Nano-cooks

Do you dry-age?

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Don’t worry, me neither, but it’s still fascinating stuff. A process food crazy individuals should understand and love.

As I’m sure you know, butcher shops and restaurants around the world have used dry-age techniques to intensify flavor and improve succulence of all kinds of meat and sometimes veg. This is process is so integral in our food ways that we often pay it no mind.

But, just like bread fermentation or brewing, dry-aging utilizes small nano-cooks, or enzymes, bacterium and yeasts, to transform otherwise inedible complex molecules into simpler sugars and funky (the good kind) compounds.

Enzymes most specifically, do a number of really neat things. To start, they already exist in the foods we eat, so that’s a plus. It’s the same reason fruits ripen once harvested! These enzymes change carbohydrates, fats and complex sugars into simple molecules that are easily digestible, which is a super cool evolutionary aspect of nearly all our food.

Nano-cooks are important because, the goods ones protect our food from harmful pathogens, while at the same time enhancing them with flavor. They do this by decreasing water content, dissuading pathogenic bacterium from growing, and intensifying those great simple compounds. Our ubiquitous love and use of nano-cooks is really a no brainer, and in fact, they have been an effective pre-cooking mechanism since the beginning of humankind (we can’t really digest everything, so we need these little guys).

Nano-cooks are responsible for that blue cheese taste in dry-aged beef or the savory funk in fermented miso paste; they ripen fruits and vegetables and give beer and yogurt their signature touch. Nano-cooks are our first umami cultivators, our first acid aficionados, our first early morning fermentors! I think they’re pretty rad.

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Inspired by Harold McGee’s The Science of Dry-Aging in Lucky Peach
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