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How to prepare nearly every food for tasty dishes!

Step 4: Meat Preparation and Safety

Cooking And Preparation
Cooking changes the palatability of meat by effecting appearance, tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. It is important to understand the effects of cooking temperatures, duration, and cooking method in order to achieve the desired palatability changes as well as to destroy illness-causing micro-organisms.

Heat Effects on Appearance
Cooking meat will change the color and texture of the meat according to the temperature at which the meat is cooked.

Meat Color Temperature

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Red 120ºF
Pink 140ºF
Grey 160ºF
Grey-Brown 170ºF
Sugar-Amine (surface browning)     194ºF

The table below indicates the temperatures required to cook different meats to the desired "doneness". Note that meat which is rare may not have been cooked long enough to kill all illness causing microorganisms. Safe cooking temperatures vary by species.

How Well Done Temperature

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Beef/Lamb 
Very well done 180°F
Well done 170°F
Medium 160°F
Medium-Rare 145°F
Rare (Not recommended) 140°F
Very Rare (Not recommended) 130°F
  
Ground Beef (safest range) 160-170°F
  
Pork/Veal 
Well 170°F
Medium 160°F
No lower is recommended 
  
Poultry 170-180°F
  
Cured & Precooked Meat Products 155-165°F

Heat Effects on Tenderness
Tenderness is perceived to the consumer of meat by the softness to tongue and cheek, resistance to tooth pressure, ease of fragmentation, mealiness, adhesion and residue after chewing. Heating meat can cause both tenderization and toughening. Heating at all temperatures will cause an immediate improvement in tenderness. However, at high temperatures (above 160 degrees Fahrenheit) tenderization is then followed by toughening. Upon continued heating at these higher temperatures, the meat will again become more tender but will require several hours to approach the tenderness of the initial heating.

Heat Effects on Juiciness
As meat is heated, it will lose some water due to evaporation and drip loss. The amount of water lost will depend on the temperature and length of time the meat is cooked and the waterholding capacity of the meat. Marbling (intramuscular fat) and subcutaneous fat offer some protection against water evaporation during cooking.

Heat Effects on Flavor
Flavor is the mixture of sensations from taste, smell, pressure, temperature (hot,cold) and mild pain.  Cooking releases volatiles from protein and fat which change the flavor of the meat.  New compounds may also be formed as is the case with sugar-amine browning or the warmed over flavor caused by oxidative changes

(thanks to ag.ansc.purdue.edu for this info that i typed)
 
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