Enzymes. Temperature. Aging. And how to roast juicy and tender beef at home.
A tender and juicy piece of roast beef just melts in our mouth. The way it melts in our mouth, with just the right amount of juices, is a pleasure savored by many.
Good restaurants can serve up this yummy treat partly because they use dry-aged beef. In dry aging, the meat is left in a temperature-controlled environment at around 2oC/36oF for about 2-4 weeks (see below).
The water evaporates, and both microbes in the air and enzymes in the meat break down the proteins, giving us a unique, strong and concentrated taste (you can read more about this in this 1-Minute NomNom “Wagyu might want to meat me”).
But the beef we buy for ourselves at the supermarket (see below) is usually wet-aged because it is faster, more convenient, and cheaper. It is less tender and juicy. So how can we get a tender roast beef that tastes like what is in the restaurants?
We take advantage of the relationship between temperature and the enzymes in the meat! Enzymes are “protein molecules in cells which work as catalysts… [they] speed up chemical reactions.. but do not get used up in the process”. At higher temperatures, enzymes tend to be more active.
In beef, the two enzymes are calpains and cathepsins. For dry-aging, at 2oC/36oF, these enzymes need 2-4 weeks to “age” the beef. But if we raise the temperature to just below 50oC/122oF (beyond that, the enzymes denaturate i.e. their structure breaks down) and roast the beef slowly, the enzymes will increase their activity. They will break down the proteins more rapidly, giving us the same effect as dry-aged beef in a matter of hours instead of weeks.
The roast beef you have at home can now taste almost, if not as yummy as what you get in the restaurants!
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photos: in order – depositphotos/strelok; istockphoto/neiljlangan; depositphotos/frinz; kozicki