Cooking temperatures are key with tenderized meat
ABOUT 20 PER CENT of Canadian meat is mechanically tenderized, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).
Mechanical tenderization is performed by cutting through the muscle fibres and connective tissues with small blades or needles to improve meat tenderness. While this might bring pounded, swiss or salisbury steak to mind, modern tenderizing equipment can pierce meat so finely that customers don’t even notice it.
In Canada, mechanically tenderized meat has to be labelled as such, because without proper cooking, the process can introduce bacteria, like E.coli, deep into the meat, which might not be cooked to as high a temperature as the exterior of the cut.
“If the work we do to identify safe cooking conditions prevents one person from getting sick from eating undercooked meat, I would feel well rewarded for our team’s efforts,” says Dr. Xianqin Yang, a research scientist, food safety and processing, meat microbiology, with the federal ministry.
Yang and her team at the AAFC Lacombe Research and Development Centre have studied how to best kill E.coli in three cuts of mechanically tenderized meat: steaks, roasts and minute steaks. It turns out the evenness of the cooking plays a big role.
For steaks, in addition to reaching an internal temperature of 63° Celcius, the team found that flipping the steak at least twice while grilling eliminated more bacteria than a single flip did. Multiple flips create a more even cooking temperature, and as a bonus, the “eating quality” was improved too.
Researchers also studied tenderized roasts cooked in conventional ovens, convection ovens and slow cookers. They found no difference in bacteria levels of the roasts cooked on high or low in the slow cooker, as long as the meat was cooked to an internal temperature of 63°C. However, for full-sized ovens, both the temperature at