There are various different ways to cook meat, it is best to tailor the cooking to meet the needs of the meat. Broiling is a method that uses a direct heat to brown the outside without overcooking the inside. Roasting uses the air in the oven or other cooking device to heat the meat. Braising uses the steam trapped in the container and is often used for less tender cuts of meat like a roast. It is best to select the cooking method that best fits the cut of meat you are preparing.

Cooking Meats

For muscles or cuts of meat with a considerable amount of collagen—containing connective tissue (e.g., the beef chuck), the toughening of the fibers is of less importance to tenderness than gelatinization of collagen. When heat is applied, the collagen is transformed into a water- soluble gel and the muscle softens.  Maximum connective tissue softening is achieved using moist heat, a low temperature and a relatively long cooking period.  Cuts of meat such as rib or loin steaks, which contain small amounts of connective tissue, are most tender when cooked rapidly, with dry heat and at a higher temperature. These cuts are also more tender when cooked to rare rather than at the well done stage because toughening of muscle fibers is minimized.

 Meat can be tenderized in the home with limited success by application of food acids. Most marinades contain some form of very weak, organic acid (lemon juice, tomatoes, wine, and vinegar) which tenderizes the meat surfaces. Marinades penetrate only about 1/4" into the interior of the meat, and thus contribute more to flavor than to tenderness.  Natural enzyme tenderizers are more effective in tenderizing than are acid marinades. Enzymes of vegetable origin that are used as tenderizers include papain, from the tropical papaya; bromelin, from pineapple; and ficin, from figs. These are available as powders or in seasoning compounds. Care must be taken to avoid over—tenderizing the meat (by using too much tenderizer or by allowing the meat to remain too long at the temperature optimal for enzyme activity). Individual steaks may be sprayed or dipped in an enzyme solution, but use on very thick cuts of meat such as roasts does little good because the enzymes only penetrate about 1/4”  into the meat surface.

Another method of tenderizing is to break or cut the muscle fibers and the connective tissues. This can be done by grinding, chopping, pounding or with the use of a special instrument which pierces the meat with multiple, thin needles (the terms, “needling?” “blade tenderizing” and “Jaccarding” are used  colloquially to describe this process).  The holes made from the needles can be seen (on very close inspection) in the uncooked meat but are not visible after cooking. A version of the needle tenderizer is available for home use.  A steak macerator is used by retail stores and restaurants to make cubed steaks. Cubed steaks are made from cuts from less tender areas such as the chuck or bottom round. Sometimes steak trimmings and end pieces are formed together in a macerator to produce high-quality cubed steaks.     


Within the first 10 days after slaughter, beef undergoes enzymatic changes which cause muscles to become more tender due to protein breakdown. The time between slaughter and the sale of beef to the consumer in a retail store may be as short as four days. Thus, not all beef ages long enough for optimum development of tenderness through the proteoivtic action of natural enzymes. Additional tenderness and flavor development can be induced through controlled natural aging methods.  In natural aging, beef is held for two to four weeks at temperatures of 511° F to 58° F. Humidity is kept at about 70 percent to keep the exposed meat surfaces dry. Humidity at this level causes moisture evaporation, resulting in weight loss- a factor which increases the price-per-pound of aged beef. If a higher humidity level is used, evaporative losses are kept to a minimum, but there is greater weight loss from the trimming that must be done to remove surface spoilage.  There is little or no moisture loss or spoilage when meat is aged in vacuum bags.  Pork and lamb are slaughtered at a young age, which results in inherently tender meat. Therefore, pork and lamb are usually not aged but are processed the day following slaughter. Also, pork fat is more unsaturated than beef or lamb fat and thus is more subject to development of rancid flavors unless promptly processed and packaged.  Aging requires strict control of temperature to control microbial growth, humidity and dehydration and are not recommended for consumers to use at home.  

Sources -

Video Podcasts and Webinars

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