This section is from the book "Experimental Cookery From The Chemical And Physical Standpoint", by Belle Lowe. Also available from Amazon: Experimental cookery.
In general meat is cooked (1) by dry heat and (2) by moist heat. Dry heat is generally used for tender cuts, such as roasts and steaks. The meat is surrounded by dry air in the oven, under the broiler, or over coals, or by hot fat. In general, moist heat is used for the less tender cuts and includes methods by which the meat is surrounded by steam or water. This includes cooking meat in water as for stews, in steamers, in casseroles, in Dutch ovens, and even in roasting pans when the lid fits tightly and holds the steam around the meat.
The tender cuts. In general these cuts include the prime-rib roasts, steaks or roasts from the loin and sirloin, leg of lamb, fresh pork hams, and pork, lamb, and veal chops.
Beef ribs. Prime-beef ribs may be cooked as standing roasts or the bones may be removed for rolled roasts. Since the time of cooking varies with many factors, it is difficult to state a definite time per pound for cooking meat. Table 29 may be used for estimating approximate cooking time of one-rib and two-rib standing roasts. For three-rib standing roasts cooked to an interior temperature of 57°C. an average time of about 20 to 22 minutes per pound is required when the experimental searing or 150°C. constant temperature methods are used. When the interior of the roast reaches 57°C, the edges of the roast are contracting so that the large center muscle of the ribs bulges. As the roast reaches the well-done stage, all the muscles are contracted to a greater extent so that the large muscle does not bulge as much as when the interior has reached only the rare or medium well-done stage.
A rolled rib roast usually requires longer per pound for cooking than a standing rib roast from the same cut. The rolled roast is usually more compact in shape with a proportionally longer diameter, so that the distance to the center is greater. See Fig. 25.
Lamb roasts. A leg of lamb is placed on a rack in an open pan, skin or fell side up; but the fell is placed down for a shoulder roast. The fell can be removed, but Alexander found that its removal increases the cooking losses, increases the cooking time, and does not increase the palatability of the meat.
Alexander and Clark state that approximately 35 minutes per pound may be allowed for cooking by the experimental searing or the 150°C. constant temperature methods, but considerable variation can be expected. They found the cooking time for 750 legs of lamb, roasted by the Cooperative Meat Investigation searing (experimental) method to an interior temperature of 76°C, varied from 25 to 58 minutes per pound, the small poorly finished legs from cull carcasses requiring longer and plump well-finished legs requiring a shorter time. The time is about the same, or somewhat shorter, for the 150°C. constant temperature method, and is considerably shorter if the leg is cooked to an interior temperature of 83°C.
Veal. Veal roasts may be cooked in open pans, the time per pound for cooking varying widely with the size of the roast.
Pork. The Cooperative Meat Investigation cooking committee used for the searing method 20 minutes at 250° to 255°C, the remainder of the cooking period being at 150°C. For the present constant temperature method, 175°C. is used. A higher temperature is used with pork because of the long time required on account of the slow rate of heat penetration and the higher interior temperature to which pork is cooked, an interior temperature of 78°C. to 87°C. being used. The official testing temperature is 84°C.
Steaks. Steaks from 1 to 2 inches in thickness may have a thermometer inserted, the right-angle type being easier to turn for reading as the steak is turned. An interior temperature of 60° to 63°C, when removed from the oven, gives a medium well-done steak. Steaks may be broiled below a gas flame, under an electric heating unit, or over coals, or they may be pan broiled. In broiling, the steak is placed far enough from the heat and turned often enough to prevent charring or over-browning. If desired, the steak may be turned only once. For a rare or medium well-done steak the cooking temperature does not need to be lowered, but for a well-done steak, or for one thicker than 1 1/2 inches, the temperature may be lowered after the browning is accomplished. Many people prefer steak cooked at a constant, fairly low temperature. The interior of the medium well-done steak is then more uniform in appearance, being pinkish throughout. Many steaks cooked at high temperatures are likely to have a gray surface layer, a thin pink layer, and an uncooked center portion. The outer surface of the steak does not brown so well at the lower temperature, but these connoisseurs think this is more than compensated for by the uniformity of the interior of the steak. Increased browning of the surface at the lower temperature may be acquired by sprinkling with a small amount of sugar.
The searing time and the total cooking time vary with the temperature used, the stage of cookery, and the thickness of the steak. The total time for a medium-done steak 1 inch thick is 7 to 10 minutes when seared. With a low, constant temperature the cooking time for the same steak may be increased to 20 minutes.
Chops. Chops of veal, lamb, and pork may be broiled or pan broiled. Thicker chops, at least 3/4 inch thick, but mutton, particularly, as thick as 2 inches, are easier to cook without drying out than thin chops. The time of cooking varies with the temperature and the thickness of the chop from about 8 to 30 minutes. Pork and veal are usually cooked well done. Pork chops require about 10 to 20 minutes, and chops of veal and lamb 3/4 to 1 inch in thickness about 8 to 15 minutes.
Less tender cuts. The less tender cuts are used for pot-roasts, Swiss steak, braised meat dishes, stews, and soups. If ground, the meat is cooked as a tender cut.
The less tender cuts are usually cooked by moist heat and at fairly low temperatures. The aim is to cook the meat so that the structural proteins, the connective tissues, are softened yet not completely dissolved and the plasma proteins of the fibers are not made tough, rubbery, or stringy. If this is successful, a tender yet easily sliced meat is the result. If the connective tissues are entirely dissolved, the meat is not slicable.
The less tender cuts are often pounded, or seasoned flour is pounded into the meat, or the surface is floured and seared. Pounding appears to be a good means of increasing the tenderness of some of the tougher cuts, particularly those containing a great deal of connective tissue and little fat or when they are not ripened. The flour absorbs and holds moisture; thus to this extent the meat appears less dry. Better grades of less tender cuts containing more fat and cuts from carcasses of younger animals from which rigor has passed do not need to be pounded.
Cured meats. Some of the common cuts of cured pork are regular hams, skinned hams, shoulders, shoulder butts, and bacon. The loin, cured, is sometimes called Canadian bacon. Cured lean meats, because of the action of the salt during curing, are already fairly dry so they should always be cooked to prevent as little moisture loss as possible. This is usually accomplished most easily by slow cooking at low temperatures.
Hams. Hams may be cured with a light or a heavy salt cure. The mild-cured ones do not need soaking over night or parboiling before baking. Hams with a heavy salt cure are improved in flavor by soaking over night or for 24 hours.
Hams are roasted in open pans on a rack, fat side up, at 125°C. (about 250°F.) to an interior temperature of 70° to 75°C. If the oven will not maintain as low a temperature as this, 300°F. may be used.
For cooking hams in water, a simmering temperature, 83°C, produces a tender, juicy ham. Water temperatures as low as 75°C. may be used. Hams cooked in water have the cooking losses decreased by cooling over night in the liquor in which they were cooked, but the cooking losses are influenced by the temperature of the liquor. Child found that the cooking losses gradually decreased as the temperature of the liquor decreased. The smallest losses, hence the greatest hydration of the ham, occurred at 1.6°C. (35°F.). In fact the hams averaged a slight gain in weight when put in the refrigerator and the liquor cooled to this temperature. With lowering the temperature below 1.6°C. the losses increased.
The time necessary for baking or cooking ham in water will vary with the size of the ham and the cooking temperature used. For the temperatures given, hams weighing about 12 to 13 pounds require about 23 to 25 minutes; those weighing 18 to 20 pounds require about 18 to 20 minutes per pound.
Bacon. Bacon should be cooked at a temperature below the smoking temperature of the bacon fat. Slow cooking at low temperatures is best. For large quantities of bacon an excellent method is to spread the slices on a wire rack, place in a pan, and bake in the oven at 160°C. for about 18 minutes. The bacon needs no turning.
Covered and uncovered pans for roasting meat. Grindley and Mojoinner state regarding the losses occurring in roasting beef in covered and uncovered pans: "The total losses were greater when the meats were roasted in a covered pan than when they were cooked in open pans, owing chiefly to the increased amount of water removed. In the same time and at the same temperature the meat was more thoroughly cooked in the covered than in the open pans, possibly because the temperature of the meat was higher in the closed pan." However, they based their conclusions on results of experiments with 1 covered and 15 open pans.
The Cooking Committee of the Cooperative Meat Investigations uses uncovered pans for cooking all experimental roasts and advises the use of uncovered pans in the home. In general the cooking losses are less and the meat more palatable in the uncovered pan, although with such very small roasts as half of a chicken opposite results may occur. The cooking time is shorter when covered pans are used.
Pressure cooker. Gortner, in speaking of the moisture content of dried biological materials, says it depends upon three variables: temperature, pressure, and time. He adds that the moisture content of a sample should not be given without a statement of the condition under which it was dried. One question often asked is why meat cooked in a pressure cooker at a high temperature is tender and not dry. The answer is determined by the meat and these three variables. There would be a far greater tendency to dry the fibers at a high temperature and in a partial vacuum.
Fig. 24. - Some types of skewers used for roasting meat.
The use of skewers. Muscle tissue conducts heat slowly. Most metals conduct heat rapidly. Morgan and Nelson used skewers in cooking standing rib roasts. The skewers were made with a long, narrow portion, about the size of a lead pencil, that was inserted in the meat. The other end of the skewer was in a spiral to give greater surface for receiving the heat from the oven, and thus conducting it into the meat. Pictures of the different types of skewers used in meats are shown in Fig. 24. They found that "the roasting speed was increased 30 to 45 per cent when nickel-plated copper skewers were used. Similarly, smaller and less regular decreases in total shrinkage of weight of meat were found in the skewered as compared with unskewered roasts." They found the efficiency of the skewers in shortening the cooking period greater when a high oven temperature was maintained throughout the cooking period.