You are ready to prepare champion hamburgers. You take the hamburger meat out of the fridge or freezer, cook the burgers, and find that they turned white. What happened to the hamburger meat, and is it still usable, or must you discard it?
Hamburger meat turns white due to chemicals called myoglobin. Myoglobin is an iron-rich chemical present in all red meats. Cooking meat changes the structure of the proteins and chemicals in the meat, causing color and texture changes. Heat and cold both effects the color of meat.
Before using any meat, make sure that it is fresh. The easiest way to do this is by smelling, touching, and as a last resort, tasting. Remember, when in doubt, through it out.
Natural Causes For Hamburger Meat to Turn White
There is a multitude of reasons for hamburger meat to turn white. These include changes to proteins, natural chemicals, and enzymes inside the beef, freezing and cooking methods, and thawing methods.
Reasons For Hamburger Meat Turning White
How you store meat, using either a fridge or freezer, and how you treat the meat can turn red hamburger meat into white hamburger meat.
If freezing hamburger meat for too long, freezer burn will start to show on the surface of the meat. However, the meat is still good to use. Although the freezer burn may slightly alter the taste and texture, it is safe to use. Getting rid of the freezer burn is easy. Let the meat thaw slightly and cut away the freezer-burnt parts.
Never thaw frozen meat using warm water. If the water is too warm, it might start to cook the meat’s exterior. Partly cooking the surface turns the meat to a pale grey, white color. Always allow frozen hamburger meat to thaw completely in the freezer and use at room temperature. If you need a water bath, use water at room temperature.
Scientific Reasons Why Hamburger Meat Turns White
Beware of overmixing when preparing hamburger patties. Myosin releases into the meat when the salt and ground meat is mixed. Myosin is a motor protein in the cells of the flesh.
Salt breaks down the cellular structure of the flesh, causing hamburgers to turn out tough. In addition, when the mixture changes color from red to pale grey or white, it indicates overmixing.
Tyrosine crystals may cause ground meat to appear as if covered in a white layer on its surface.
Tyrosine crystals are an amino acid that could be confused with mold. However, it is safe to consume tyrosine.
Have you ever noticed how frozen ground meat turns white when thawing? The color change happens due to a natural process called oxidizing. An iron-rich protein called myoglobin is the reason for meat being red. The darker red the meat, the more myoglobin it contains.
What we perceive as blood seeping out of packed red meat is myoglobin, not blood, because virtually all the blood from meat gets removed at the time of slaughter.
Therefore, the amount of oxygen that combines with myoglobin determines the color of the meat.
Food For Thought Around Chemicals Used In Meat Products
Now that we have determined why hamburger meats turn white, it may be interesting to look at what chemicals are added to meat products at the point of slaughtering, packing, and distributing.
Our biggest concerns should be around the processing of meat and all the chemicals used in the processes. The meat industry uses chemicals freely without any proper regulations. Often chemicals used are absent from the label of packaged meat, making things even more suspect.
Dangerous Substances That Get Added To Meat
Next time you purchase a packet of hamburger meat, a cut of steak, or a roast, consider the product and the ingredients. For example, white meat, game, or red meat may contain one or more substances.
- Chlorine, according to an industry paper, removes bacteria on surfaces, workers’ hands, the meat itself, and the surroundings. For example, they claim that conveyor belts are prone to bacteria, and using chlorine cleans and disinfects the conveyors and the meat. Chlorine also reduces odors.
- Chlorine gasses help with reprocessing contaminated poultry carcasses as well as on beef giblets and salvage parts. In addition, chlorine-treated beef acts as meat fillers in products such as hamburger patties.
- If the mince you intend to buy seems too finely ground with a pasty look and feel, do not buy it. Ammonia gas inhibits the growth of E. coli on meats derived from unwanted meat trimmings. These unwanted trims produce pasty-looking ground beef.
- Carbon monoxide is another firm favorite of the meat industry. It is used in specific packaging processes and pumped into containers transporting fresh meat in bulk.
- The industry claims that carbon monoxide retains the wholesomeness of fresh meat.
- Protease comes from the mold known as Aspergillus. Protease has tenderizing properties used in most poultry products. If the label mentions that the product is aged, you can be sure it contains protease.
The chemicals mentioned earlier are the ones ordinary people will recognize. This list does not include the ones only scientists can pronounce and understand the working. Unfortunately, consumers have no control over the processes that meat and meat products undergo.
Familiarizing oneself with all the processes and chemicals empowers us to make better decisions when purchasing our meat products.
In addition, I allow consumers to keep an eye on the activities and regulations s of the meat industry.
The safest and most satisfying way is to prepare your hamburger meat. The advantage of preparing the meat for hamburgers yourself means that you control the ingredients and process.
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