The Science Behind the Perfect Steak

The Science Behind the Perfect Steak
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The Science Behind the Perfect Steak

Read on for a closer look at the science behind cooking steak.

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What makes meat taste and smell so good?

What makes cooked meat smell and taste flavorful? It’s actually all that browning caused by the Maillard reaction, where sugar and amino acids in the meat react under high heat and create flavorful compounds. Temperature and dryness are important for this reaction to occur, so it’s important to keep cooking surfaces hot (the reaction begins at 285 degrees Fahrenheit) and blot your meat dry.

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What happens inside the meat while it cooks?

According to Live Science, cooking meat changes its texture, color and taste because the proteins in muscle tissue, like myosin and actin, denature, or change shape. When steak cooked rare reaches a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, myosin begins to denature, and when steak cooked medium reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit, actin denatures.

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Should you salt your steak?

The Serious Eats Food Lab tested how salting affects the flavor of steak and found the best results cooking steak immediately after salting, and cooking steak salted at least 40 minutes before cooking. Within minutes, the salt draws liquid from the beef through the process of osmosis, and it’s important to let that brine break down muscle tissue and work its way back into the meat; otherwise, you won’t be able to get a good sear.

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Why should you let meat rest?

Serious Eats explains that the reason unrested steak leaks juice is due to temperature. Cooling meat allows the muscle fibers to relax and stretch open wider. Hot off the pan, the outside of a steak can reach temperatures over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, while the inside of a steak is far lower. While cooling, the temperature of the exterior falls at a faster rate, allowing those fibers to widen and create a pressure differential that pulls liquid to the edges. Resting allows that liquid to become evenly distributed.

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How can you tell meat is done?

Some people cut into the steak and check its color, others do the poke test to gauge its firmness, but the only accurate way to tell if your steak is ready is to nerd out with an instant-read thermometer, like this one.

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Should I cook my steak fresh or frozen?

In a recent experiment, America’s Test Kitchen found better results cooking steak straight from the freezer than thawed steak; while frozen steak took longer to cook, it browned nearly as quickly as thawed steak, lost less moisture and had a thinner band of overcooked meat!

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Everyone has a different idea of what makes the perfect steak, but most of us strive for results that are tender, flavorful and safe to eat. We take a closer look at the science behind cooking steak to learn how to make a mouthwatering masterpiece out of meat.

Check out the slideshow above to discover the science behind cooking the perfect steak. Then, discover how to defrost a steak without electricity in 5 minutes!

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