Charles Lamchops: Prettier in Pink.
Every once in awhile, I develop a craving for steak and beer that can only be satisfied by a trip to the butcher and the liquor store. Being the considerate roommate that I am, my steak days tend to become steak days for the rest of my housemates. Normally, my bouts of carnivory are well met and the night is spent searing, eating and being lethargic in happiness.
That is, except for one time last year.
That night, I had brought home three rib-eye steaks and prepared them the way I normally do: salted, peppered and with a heavy sear. In total, the cook time was about six minutes per steak and resulted in a nice crust with a beautifully pink, medium-rare center.
After giving the meat a quick rest so the juices could redistribute, my housemate Tuan and I began to eat, cutting quickly and without words. We were so consumed with consuming that we barely noticed our third housemate Kerwin timidly poking at his plate, barely eating any.
About a third of the way through, we realized how far behind Kerwin was. We asked him what was wrong. He answered, “I normally eat my steak well-done. This is a little too pink for me.” He then proceeded to microwave his steak. My soul died a little on the inside.
When it comes to the doneness of meat, many people have different preferences for different reasons. For those who like their meat medium-well or well-done, the sight of a bit of pink in their steak can be panic-inducing.
They worry about food-borne illnesses derived from not cooking the meat completely.
This shouldn’t be an issue however, as worrying about bacteria is never a good excuse for cooking your meat to the consistency of cardboard.
In a study conducted by the University of Nottingham, steaks seared to rare, which corresponds to an internal temperature of about 130 degrees, were completely free of E. Coli bacteria that they had been earlier infected with.
Though the interior remained nearly raw, only the exterior of red meat can become infected with bacteria.
For those who are still slightly squeamish, the USDA considers beef safe once cooked to 145 degrees, still medium-rare.
The benefits of eating your meat pink also greatly outweigh any fears.
At lower levels of doneness, meat is more tender, juicer and more flavorful. Though a lot of flavor in steak comes from the browning of the crust, the same cannot be said for the insides. The chemical processes that create crust are inherently different from those which brown the interior. While the browning of the crust is due to carmelization and creates new flavor compounds that gives steak its savoriness, the greying of the interior is due to changes in the oxygenation of the iron ions in the proteins and doesn’t produce any new flavors.
Or, for the non-scientifically minded, that shit is tasteless. It only makes the muscle protein tighter, squeezing out the juices, and making the steak tougher.
For squeamish eaters, the red juices that come from steak aren’t even blood. Rather, it’s myoglobin, a protein found in muscles that give meat its juiciness.
For those of you who are accustomed to eating your steak super burned without any good reason, try going a little pinker.
Try medium, it’s a happy balance between firmness and tenderness. Maybe even medium-rare, the most tender a steak can get without being a little squishy. Your meal will be nicer, easier on the teeth and an overall better experience. You’ll realize that steak is prettier in pink.