About Time, Temp & Moisture

JJ’s process for med/rare 1.5″ think steaks – “reverse sear, I smoke to 110-115 and sear to 125 MAX. After the rest and a 5-10° rise they are perfect Med/Rare.”

About beef – Once the Collagen breaks down into Gelatin then is chilled the Gelatin sets and becomes firm but it and the meat are far more tender than had it never been broken down in the first place…The Magic happens with time at or above 180*F. That is why so many Sliced Brisket guys go to 185-190*F…So an IT of 175*F is not enough it will be tough…JJ

Chef JimmyJ’s Response in this post at SmokingMeatForum.com

Tender is a function of Time not just Temp and internal temperature (IT) may not always be a good indicator. Throw a Rack of Ribs in a 600°F Oven. The IT will be 195°F in an hour or so but they will be too tough to eat. Same Ribs at 225 given 6 hours to get to an IT of 195°F and they will be probe tender. The Collagen Connective Tissue in tough cuts of meat just starts to breakdown at an IT of 130 then goes faster from 160° on but still takes time. The thicker the meat the more time needed. High Moisture in a cook, Braising, Stewing and Steaming can accelerate the Collagen breakdown. A Pastrami just smoked can take 10+ hours but Steam the same cut and it is tender in 3 hours or so.

Dry Meat cooked in high moisture. Moisture in meat is a function of cooking, to an extent. As the meat heats the muscle proteins denature. Picture raw protein as groups of loosely wound coils containing moisture. As the IT rises the protein coils unravel and relax with some of the internal moisture be pushed out but much of it retained around the protein strands. Now continue to cook the meat, whether with dry heat or moist heat and the relaxed protein strands start to Shrink. As the strands get tighter and tighter all of the internal moisture is squeezed out and away from the muscle protein. These tiny nuggets of shrunken protein can’t hold moisture any longer and even if sitting in liquid will not absorb any.

This is the case with cooking Chicken Breast in general and specifically in a Broth. With a piece of Chicken Breast being Poached or Simmering in Broth, as the IT hits 165 the protein is relaxed and the meat is tender and juicy from retained moisture. Pull the Breast out, cut it up and toss it back in the broth for an hour, or even cooling on the counter, the chicken continues to cook, the proteins continue to coagulate, shrinking and squeezing out moisture until even though the Chicken is in the Broth, the meat is Dry and Tough.

This effect can be seen in all meat especially low fat, low connective tissue cuts like Pork Loin. With fatty/tough cuts like Pork Butts, Chuck, Short Ribs and such, even though the individual protein strands may have lost their moisture, there is still sufficient Fat and Gelatin, brokendown Collagen, surrounding the muscle strands to give a forkfull of meat the ” Mouthfeel ” that it is still very moist. Taste a single strand or two of Pulled Pork and you will find it as dry as Chicken Breast cooked for hours in broth.

Beef Brisket can be such a challenge to get right because it is too tough to eat Rare, but too low in Fat and connective tissue to take too far. You need to find the sweet spot when just enough collgen has brokendown to be tender but you have not rendered out all the fat and moisture. This is tough enough smoking Low and Slow add in [Hot and Fast tricks] and the window of perfection is so small that it is very easily missed…JJ

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