The texture of raw meat is a kind of slick, resistant mushiness. The meat is chewy yet soft, so that chewing compresses it instead of cutting through it. And its moisture manifests itself in slipperiness; chewing doesn’t manage to liberate much juice.
Persistent Colors in Cooked Meats
Thoroughly cooked meat is usually a dull, brownish-gray in appearance due to the denaturing of its myoglobin and cytochrome pigments. But two cooking methods can leave well-done meat attractively red or pink.
Barbecued meat, stew meat, a pot roast, or a confit can be surprisingly pink or red inside—if it was heated very gradually and gently. Myoglobin and cytochromes can survive somewhat higher temperatures than the other muscle proteins. When meat is heated quickly, its temperature rises quickly, and some of the muscle proteins are still unfolding and denaturing when the pigments begin to do the same. The other proteins are therefore able to react with the pigments and turn them brown. But when meat is heated slowly, so that it takes an hour or two to reach the denaturing temperature for myoglobin and cytochromes, the other proteins finish denaturing first, and react with each other. By the time that the pigments become vulnerable, there are few other proteins left to react with them, so they stay intact and the meat stays red. The preliminary salting for making a
confit greatly accentuates this effect in duck meat. Meats cooked over wood, charcoal, or gas flames—barbecued pork or beef, for example, or even poultry cooked in a gas oven—often develop “pink ring,” which reaches from the surface to a depth of 8–10 mm. This is caused by nitrogen dioxide (NO
2) gas, which is generated in trace amounts (parts per million) by the burning of these organic fuels. It appears that NO 2 dissolves at the meat surface to form nitrous acid (HNO 2), which diffuses into the muscle tissue and is converted to nitric oxide (NO). NO in turn reacts with myoglobin to form a stable pink molecule, like the molecule found in nitrite-cured meats.