I’m not sure if my colleague Dan Solomon inspired me or shamed me recently when he wrote a story about vegan convenience foods. He went vegan for a week without eating vegetables, at least not in their whole forms. I figured if he could do it for a whole week, I could at least try it for a meal.

Back when Solomon was researching the article, he and I talked about Barvecue, which makes a soy–and–sweet potato protein product meant to mimic pulled pork. I’d seen it before in the freezer section at the grocery store, but I ignored it because it was made in North Carolina—and because it’s a soy–and–sweet potato protein product. But on my last trip to Central Market, I saw a new product next to Barvecue’s in the freezer section. A brown-paper package of the Hearty Vegan’s Texas Tempeh Mock BBQ Brisket featured a steer with a cowboy hat and bandanna saying “Thanks y’all,” in a message reminiscent of Chick-fil-A’s spokescows that urge diners to “eat mor chikin.” Curiosity got the better of me, and I tossed the product in the cart along with some of that Carolina “pulled pork.”

Back at home, I followed the instructions on the packages for reheating. The Texas Tempeh comes in brick form and requires steaming for several minutes, which can be done from the frozen or thawed state. Rather than making its tempeh with soybeans, as is common, the Hearty Vegan makes its Texas Tempeh with fermented cow peas. (I must appreciate that specific choice for a vegan brisket.) It’s seasoned with salt, black pepper, and onion powder and “smoked with hardwood chips,” according to the label. I didn’t smell much smoke coming from the steaming pot when I opened the lid, but I’ll take the company’s word for it.

Barvecue’s “pulled pork” came in two options at my Central Market. The Pulled BVQ comes seasoned with apple cider vinegar and a variety of sugar and spices you’d normally find in a barbecue rub. The other option was Naked BVQ, which is self-explanatory. Both require thawing before being reheated in the oven or in a sauté pan.

I wasn’t going to evaluate any of the three products in their plain form because I don’t think that’s how most people—vegans and omnivores alike—would consume them. From eating smoked jackfruit in the past, I knew that the bread and toppings of a sandwich would be allies in a situation like this: not so much to cover the mostly bland flavor, but to provide some distractions, like the sugar and liquid smoke in barbecue sauce. I toasted three nonvegan pain au lait buns. I coated the cut sides with vegan butter and toasted them on the stove top. Then I prepared some slaw and gathered pickles, onions, and various barbecue sauces.

The shape of the Texas Tempeh lent itself to slicing, like brisket, or cubing, like burnt ends. I chose the latter. I tossed the cubes in the thick burnt ends sauce from Hardcore Carnivore and placed them on the bun with some pickles and onions. For the BVQ, the “pulled” version was already seasoned, so I just added some of Gabrick’s sweet Candy Jalapeño barbecue sauce to the sauté pan while it was heating up. With the “naked” version, I went more East Carolina style and added some barbecue rub and a vinegar-based barbecue sauce. Both were ready to be served within a few minutes. I added a sweet slaw made with vegan mayo to the Carolina-style sandwich and went Texas style with pickles and onions on the other.

Do not repeat my mistake with the vinegar sauce on BVQ. Mock meat in a barbecue sandwich really needs a sweet sauce since there’s no dripping fat for the acidic vinegar sauce to meld with. The sweet BVQ sandwich was much better and, I’d say, more than tolerable. Shreds of real pork shoulder offer a texture that’s not hard to replicate with vegetable protein, and I took a few more bites than needed for science.

It was primarily the texture that sunk the mock brisket. I guess I could have cut it down into smaller chunks, but it needed more help to elicit memories of brisket for anyone who has enjoyed smoked animal flesh. I talked to Anna Walsh, Texas Monthly‘s director of editorial operations, who dabbles in making her own mock meat at home, about the same issue. “The hard thing about actual plant-based proteins is almost always the texture,” she said. Walsh normally eats a pescatarian diet, unless I take her out for barbecue in Austin. “I do have a pretty recent memory touch point for what brisket tastes like,” she said, which made a recent “brisket” recipe she made from The Vegan Meat Cookbook a challenge to enjoy.

Walsh constructed her mock brisket from seitan, pea protein, mushrooms, soy sauce, and seasonings. Her vegan fiancé enjoyed it, but it left her wanting, unlike the “chicken” in the same cookbook that she made with wheat gluten and yuba. We both agreed that the mild flavor of chicken is easier to replicate with vegetable proteins than the flavors of beef or pork, let alone barbecued beef or pork. I recently tried a Chikn Parm sandwich at Project Pollo, where vegetable-protein patties are breaded and deep-fried to imitate chicken. The texture and seasoning from the breading made for an effective distraction, as did the marinara sauce and “cheez.” The surfboard of processed chicken in Burger King’s Original Chicken Sandwich isn’t any more impressive.

And that’s the problem with mock brisket. As soon as you read “brisket” on the label, unless you’re a lifelong vegan who has never tasted the real thing, there’s an immediate association. “You can’t go into it thinking it’s going to be bacon or brisket,” Walsh said of the mock-meat recipes she prepares at home. You have to ignore the marketing, otherwise expectations are planted that can’t possibly be matched with the final product. Maybe I’d have liked Texas Tempeh better if it had been labeled as a vegan replacement for meat loaf, but that’s a cowbell that can’t be unrung.