Cooking of Meat

Tenderness/shear force and cooking have a complex interrelationship and are best discussed together. Cooking is the preferred method of preparing meat for serving. Cooking not only safeguards health by destroying bacteria and parasites, but the heat also coagulates the proteins, transforming a bland, chewy product to a juicy, flavorsome, and beautifully textured food.

The final outcome of cooking depends on factors such as the rate of heat transfer. Grilled products have a flavor development on the surface and a variable texture from the seared surface to the softer juicy, bland interior, whereas casserolling gives a complex effect arising from browned surfaces, which cause even deepening of the flavor throughout the whole meat. Roasting allows a slow heat transfer and aging of the meat during cooking.

The juiciness of the product and the contribution of the connective tissue influence the final outcome. Thus, products to be grilled must have low amounts of connective tissue (however, readily hydrolyzable cross-links will not be affected rapidly enough), otherwise they will be tough. The long, slow cooking of a casserole (or a roast) allows aging to take place and also breaks the collagen cross-links. This allows consumption of certain cuts that would be relatively unsatisfactory for grilling. In essence, the tenderness of a piece of meat is a function of the postslaughter handling, including conditioning and aging procedures, the rate of heat transfer with the various denatured muscle cooking methods, and the amount and type of connective tissue present.

The choice of cooking procedure depends first on the amount of connective tissue present and the age of the animal and, second, on whether the meat will benefit from aging by prolonged cooking procedures. Clearly, microwave cooking of meat has few advantages, other than convenience, as the temperature rises too fast in an uncontrollable manner. There is not enough time to break down connective tissue, and the myofibrillar proteins also will not age significantly above 66°C (45) (Fig. 6). If meat has severely cold shortened prior to any cooking procedure, it will never become tender, even with slow cooking. Such meat often is fed to pets, after the consumer finds it almost in-edibly tough.

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