Latent heat. Evaporation. Maillard reaction. And why we blot meats before we cook them.
Why do recipes recommend that we blot our raw meats dry before we cook them? One reason we’ve been told is that this will prevent the oil splattering during cooking. But that is not the most important reason.
The big reason we blot meat has to do with the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction begins around 150°C/300°F. Only at this temperature will the reaction kick in and start to brown our meats to give us the yummy flavors (read all about the Maillard reaction in the 1-Minute NomNom “Hot or not?“).
If there is water on the surface of the meat, the heat that would otherwise have gone into cooking and raising the temperature of the meat will now be used to heat the water instead until it evaporates.
This process involves latent heat, which is the heat energy required to change water (or any liquid) into steam (or any vapor), and where there is no change in temperature. In other words, the temperature on the surface stays at 100°C/212°F — the boiling point of water — which we know is too low a temperature for the Maillard reaction.
If we don’t blot, cooking will take longer because the water has to evaporate first. We may not be able to brown the meat (some call this searing) as well to create the delicious flavors unique to the Maillard reaction, and the brown crusts that make the food look and taste better. Like the mouth-watering Chinese BBQ pork (char siew) below. Yums.
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photos: in order – depositphotos/belchonock; bandd; studioDG; heinteh