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Old 02-03-2012, 07:31 PM   #1
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Beef Flavor

Ya know, I've heard it said so many times that the fat is where the flavor comes from in meat. I postulate that the statement is just plain false, especially when it comes to beef. Here's the thinking behind my postulation.

Fat, especially inter-muscular fat is comprised of a cell wall, with less substance than other bodily cell walls, and is filled with fatty acids in solid form. These fatty acids are bland in flavor and make up over 90 percent of the fat cell. To test my idea, I cut the fat tissue from the outside of a New York Strip steak an pan fried it until it was dark brown. No seasoning was applied to the cooking fat. I then let it cool a bit and tasted it. The cooked fat had very little flavor. I've done similar things with chicken and pork fat. Both of these fats, especially the chicken fat had significantly more flavor than did the beef fat. So, where does beef flavor come from?

The muscle tissue in any animal is a mixture of protiens that form the cell walls, and a broth that contains enzymes, sugars, and various other substances, each carrying its own flavor. In addition, meat tissue has countless cappilaries that carry blood to the cells. The blood is comprised of plasma, which has sugar, salt, white blood cells, and other compounds, and red blood cells that contain iron. The liquid in the muscle cells, with the blood give meat its characteristic flavor.

Try this test. If you have water available with a high iron content (like from a pump well at a campground), mix a little salt with it and then take a taste. you will find that it tastes an awful lot like blood. At least, that's my experience.

Ever wonder why a sirloin has more flavor than does a tenderloin? The sirloin is a more exercised muscle, and therefore has a richer supply of blood going to it. In addition, the individual cells have more of the things inside the cell walls that make the muscle work.

Typically, well, in every case, the more a muscle is worked, the more blood vessels there are to feed it, and the more flavor it has. The more exercised muscle tissue is also leaner and more tough.

You say, but then how come a well marbled steak over charcoal tastes better than a leaner steak cooked over charcoal?

As the radiant heat from the charcoal hits the meat, it melts the fat, causing it to drip out of the meat and onto the burning embers, where the fat burns and releases a flavorful smoke that deposits on the meat. That's where that fire grilled flavor comes from, and where the fat comes into play.

The reason we enjoy our ground beef with more fat is that it creates a juicier mouth feel from the melted fat, and serves to bind the individual muscle pieces together to form a patty that doesn't fall apart when handled. It also helps hold the salt to the meat, which fires up the old taste buds to better taste the meat. In a well-marbled steak, again, it helps lubricate the mouth, and serves to break up the strings of muscle tissue, making the steak more tender. It helps hold and distribute the meat flavor, and seasoings across the taste buds, again allowing us to better taste the meat flavor.

Fat is important to make a beef taste better, but does little to add actual flavor to the beef. The exception might be subcutaneous fat, which is rich in blood vessels that feed the skin. but as we don't eat rawhide, I really have no experience with that fat.

Comments and arguments are welcomed. My ideas are educated guesses based on personal experience and limited trial. I don't at this time believe that fat adds flavor to beef. I do believe that it helps distribute the muscle, blood, and seasoning flavors more evenly across the tongue, allowing us to better taste the flavors inherent in the beef.

I may be only partially correct, or even entirely wrong. I just want facts, not wive's tales to guide my cooking.

Seeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North

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Old 02-03-2012, 07:41 PM   #2
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I would say that at the very least....you are mostly right.

I always save the Beef drippings from every steak and roast I cook
throughout the year. I let them cool down overnight in the Fridge, and then
skim off the fat the next day. Then I add the (mostly) fat-free drippings
to a container in the freezer. I use this concentrated Beef juice to make
a very rich Au-Jus for the Prime Rib for Christmas, and for any other
item I might make that I want to add some intense Beef flavor to...
such as a French-Dip sandwich.

So, yes it's not necessarily the "Fat" that provides all the flavor.
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Old 02-03-2012, 07:49 PM   #3
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That's why my "gourmet fancy pants burger" has brisket, sirloin and chuck short rib. I get FLAVOR from the first two and that wonderful mouthfeel(and additional flavor)from the chuck. Which sounds more appealing, a dry well done piece of meat or a juicy medium rare steak and it is much easier to overcook a lean piece than a fatty one
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Old 02-03-2012, 10:36 PM   #4
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Here's a lengthy analysis of beef flavor factors. It's from the industry, so you have to maybe buffer some of it, but I see that they deem chuck to have the most intense beef flavor, so common hamburger wins. And development of beef flavor can be accompanied by development of off flavors. Anyway, it's clear that beef flavor involves a LOT of compounds acted upon by a number of factors.

They agree that fat doesn't itself contribute to flavor. But no doubt burning fat is important in the same way as smoke, contributing not "beef" flavor but important flavors nevertheless.

http://www.beefresearch.org/CMDocs/B...f%20Flavor.pdf
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:29 PM   #5
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Before I went to South America I was a die hard fat is flavor kind of guy. In S. American the beef is a lot leaner. The fatty hamburger is 90/10. But the taste is good. But it has to be cooked med at the most or it will be dry.
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Old 02-04-2012, 12:44 AM   #6
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Uncle Chief...WOW! I just love the flavor of beef, no matter how it presents itself. If the true beef flavor was inherent in the fat...why aren't we buying bucket loads of it and eating only the fat. The flavor has to be in the meat/muscle.
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Old 02-04-2012, 01:30 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessFiona60 View Post
Uncle Chief...WOW! I just love the flavor of beef, no matter how it presents itself. If the true beef flavor was inherent in the fat...why aren't we buying bucket loads of it and eating only the fat. The flavor has to be in the meat/muscle.
My point exactly.

Seeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 02-04-2012, 02:35 AM   #8
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i've always thought of the two as seperate beef flavours: a lean one, and a fatty one. they are directly linked to their textures as well.

much like different flavours of lean beef cuts, i've found there are different cuts of fat, each with different flavours and textures.
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Old 02-04-2012, 03:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom View Post
i've always thought of the two as seperate beef flavours: a lean one, and a fatty one. they are directly linked to their textures as well.

much like different flavours of lean beef cuts, i've found there are different cuts of fat, each with different flavours and textures.
You know, I think you're right. Maybe different people have different sensitivity to those flavours.

When I fry a T-bone or Porterhouse steak, or even a rib steak, I cut off a chunk of fat and use that to grease the skillet. I let it sit and render out some more fat and then it's the cook's treat. DH thinks it's disgusting.
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Old 02-04-2012, 04:21 PM   #10
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Well, I'm not going to argue the fat/meat flavor, but I do want to point out to you that animal cells do not have a "cell wall," as you stated many times. Only plants, fungi, and some bacteria have cell walls. Cell walls are composed of cellulose which is undigestable and gives all plants rigidity and that crunch when you bite into them. All cells, plant, fungi, bacteria, and animal cells, do have a cell membrane, also known as the phospholipid bilayer. The cell membrane does have proteins in it, but they are proteins that deal with the movement of materials like ions and other materials into and out of the cell, recognition proteins, connective proteins, and such. The proteins that you are referring to n muscle cells are the myocin and actin proteins that make up skeletal (striated) muscle. These proteins are found inside the cell and are protected by the cell membrane which surrounds the entire cell. The transportation proteins on the outside of the membrane allow an electrical charge to be built up between the inside of the cell and the outside of the cell causing an electrical impulse to the actin/myocin proteins which allow the muscle to contract or relax and move the bone that muscle is connected to. Also, fat cells contain the exact same cellular organelle as all other cells in the body (with the exception of the red blood cells which only contain the hemoglobin protein which binds to oxygen).

Sorry I corrected you on this, but the science teacher in me took over and couldn't ignore the error.
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