THE SCIENCE OF GRILLING

HOW A GRILL GIVES STEAK ITS FLAVOR

The flavor of your steak greatly depends on the type of grill and fuel used to cook it. We’ve already learned why steaks are juicy and how heat transforms them to create a tasty sear. For this video, Popular Science and Saveur teamed up to learn about and detail the science behind flavoring.

While seasonings and sauces can add a punch of flavor to your meat, your grill and fuel play huge parts. When melted fat from the steak drips down into the grill, it catches fire and gives off an aromatic smoke. As the smoke floats up through the grill, it permeates the meat and locks in a rich, umami flavor. While this can happen in all types of grills, the fuel is a major defining factor for added meat flavors.

Each type of grill can bring out some awesome qualities in your steak. Wood smoke contains compounds like guaiacol and syringol, which can give an earthy, smoky flavor as they seep into your meat. Charcoal has similar compounds, like lignin and cellulose, that can also add some definition to a steak. Additionally, charcoal grills can reach higher temperatures, making them great for searing. While gas-powered grills don’t release compounds that flavor your meat, many prefer them for their ability to maintain lower temperatures, sealing in juices.

HOW HEAT TRANSFORMS STEAK

Unless you’re a vampire or enjoy tartare, you most likely prefer cooked steak over raw meat. Continuing on with our series ‘The Science Of Grilling,’ Popular Science and Saveur teamed up to learn about the science behind browning a steak.

Meat goes through a number of complex processes after it hits the grill. Raw beef gets its reddish hue from a protein called myoglobin. Cows have slow twitch muscles, which are used for a long period of time and require a lot of energy. Myoglobin proteins are especially high in these types of muscles because they can provide cows a consistent supply of oxygen. When the meat reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 Celsius), the myoglobin begins to oxidize and the beef will turn brown.

Another big transformation happens as the Maillard reactions start to occur. When you sear your meat, proteins and sugars within the meat break down, creating the Maillard reaction. About 3,000 to 4,000 new chemical compounds are formed during this process, giving the meat a more complex flavor.

Sorry vegetarians, you’re really missing out.

WHAT MAKES STEAKS JUICY?

One of the most memorable characteristics of a nice piece of meat dribbles down your face and pools on the edge of your plate. Popular Science andSaveur teamed up to learn about the science behind a juicy steak, and filmed the discovery.

Steak juices are a delectable combination of melted fat, water, gelatin, and love. In order to keep your steak chock-full of moisture, start the cooking process by salting your meat an hour before it hits the grill. As the sodium chloride enters the meat, it breaks down into charged ions and attracts water molecules. These ions also nudge their way between meat proteins, pushing them apart and making more space for water molecules to fit. This helps to lock in the juices and makes the meat more tender.

When the steak’s internal temperature starts to rise, meat fibers elongate and shrink, pushing out some of the juices. After the meat is taken off of the heat, it’s important to let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing, depending on the thickness of the steak. This allows the meat fibers to relax and reabsorb some of the lost liquid.

Enjoy your mouthwatering steak, and make sure to stock up on napkins.

source: popsci.com By Jamie Leventhal

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