Recently, traveling in the Middle East, I noticed practically all meat; fish and poultry were hopelessly overcooked. When proteins are exposed to extremely high temperatures for too long, they shrink, become rubbery and tough. This can be noticed by closely examining the white substance, which forms on the surface of overcooked meat or fish. Overcooking also reduces the nutritive value of food by destroying water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins (D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, E and K) are heat resistant.
Vitamins are molecular organisms necessary in minimal amounts by all creatures for healthy lives. Vitamin deficiency leads to beriberi, rickets, scurvy and pellagra, as long distance sailors of the 15th and 126th centuries painfully discovered.
Kazimiers Funk, a Polish scientist, is credited the discovery of vitamins in 1912.
Of late many North Americans have switched to raw food diets, claiming cooking destroys all nutrients in food. This happens to be gastronomically as wrong as overcooking. Just the right amount of heat, the essence of cooking, requires skill and knowledge of food chemistry.
The fat of uncooked lamb is bitter and exceptionally tough. Undercooked veal and goat taste metallic, are extremely chewy, and lack any sort of flavour if served raw. The muscle of animals is composed of large connective tissue that holds flesh together. Heat melts collagen into gelatin, draws out flavour, and renders meat a pleasant texture and easy-to-digest.
Medium-rare steak tastes much better than rare, or blue and obviously raw. European-trained servers, particularly in countries with a long tradition of gastronomy, treat patrons ordering well-done meat with distain. Professional servers like to serve patrons who appreciate properly cooked food.
When an American food critic exchanged his medium-rare cooked wagyu beefsteak with that of his spouse’s and which was ordered rare, she immediately commented on the superior flavour and texture. The exchanged took place in her absence.
Exposing scallops just the right amount of heat renders then succulent and flavorful, whereas in its raw state the taste is fishy and has the texture of marshmallows.
The raw fish (sushi and sashimi) craze sweeping North America today can be attributed to the belief that all things Japanese are good. Eating raw, truly fresh fish from pristine waters may be pleasant, but even one-day-old fish requires cooking for enhanced flavour, but certainly not overcooking.
Prehistoric humans developed a taste for cooked food, when smaller mouths and shorter digestive tracts evolved over centuries. This reduced digestive capacity, and thus cooked meat is a survival imperative, but never overcooking.
Humans need to consume the 22 essential amino acids of which eight the body cannot produce form food ingested. These amino acids are contained in proteins of meat, fowl and fish.
Vegetarians must consume copious amounts of legumes and nuts to partially make up for lack of essential amino acids.
Cooking is art and science; thus who master both are the best cooks.
Overcooking results from faulty beliefs that it kills pathogenic bacteria and poor knowledge of chemistry.