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Pros: Strictly from a nutritional standpoint, Boca's "Original" is their "best" ("healthiest") version of "imitation meat".
Cons: Boca?s "Original" version is neither as tasty nor as visually appealing as their other versions.
Prefatory note: I generally buy my "Boca burgers" at Wal-Mart Supercenter, which charges $2.50 per 10-ounce package of four patties. Also note that money-saving (75-cents or, more recently, one-dollar) "Boca meatless product" coupons have periodically appeared in newspapers or magazines.
Although I first bought and enjoyed soy-based "imitation meats" ("Morningstar Farms" logo) two to three decades ago, in those days they were merely of "occasional" interest. Like most folks, I continued to derive most of my protein intake from "real" meat.
It wasn't till three years ago that I began largely to replace the real with the imitation "meats" (albeit I still occasionally eat wild-caught Alaskan salmon, imported sardines, and--much less frequently--boneless, skinless chicken breast). And "Boca" quickly became my brand of choice. Nearly every day, I eat at least one--or perhaps two--Boca patties (sometimes at both lunch and dinner), though not necessarily this "Original" flavor/variety. [In the future I'll be reviewing several alternative varieties of "Boca burgers", including my current favorite, the "Flame Grilled".]
"Boca" versus "Morningstar Farms"
Why do I generally prefer "Boca" to "Morningstar Farms" (and other brands of) imitation meats? It's not because I particularly dislike the taste of Morningstar Farms' burgers; it's because Boca's "best" ("healthiest") varieties generally contain significantly less fat--particularly saturated fat--than do Morningstar's. And saturated fat not only makes you fatter but also contributes to unhealthy levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, which just might kill you (by clogging your arteries) someday. [However, some "authorities" have maintained that if your "triglycerides" number is quite low (and taking pharmaceutical-grade fish oil capsules could help in that regard), your risk of trouble from a high "LDL" number is significantly reduced. Not that the manufacturers of lucrative statin drugs (e.g., "Lipitor") are likely to endorse that notion!]
Don't get me wrong. Even Morningstar Farms' products generally constitute "relatively" healthy alternatives to "real" meats having still greater levels of fat. You can easily note the "low-fat" blurbs on the front of each package, and, more to the point, the less conspicuous but highly revealing "Nutrition Facts" information on the side panel) to figure out that much for yourself.
Not all "Boca burgers" are created equal!
Even among Boca's own offerings, there are certain "flavors" I generally eschew due to their amounts of fat and/or sodium and/or "just plain calories". After weeding out the "undesirables" (including one or two whose taste I simply found displeasing), I settled on four Boca varieties that I like well enough to buy more or less consistently:
(1) Boca "Original" Burgers (the subject of this review)
(2) Boca "Flame Grilled" Burgers (my favorite--moist and flavorful!)
(3) Boca "Grilled Vegetable" Burgers (my least favorite "favorite"!)
(4) Boca "Original" Chik'n Patties (actually not a "burger" but a deliciously convincing imitation of a fried, breaded chicken patty)
Note: All Boca burgers/patties are individually wrapped in clear, sealed, plastic "pouches", which fact has allowed me periodically to buy them in bulk quantities (using large numbers of "75-cent" or "one-dollar" money-saving coupons) and to "stack" all the patties in "compact" columns on a freezer shelf. These patties have a very lengthy shelf life, as is clearly indicated on the ends of the product packages. However, when "buying in bulk", I generally discard the product packages, which allows me to cram far more food inside my typical refrigerator's average freezer compartment.
Cook 'em in any of three ways:
1. Microwave. This is how I myself virtually always prepare my Boca burgers. Regardless of Boca's "official" cooking times (on the product box), with my smallish microwave oven set to "HIGH", the following (slightly longer) "cooking times" work best for me, assuming that we're talking about frozen Boca patties taken directly from the freezer and still in their pouches. [Don't forget to cut a tiny slit in each pouch--I use kitchen shears (scissors) to do this.]
1 patty: 2 minutes
2 to 3 patties: nearly 4 minutes
4 patties: slightly more than 4 minutes
Naturally, you'll have to experiment and adjust (possibly slightly reduce) those cooking times to suit your particular microwave's characteristics.
2. Skillet. The product package's "Cooking directions" say:
"Cook frozen burgers in nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray (or use oil) on MEDIUM heat 8 to 10 min., turning occasionally."
3. Grill. The product package's "Cooking directions" say:
"Heat grill to MEDIUM; brush with oil. Cook frozen burgers, covered, 8 min., turning once."
Note, too, that the product package also admonishes:
"Do not eat burgers without cooking to 160 degrees F."
"Do not allow burgers to thaw."
What's your pleasure: "Genetically Modified" or "Organic"?
Boca began marketing their burgers in 1993. Interestingly, in 2001 they introduced "Organic" versions of all their most popular burgers. This leaves you, the consumer, with a choice: should you buy Boca's lower cost line of burgers, which, presumably, contain "genetically modified" varieties of soybeans? Or should you fork over more money to buy Boca's "Organic" line of burgers?
I'm not privy to all the behind-the-scenes details distinguishing Boca's respective "regular" and "organic" products. But I can report that after three full years of virtually daily consumption of their "regular" burgers, I'm still in one piece. On my modest budget, I'm not about to shell out still more money for the dubious advantages that the so-called "organic soy" might provide. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if still more pesticide has to be applied to the "organic" soybeans than their "inorganic" (!) counterparts. In any case, until I'm made aware of any downright convincing evidence that Boca's "bottom end" product line is deleterious to human health, I figure to go right on enjoying my (relatively) "cheap" Boca in the hopes that, at very least, it's more healthful than eating "real" hamburger meat would be.
Note: To behold the respective product boxes (and blurbs) for both the "regular" and the "organic" Boca products, visit Boca's web site (and click on the appropriate links):
Of all Boca's burgers/patties, their "Flame Grilled" version makes for the best "hamburgers" (sandwiches). By contrast, these "Original" patties have neither the slight-but-unmistakable taste of cheese nor the intoxicating savor of a "backyard-grilled" burger.
Instead, what you actually get with each of these Boca "Original" burgers is a relatively ho-hum, bland, slightly pale patty whose chief claim to fame is its bottom-line-healthy nutritional credentials: a mere 70 calories per patty, with only half a gram of fat--and zero "saturated" fat! Although there's a bit more salt than I'd prefer (280mg of sodium--i.e., 12% of the recommended daily value), that's balanced by 340mg of potassium. Not least importantly, each patty provides 13g of protein (21% of the recommended daily value).
Now, I'll 'fess up: I eat this "Original" variety of Boca somewhat less than half as often as I eat the other three Boca varieties (combined) that I mentioned above. Nonetheless, I do continue to allocate a portion of my freezer space to this, Boca's "least exciting" yet "most healthful" burger. While I don't find that this variety imparts much of its own (somewhat bland) flavor to any dish; and while I find it to be somewhat drier than I'd like (a bit less moist than a "real" burger), it works splendidly when cut into large chunks and mixed (for example) into individual (separately cooked) servings of the meatless "15-bean Cajun chili" that I discussed in my aforementioned January "Epinion". My advice to Boca newbies is to try several of their products till you discover the one(s) you can relish regularly. Perhaps this "Original" will turn out to be your favorite.
Serving Size: 1 burger (71g)
Servings per Container: 4
Amount Per Serving:
Calories 70 Calories from Fat 5
% Daily Value:
Total Fat 0.5g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 280mg 12%
Potassium 340mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Protein 13g 21%
Ingredients: WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEAT GLUTEN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, DRIED ONIONS, YEAST EXTRACT, SESAME OIL, HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN, CARAMEL COLOR, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE.
Size (package of 4 burgers): 10 oz