All About Meat And Meat Cooking

Do you have a knowlege of meat and also various ways to cook meat?

Meat usually means the edible portion of mammals, mainly cattle, swine, and sheep. Meat is composed of water, protein, fat, and mineral matter. The percentage of fat in meats is varied depending on the kind of animal, the state of nutrition, and the part of the carcass from which the cut is taken. The external fat layer of meat is usually cut off as waste. The muscle cells are made up of water holding in solution or suspension protein, fat, extractives, minerals, vitamins, and traces of carbohydrate. The proteins of muscle cells are myosin and albumin. Albumin is soluble in both water and neutral salt solution. Myosin is insoluble in water but is soluble in neutral salt solutions of suitable concentration. There are two kinds of connective tissue, the yellow and the white. The main protein of white connective tissue is collagen, an insoluble protein that can be hydrolyzed by moist heat to form gelatin. The main protein in yellow connective tissue is elastin, an insoluble protein that is not affected by cooking methods.

Color is given to meat as blood clings to blood vessels after animals are well bled after slaughter. Muscle pigments are present that are the same composition as blood pigments. The hemoglobin of the blood appears purplish-red in color when meat is first cut. After exposure to air, the hemoglobin combines with oxygen of the air to form oxyhemoglobin that is bright red in color. The color can vary from grayish-pink, pale or pinkish-red, or a deeper red color in some meats. This variation in color is due to the species of the animals, age and the amount of exercise of the muscles.

Minerals in meat will be in lean cuts. Internal organs that are used as foods are richer in some ash constituents than in muscle tissue. Meat is the highest in B complex as a vitamin source. Variable amounts of A are found in fat, especially fat surrounding glandular organs. Liver will carry a storage of A depending on the diet of the animal. There will be a variation to some extent in composition of fat from different species and from different parts of the same animal. The flavor as well as texture will depend on the composition of the fat. The hard fats of beef and mutton will contain higher percentages of fats that are hard solids at room temperature. Meat fats are not pure fat, but contain some connective tissue and water. They will liquefy with heat but are not soluble in water.

Some hard fats such as beef suet have visible sheets of connective tissue separating layers or masses of fatty tissue. In the network of connective tissue fat globules will be embedded. Fatty tissues are distributed as inter and intra muscular, under the skin, around glandular organs, and as a thin layer covering the interior of the ribs. Fat cells, blood vessels, and nerves may be found within the meshes of the connective tissue. Each fiber is made up of an outer wall and the cell contents. Lean meat is made of microscopic fibers that are tube like and tapering at the ends varying in size. Connective tissues hold the fibers together. Compact bony tissue composes long shafts of bone and has a yellow marrow in the center canal. Some bones may contain red marrow while others may be spongy in character. Cartilage masses are in joints and a sheath of connective tissue forms an outer covering on bone.

There are methods tenderizing lower cuts of meat such as pounding, grinding or cubing. This breaks up the connective tissue and makes the meat more tender. Meat tenderizing products are available that can be used to tenderize meat in the grocery. Meat is ripened by hanging in cold storage facilities. These changes in the meat are because of enzyme action. After animals are slaughtered the muscles become stiff and hard and a state of rigor mortis develops. The rigor mortis disappears after a time and the meat becomes more tender. This can change the flavor and tenderness on lean and fat meat. These meats usually brown better, are juicier, and the color is grayer than meats that are not ripened. Aging will not improve veal or pork, some lamb is ripened but mostly beef is the only kind of meat benefiting from this process. Veal will dry out due to lack of fat if it hangs too long in storage. Pork tends to become rancid during the ripening process and the flavor is not as good.

There are classifications of meat. Sheep carcasses are classified as lamb and mutton, according to the age of the animal. Usually lamb is considered to be from an animal less than one year old. The test for a lamb carcass is by breaking off the feet sharply from the leg above the joint. The break shows four distinct ridges that appear smooth, moist, and red with blood. If less than one year old, the ridges will appear white, hard, dry and rough. Mutton carcasses are ones that have passed one year and are no longer considered lambs. The best nutrition is from the yearling so most meat from sheep is marketed as lamb or yearling.

Swine is called pork meat. The best quality of pork is from young animals from seven to twelve mounts of age.

The carcasses on beef are classified on the basis of age and sex. These classes are steer, heifer, cow, stag, and bull. The bull is a mature male, not castrated while the stage is a male castrated after maturity. The steer is a male castrated when young. The cow is a female that has borne a calf and the heifer is a young female that has not borne a calf. The steer carcasses are preferred as they weight is heavier and there is more meat to the bone. Steer and heifer carcasses of the same grade are of equal value to the consumer. Heiferettes is the name given to the better female carcasses. Meat from cows is usually inferior to both the steer and the heifer. Very little stage meat is sold at the market. The bulls are marketed as a cheaper grade of beef. Some families prefer baby beer as the meat is more tender in some cuts.

Veal is the meat from immature animals of the bovine species. Usually these animals are from four to eight weeks of age when slaughtered. They are fed mostly milk or milk products.

Meats are graded for conformation or form, finish and quality. Conformation means the shape or build of the animal. Finish means the amount and distribution of fat. The quality of meat depends on the color of lean, fineness of grain, smooth surfaces when cut, and the color, texture, and distribution of fat. The best quality of veal shows grayish-pink flesh color, fine grained texture and is smooth. Good quality of lamb is pinkish-red flesh color, fine grain of flesh and smooth cut surface. Pork of good quality is grayish-pink and fine grained. In a good quality of beef the lean has a bright red color after the cut surface is exposed to air, is fine grained and smooth to the touch. There are six federal grades for beef and these are grade stamped. The two lower grades, cutter and canner, are used in processed meat products. The grades on beef are prime, choice, good, standard, commercial and utility. Grades of veal and calf are prime, choice, good, standard, utility and cull. On lamb and yearling mutton the grades are prime, choice, good, utility and cull. Mutter has grades of choice, good, utility and cull. Pork has various grades accoring to the quality of the meat.

When arriving home from the grocery it is necessary to remove the meat from the paper and place in the meat compartment of the refrigerator. Since moisture is conductive to bacterial action, meats should be covered lightly. Ground meats are easily penetrated by bacteria. Before cooking the outer surfaces of meats require some cleaning and sponging with a amp cloth will remove surface dirt. The undesirable portions should be trimmed and splinters of bone should be removed.

It is necessary to have a knowledge of the fundamental points of meat cooking to know the proper method of cooking. Using a pressure cooker, simmering, or boiling will convert the collagen of connective tissue into gelatin; but since lower temperatures keep the fibers more tender, a simmering temperature is best. Sometimes this requires a long time depending on the cut and the meat being cooked. Moist heat methods are steaming, stewing, and simmering. Dry heat methods of cooking meats are broiling, pan-broiling, roasting, baking or frying. High temperatures, whether with dry or moist heat, tend to toughen meats. The high temperature will cause the meat to shrink. Meats cooked at low temperatures will cook more uniformly throughout, shrink less, and are more tender. The higher the interior temperature of the meat or the stage of "doneness," and the higher the oven or water temperature used to cook meats, the greater the shrinkage. Meat may be basted by pouring meat dripping over the surface of the meat while roasting as this will keep the surface moist.

It is necessary to cook meat until done. If you use a meat thermometer the bulb of the thermometer is inserted in the thickest portion of the meat. Oxyhemoglobin coagulates at about 64 degrees c or 147 degrees F. Unless the oxyhemoglobin has coagulated, the interior of the meat may have a red or pinkish color. The color will change from red to pink to grayish-pink and then to grayish-brown.

Carving of the cooked meat should be done as you are about to serve the plates. The meat should be carved neat with a well sharpened, good quality steel knife that will hold the edge well.

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