I’ve been talking a lot about baking & food lately on the blog, and I wanted to bring it back to science (yay!). However, this article seemed to prove a happy medium between two of my favorite interests. At the World Science Festival being held in NY, it seems scientific techniques are being called upon to develop the tastiest burger ever.
What fascinated me most about the article is that it really get down and dirty with how the physics and chemistry affect the overall quality of a hamburger meal.
From a physics perspective, you need your meat tender enough to be pulled away from the center when you take a bite without having the entire patty collapse.
My favorite point, from a biological point of view is how patties are held together without a casing, like what sausages need. In any (or most) animal muscle, a protein called myosin is found. Typically discussion with myosin involve muscle movement powered by ATP, but in this case, when the protein is heated as the meat is cooked, a thin gel is created keeping the patty together.
The chemistry of browning meats and food was founded by a Frenchman named Maillard in the 20th centure. The “Maillard zone” can be found right by the gel formed by the heated myosin. There browning occurs because of reactions between sugars and proteins which produce a result you can taste.
Evolutionarily, cooked food is better because it takes less energy to process it versus raw intake.
Dr. Myhrvold’s approach to maximizing the Maillard reactions is to warm the meat, dip it in Nitrogen, then fry the result. This allows the meat to be cooked quickly on the outside without ruining the inside.
The whole thing just makes me want a midnight snack and appreciate a non-practical, yet fun science experiment.