Denaturation of proteins is desirable

Meat: a versatile food

> Did you know?> Groceries

Meat has been part of the human diet for thousands of years. Even if the importance of meat and the way it is prepared has changed again and again over the centuries, meat is still part of a balanced diet today and is prepared and enjoyed in many different ways. The following article provides information about which pieces of meat are made of beef and pork, how they differ and how they can be prepared. The internet focus of the same name deepens these topics.

Varied enjoyment

What is meat anyway? By meat we mean muscle tissue, fat, connective tissue and offal from slaughtered animals. Before schnitzel, roast meat or steak are displayed in the butcher's display or in the supermarket on the refrigerated shelf, the slaughtered animals are first professionally cut up. This creates the various cuts that are consumed directly as meat or processed into sausage and other meat products. Meat is a valuable food that provides important nutrients for the growth, structure and maintenance of the body. In order to preserve this as much as possible and because the pieces behave differently due to their composition during cooking, different preparation methods are available for the different pieces.

How the different parts are made

In cutting plants, the carcasses of cattle and pigs are first cut in half and later cut into further pieces. These cuts have different names for pork and beef. The largest and most meat-rich section is on the hind legs of both animals. With beef it is called a leg, with pork it is called ham. It is divided into four individual pieces. With beef, these parts are called the upper shell, lower shell, hip (flower) and ball, with pigs there is no ball, but the nut. Other cuts are, for example, the neck, fillet and prime rib in beef, as well as chops, shoulder and stomach in pork.

The composition of the pieces

The nature and the exact nutritional composition of the cuts depend on various factors. In addition to the animal species, the muscle part from which the meat comes also plays a role. Depending on the cut, this has a different fat content and connective tissue content, which influence the tenderness, taste and juiciness of the finished meat dish. In order for the meat to stay juicy, the method of preparation should match the part.

All meat cuts represent a high-quality source of protein. At around 20 percent, protein is the most important component of meat in terms of quantity after water. The different cuts in terms of the main nutrients proteins, carbohydrates and fats often only differ in terms of fat content. For example, a 150-gram loin chop with around three grams of fat is leaner than a neck chop (around 23 grams of fat). Overall, due to breeding and modern feeding, meat is now much leaner than it was 50 years ago: Pure muscle meat contains around one to five percent fat, which is either visible as a light edge or lies between the muscle fibers (intramuscular). The latter is known as "marbling" or "fat grain". While pork is criss-crossed with thin veins of fat, beef has a delicate marbling of fat. Slightly marbled cuts have the advantage that they do not dry out as easily and require less fat when frying. In addition, the intramuscular fat makes the meat particularly aromatic as a flavor carrier.

What happens during the preparation

Decisive for the preparation are on the one hand the size and on the other hand the consistency and structure of the piece of meat. Meat is made up of individual muscle fibers. The structure of the individual fibers results from the combination of numerous, different protein building blocks and their networking. A distinction is made between pure muscle proteins and connective tissue proteins. In the "raw" state, the protein structures of the connective tissue enclose the muscle fibers - comparable to a sheath around a cable. The following applies to pork and beef: Less stressed muscle parts such as the back or hips consist of finer and shorter fibers and have a lower proportion of connective tissue. In shoulder, leg and leg meat, on the other hand, the fibers are stronger and the proportion of connective tissue is greater.

The proteins of the muscle fibers denature from a meat temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. There is an initial loss of water and the proteins change their structures. The piece of meat becomes denser and firmer. At higher temperatures (from 60 degrees Celsius) the first connective tissue proteins (collagen) then shrink. This becomes visible when the bound water escapes: the piece of meat shrinks. From 80 degrees Celsius, the collagen is destroyed and becomes useful gelatine in the cooking water or the stock. This process takes time, but it is desirable because it makes the meat more tender. Pieces of meat with a lot of connective tissue therefore require a longer cooking time and "moist" heat.

Other proteins of the muscle fibers denature from 70 degrees Celsius, which leads to a change in the structure of the meat. Medium-roasted meat, which has less connective tissue, is so tender, for example, because the core does not reach a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius when roasted. Cooking method, temperature and duration significantly influence the quality of the cooked meat and should therefore be chosen carefully. If you know the cuts and their properties, you can shop more specifically and will not be disappointed with the preparation.


Source: F O O D - S C H O O L & L I F E 3/2008