Humans are easily grossed out by things we see, taste, and smell when it comes to food, especially the red juice in steak. So many pre-conceived ideas, often spread by false rumors, can cause us to avoid a particular type of food or eat it less appetizingly. The red juice you see in a steak is one of those things. So, is it blood, and if not, what is the red juice in steak exactly?
Contrary to what people may think, the red juice in steak is not blood but myoglobin. Myoglobin is found in the muscle on a cellular level and is the protein of those cells. It is found in all animals; myoglobin gives oxygen to muscles. The red juice is protein-filled water draining from the steak.
When we think about it, trained chefs should know what they are doing, and we all aspire to be as good in the kitchen as they are.
We religiously watch food shows and try to be as good as them. Then why is it so hard to cook a steak precisely as they would? It comes down to a mental block and a misunderstanding. Let’s look at the red juice in more detail so you may know if it’s safe.
What Is The Red Juice In Steak?
You no longer have to be repulsed by the idea of the red juice in the steak that you buy or prepare. This red juice leaking from rare or medium rare steak is not blood. It does not have the same texture, smell, or taste as blood. On the contrary, it is a watery substance that does not have much of a smell or taste.
The red juice that leaks from steak is called myoglobin. It is a protein found in all animal muscles. The primary purpose of myoglobin is to provide oxygen to the muscles of an animal, in this case, beef. Contrary to what we believe, myoglobin is safe to consume because it is not actually blood.
It does not carry any contaminants or bacteria from the body, only oxygen and protein.
What Is The Difference Between Myoglobin And Blood?
If we honestly look at how myoglobin reacts when cooked and compare it to the cooking of blood, we can already observe a significant difference in how the two substances react.
Myoglobin becomes a clear liquid the longer steak is cooked, while if you were to cook blood, it would keep its deep dark purplish-red color, have a strong smell, and become thicker than myoglobin.
A good example is blood sausage, the British and European delicacy. It is a sausage made from pig’s blood that has the same reaction as blood from any other animal, including beef. The little-known fact is that you will not find blood in a steak, even if it is rare.
Myoglobin does not have to be cooked to kill any bacteria because it does not have bacteria (at least, any that you wouldn’t find in the meat anyway). That means the red juice is safe to consume. On the other hand, blood must be cooked to kill bacteria in the animal’s organs and blood.
Is Myoglobin Save To Eat?
Myoglobin is perfectly safe to eat, even if it visually resembles blood. It can only be harmful if the steak has been lying in the juice for an extended period while still rare, giving external bacteria time to infest the juice and steak.
If we only take the red juice in its purest form with no other bacteria, it is entirely safe to enjoy even when it is raw.
The bacteria that can grow inside the steak and the red juice is called Listeria monocytogenes. It grows when food is kept in the refrigerator for a more extended period than it should be.
The problem is that this will infect not only the red juice but the steak as well. Therefore, it is only safe to keep steak in the refrigerator for three to five days after purchase.
No More Reason To Think You Are Eating A Raw Steak
Hopefully, next time you prepare steak, you will think twice before you cook it too well done and be a bit more adventurous. Whether you eat a steak that is well done or medium rare, it still leaks the same myoglobin; the only difference is the color.
On a medium rare steak, the color of the juice is red. The juice’s color changes when cooked to the clear, brownish liquid that oozes out of the steak if it is well done.
Nevertheless, that does not change it on a molecular level; it is still the same juice.
Please do yourself the favor of trying to prepare the steak as it should be prepared. There’s no reason to be squeamish about a steak prepared medium rare; all of that red juice gives more flavor to a steak.
This is also why, even if the steak is cooked too well done, it can still be enjoyable, as long as it isn’t dried out. But it’s completely safe to try it the way it is intended to be eaten.
How To Cook The Perfect Steak
The first step in cooking a perfect, juicy steak is to sear in the flavor. While you sear the steak, a fantastic thing happens on the outside of the steak: caramelization which intensifies the flavor.
It is important to salt the steak before you cook it because salt also helps to dry brine the steak before it even hits the hot pan. Salt also has a significant side effect in tenderizing the steak.
You can use any fat to sear in the flavor; it does not have to be butter. It can be oil or olive oil, or even beef fat. But take care to use just enough oil. You want the steak to sear and not cook in the oil.
For the perfect steak that still has enough flavor and tenderness, you want to cook it to the point where it still has red juice (myoglobin, not blood).
You can achieve this by cooking the steak for six minutes and turning it every minute. This helps to get an even cook throughout the steak.
You must cook your steak in a hot pan. That will cook the steak perfectly without letting the myoglobin escape, leading to a juicy, tasty steak.
To cook the perfect steak, one must let go of the thought that you are about to eat a raw and bloody steak. We’ve now debunked that whole thought process and concluded that this, in fact, is not the case.
So, next time let the red juice flow all over your plate and see what a marvel a juicy, myoglobin-filled steak can be.
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