s an example of a typical Quorn product ingredients list. This is taken from the Quorn Chicken Fillets:
Mycoprotein (89%), Rehydrated Free Range Egg White, Flavouring, Firming Agents: Calcium Chloride, Calcium Acetate; Gelling Agent: Pectin
It’s clear that due to the use of egg, which is currently an essential binding agent in the product, that Quorn is currently unsuitable for vegans. However, it sounds like their R+D team are in the process of developing something to fill this gap.
What is Mycoprotein?
Mycoprotein (‘myco’ being the word for ‘fungus’) is essentially the protein from fungi. Specifically, the mycoprotein used by Quorn is derived from Fusarium Venenatum.
It seems that making mycoprotein available from the original source is a complex process involving fermentation amongst other processes.
100g of Quorn Meat-Free Chicken Fillets contains only 86 calories including 11.5g of protein. Compared to 100g of actual chicken, which contains around 25g of protein, that’s not great.
Quorn emphasise the fact that their mycoprotein-based products are low in salt, low in fat including saturated fat, and are high in dietary fibre. Not bad.
However, when I’m eating fairly clean, nutritious, whole foods anyway, looking out for these things doesn’t concern me. I believe that a small amount of saturated fat from fairly lean, unprocessed meat isn’t a bad thing. It’s when you’re getting it from greasy ready meals that it’s an issue.
There are definitely people that might benefit from the lower calorie content of a Quorn Meat-Free product compared to actual meat, and who need to be more aware of their salt, fat and fibre intakes, and for those individuals, this might be a great option.
Taste + Texture
Quorn products seem to be relatively flavourless. Quorn suggest marinating the products as they really absorb the flavours, but it seems to be more the case that the food would be distinctly flavourless otherwise. While this makes it quite versatile in recipes, it also makes it seem a lot less like food to me.
The hyphae, the long strands that make up the structure of the fungus, are a similar length and width to animal muscle fibres. This is why Quorn are able to create products that can mimic the texture and appearance of real meat.
Despite this, I haven’t been a big lover of the texture on the occasions that I’ve tried Quorn, although I’m sure it will grow on me. It’s much softer than animal meat and, when at the cookery school eating it in a bun, I couldn’t distinguish between the texture of the Quorn and the bread in my mouth, which was a bit strange!
One thing that I do really like about Quorn is that sustainability is at the absolute epicentre of what they do.
Mycoprotein was originally discovered growing in 1967 in an effort to find alternative sources of food to fill the protein gap caused by growing world population.
The production process of Quorn products is efficient and sustainable with what seems like substantially smaller environmental impact than the production of meat from animal sources.
Quorn production requires less agricultural land and uses less water. In fact, data currently available suggests that the water footprint of Quorn mince is 15 times less than that of beef.
Quorn products also produce fewer greenhouse gases than the production of meat as livestock alone make a massive contribution to greenhouse gas production.
I won’t be consuming Quorn on a regular basis. However, I would consider trying Quorn versions of processed meats, such as sausages.
Also, as Quorn doesn’t need cooking so much as heating to eat, it is quite a convenient source of protein when you want to whip up a hot and hearty meal in a nip. It also has a conveniently (albeit slightly suspiciously) long shelf life and is super affordable, too.
If you’re a Quorn eater, I’d love to know which of their products you’d recommend?