The Science of Steak Explained
The useful science information website besthealthsciencedegree.com has created a genius infographic that lays out the science of the perfect steak in a way that any meat lover would appreciate. Grilling season will never be the same when you understand the skill of choosing and cooking the ultimate steak. So, how is that elusive perfect steak achieved?
Aging is done in one of two ways. There is wet aging and dry aging. Wet aging is when the side of beef is cut into individual portions and then wrapped in plastic wrap for storage in the refrigerator. Dry aging is the more traditional method of hanging an uncut side of beef from a hook for storage in the refrigerator. Most supermarket cuts of meat have been cut and packaged, and put out for sale without any aging being done. This limits the flavor by not allowing the meat the amount of time it takes to develop full flavor.
Studies have shown that the perfect amount of aging is 10 days. Some markets offer “extra” aged meat, such as aged 75 days, but the studies show that this is not worth the extra money consumers may be tempted to pay.
During aging, the enzymes of the meat begin to deteriorate the proteins, glycogen and fat that make up the meat. This deterioration causes the proteins, fats and glycogen to become sugars, amino acids and fatty acids. The amino acids are what enhance the ultimate flavor of the meat when it’s been prepared. Also during aging, the water content of the meat will be reduced by about five percent, which causes the flavor to become more potent.
The Right Cut
The best steaks come from areas of the cow that are not as regularly used. The perfect section is the mid back, as opposed to the shoulder, rump or chest. Many people think that low fat content means higher quality of meat. In fact, most of the muscle portions of the meat is about 75% water, 20% protein and 5% fat. But it is the fat that gives the meat its flavor. As the meat is being cooked, the fat melts and moistens the rest of the meat, injecting it with flavor during the process. So the best and most expensive cuts are those with “marbling” or small pouches of fat throughout the cut.
Cooking Like a Pro
The protein molecules in the meat are shaped like a tight coil. As the meat is heated, the coil relaxes, the water is forced out of the muscle fibers in the meat, the protein molecules coagulate while the surface protein molecules join with the sugar to brown the meat and give it flavor. Rare steak is still red in the center; medium done meat has a tan color from the hemichrome compound; and well done meat has a brown-gray coloring.