Extracting Gelatin and Flavor from Meats

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The muscles that make up meat are mainly water and the protein fibers that do the work of contraction, which are not dispersable in water. The soluble and dispersable materials in muscle include about 1% by weight of collagen, 5% other cell proteins, 2% amino acids and other savory molecules, 1% sugars and other carbohydrates, and 1% minerals, mainly phosphorus and potassium. Bones are around 20% collagen, pig skin around 30%, and cartilaginous veal knuckles up to 40%. Bones and skin are thus much better sources of gelatin and thickening power than meat. However, they carry only a small fraction of the other soluble molecules that provide flavor. To make sauces with good meat flavor, it’s meat that must be extracted, not bones or skin.