Science Questions

What makes steak tough?

Sun, 29th Nov 2009

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show What if a Meteorite Destroyed the Moon?


Max asked:

What makes steak tough?


Helen -   Thatís a great question and I donít actually indulge in steak myself.  But I know many people who like them and specially a nice tender steak.  So I had a bit of a look around to understand more about the meat-eating habits of you lot.  And it seems itís quite an involved answer and there are various factors involved.

These includes things like the breed of the animal, how old it was, and what I found really quite interesting was how you treat an animal just up to the point at which itís slaughtered has an awful lot to do with how tender its meat is.  Now that was really quite surprising.

I was also having a read around and it seems that how animals are transported, if theyíre herded with things like dogs that scare them and things like that can also really affect how good the meat turns out.  And even if the breed of the meat is meant to be very good and very tender, if itís treated badly just before slaughter, this can really harm great meat; so thatís something to bear in mind.

In terms of toughness, a lot of it also comes down to the collagen because thatís the main tough part of the meat; it's the connective tissue, and as an animal gets older it produces more collagen, which also becomes more interconnected (cross-linked) which makes it tougher; so, in general, older creatures are tougher to eat!  Also, weight-bearing muscles tend to have more collagen in them as well, so they tend to be less tender.

There is a measure of tenderness, which sounds nice! Itís the "Warner-Bratzler Shear Force Test"...

Chris - Bit of a mouthful, excuse the pun...

Helen - Itís the scientific (objective) way of measuring meat tenderness - itís the number of kilograms needed to shear, cut or pull apart a cubic centimetre of muscle.

This measure varies from a tenderloin, really nice steak at about 2.6 through to a really tough cut of steak, which is more like five, five and a half.


Subscribe Free

Related Content

Not working please enable javascript
Powered by UKfast
Genetics Society