Falling-Apart Tenderness: Collagen Becomes Gelatin

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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If the cooking continues, the meat will get progressively dryer, more compacted, and stiff. Then around 160°F/70°C, connective-tissue collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin. With time, the connective tissue softens to a jelly-like consistency, and the muscle fibers that it had held tightly together are more easily pushed apart. The fibers are still stiff and dry, but they no longer form a monolithic mass, so the meat seems more tender. And the gelatin provides a succulence of its own. This is the delightful texture of slow-cooked meats, long braises, and stews and barbecues.