The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking Exploratorium.edu
Candy Bread Eggs Pickles Meat Seasoning
Ask the Inquisitive Cooks    

"What keeps the meat so pink after cooking?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

When I make meatballs, meatloaf, Salisbury steak etc what vegetable gives the meat a pink or undercooked appearance?

 

Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

(Meet the Inquisitive Cooks)

     
Your question is a great reminder that color is not a reliable indicator of doneness in ground beef. A ground beef patty or meatloaf cooked to the required temperature of 160 F (71 C) is safe. Yet under certain conditions it may still be pink in color.

You're right, this may be caused by the presence of other foods - particularly those containing nitrites. Nitrites may come from cured products such as bacon or ham, which are sometimes included in meatloaf recipes. And nitrates, one of the simplest forms of nitrogen, occur naturally in water and in vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, spinach and parsley. During cooking they convert to nitrites, which prevent beef from turning brown - even when it is fully cooked.
There are other factors that may come into play as well. Small amounts of carbon monoxide can be emitted from inefficient burning of gas flames in gas grills or ovens. This too can combine with the myoglobin in meat, causing it to retain its pink color (though usually just on the surface) even when well cooked.

Your dilemma may even rest with the meat itself. Its ultimate color may be affected by the type of beef, its pH and the part of the carcass it comes from.

Despite variations in color, a thermometer reading of 160 F (71C) is your best assurance that the meat is sufficiently cooked.

 

 

 

- - - Science of Cooking - - - Webcasts - - - Ask The Inquisitive Cooks - - - Share & Discuss - - -

 

© Exploratorium | Use Policy | Privacy Policy