I like meat, but I have no problem at all with vegetables. Vegetarian and vegan food? Bring it on. It's delicious, at its best. I think even the most hardcore meat lover now knows that the ill effects of breeding animals for meat production will eventually render it a much rarer delicacy – no pun intended. As plant-based diets become more commonplace – fashionable, even – two approaches are coming to the fore. One is to make vegan and vegetarian dishes in the traditional way, celebrating the sheer… vegetable-ness of them. The other is to try to mimic meat products, using vegetarian ingredients and I've tried none better than the wackily named Juicy Marbles.
Fake meats are usually fine and nutritious, but they're also always a little unsatisfactory if you're a meat lover. I'm thinking of Quorn here, for instance. It's a bit like meat… but a kind of cheap, crappy meat. Juicy Marbles is not like that. Their fake steak – Feak as I think they should call it – is intended to replicate the taste and texture of filet mignon. So not just steak but posh steak. Juicy Marbles is aiming straight at the upmarket, previously-meat-eating end of the veggie market. And for my money, they have hit the target and scored.
The Juicy Marbles filet mignon can be cooked however you want, but pan fried or air fried seem the most obvious ways to go. You could have them with my perfect air fryer chips, or take the double-cooked air fryer chips route. Along with my perfect air fryer chicken, Juicy Marbles is one of the best things to cook in an air fryer that I've found.
So right now, you are probably wondering what the hell Juicy Marbles is made of. Well, here are the ingredients:
Water, soy protein concentrate, wheat protein isolate, sunflower oil, natural flavors, beetroot powder, kappa carrageenan, methylcellulose, salt, yeast extract, iron, vitamin B12.
My best guess is that the veg proteins and kappa carrageenan – a sort of jelly –provide the meaty texture, the sunflower oil is set rather than liquid, so as to provide the marbling, the beetroot gives it a pink, meaty look and the other stuff shapes the flavour.
Juicy Marbles says that this filet mignon is 'by far the most tender piece of plant meat you can get. The marbling is lush and evenly distributed, ensuring a bold, rich flavor experience with deep aromas. The crust develops quickly, letting the center stay velvety and supple.' So I whipped out my Ninja Foodi Max SmartLid – the best air fryer and the best multi-cooker for me – and set about testing Juicy Marbles' claims.
The first thing to be said here is that the cooking instructions are as follows: cook in a pan with a little oil, until crisped. That's it. No timings, just 'cook until cooked', essentially.
Immediately, this is completely different to cooking a real steak. Depending on your attitude to these things, this can be more like a science experiment than cooking, with chefs having very precise rules on seasoning, pan temperature, cooking times, number of flips, internal temperature, resting after cooking etc etc.
These elements are so important with real steak, not least because if you undercook it, in extreme circumstances you may die, and if you overcook it, you've ruined an expensive piece of meat. You could presumably eat the Juicy Marbles filet mignon raw and suffer no ill effects, although I doubt it would be a very nice experience. You can still overcook it though, so I think perhaps Juicy Marbles could include at least some kind of cook time guidelines.
Cooking anything in an air fryer is hardly rocket science though, so I sprinkled a little sea salt, scrunched on some pepper, gave it a spray with my trusty supermarket oil spray and put it on at 200ºC/400ºF for 5 minutes. After that time was up it didn't seem to me to be all that crispy, so I flipped it over, gave it another little bit of seasoning and oiling, and set the timer for a further 5 minutes.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic, but it looked very much like this press photo from Juicy Marbles.
So that was that. It didn't seem like there was any point resting this, as I usually would with actual meat, so I just got stuck in to the eating portion of the evening.
The first thing to say is that it was delicious. The second is that it was very much like meat. I am pretty sure most people would not be able to tell that it wasn't meat, in fact, if you didn't forewarn them. The crisp outer part was indeed crispy and the inside was succulent. It looked and tasted like meat, with the texture of meat. The smell? Well, that was kind of like a more muted version of meat. Let's just say it smelled very savoury, at least.
What I question is how much it is like steak or filet mignon specifically. That's why I said it was just like 'meat' rather than just like 'steak'. The strand-like composition of the Juicy Marbles fake meat was more reminiscent of pulled pork or perhaps brisket.
The flavour was unmistakably meaty, but I think most people who try it might be stumped when you ask them to name exactly what cut of meat it is, or even what animal it came from. As well as meats for slow cooking such as the aforementioned pork and brisket, some might guess at something more exotic such as ostrich or crocodile. Sure, it's just like meat, but what type…?
Anyway, that is not a criticism as such. It was absolutely delicious, and Juicy Marbles have cracked the whole issue of mouth feel and texture. It's also worth noting that all I had on it was salt and pepper and all I had on the side was some fries. With a sauce and as part of a fuller meal, I suspect it would seem even meatier.
Juicy Marbles: price and availability
This fake filet mignon is made in Europe and needs to be imported to the UK. The cost is €30 for 1 pack of four 113g steaks, plus €15 shipping. While that is a little expensive, you also have the option of buying 2 packs for €60 with free shopping.
Since shipping can take up to 2-3 weeks, you might want to buy in greater bulk, in which case 4 packs (16 steaks in total) will set you back €96, with shipping again included.
In UK money at current exchange rates, that is £38 for 4 steaks pack, £51 for 8 steaks and £82 for a party-sized 16 steaks. That is pricey for plant-based meat substitutes but cheap compared to actual meat.
Needless to say, Juicy Marbles should also be much better for you than a real steak. Each filet mignon contains only 192 calories, and it's also low in fats and carbs and surprisingly high in fibre and protein. A 'tenderloin' version of Juicy Marbles is 'coming soon-ish' according to their website. (opens in new tab)
- More air fryer info
- How to use an air fryer – a beginner's guide
- Absolutely everything you need to know about air fryers
- How to clean an air fryer