Science & Technology

What's That Red Juice in Your Steak? (Hint: It Isn't Blood)

Meat lovers swear by juicy, medium-rare steaks. Others find the "bloodiness" unappetizing and opt for well done instead. This is the worst thing a human can do.

Okay, we're kidding. But we're here to put your mind at ease. While the liquid that oozes out of raw red meat does resemble blood, it is actually just a mixture of water and a protein called myoglobin. And it's totally safe to eat.

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Nice to Meat You

The role of myoglobin is to help carry oxygen to muscle cells. It is naturally red-colored, which is why people assume it's blood. Myoglobin does darken, however, when it is exposed to heat. This is essentially why more "well-done" steak no longer looks red or "bloody," despite still containing the myoglobin.

The misconception that the steak is "bloody" may be why more Americans say they order their steaks medium rare (38 percent), but when it comes to actually ordering, only 25.8 percent of us follow through. The most popular order is medium, with 37.5 percent making it their choice.

One Meat, Two Meat, Red Meat, Blue Meat

While some people are put off by the idea of "blood" in their cooked food, many commercial meat packers treat raw steaks with carbon monoxide to keep the red color because many grocery shoppers associate the color red in raw beef with freshness.

It is also worth noting that the more myoglobin a meat contains, the darker/redder it will be. This is why some animals have red meat while others have white meat. Animals with red meat use more of their muscles for extensive activity and, therefore, have more myoglobin. Other animals like chickens have both white and dark meat, wherein the dark meat is found primarily in their legs and wings (because they are used for more physical activity.) Most fish are considered white meat. After all, floating and moving around in the water doesn't exactly require much muscle use. Others like tuna, however, swim briskly for longer periods of time and have darker meat as a result. Who knew there was so much to learn about meat? We salute you, knowledgeable butchers of the world.

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Is your mouth watering yet? You may want to pick up "The Book of Steak: Cooking for Carnivores" by Robin Donovan. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Sam Suarez July 6, 2017

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