That Red Juice in Your Meat Isn’t Blood

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There’s something perfectly primal about cutting into a piece of steak cooked to rare perfection. But while some salivate over the flowing juices, others freak out over the perceived presence of blood in the meat.

Just like you should do with your meat after it’s done cooking, it’s time to put that myth to rest (resting steak is an important part of cooking it, if you didn’t know).

Contrary to popular belief, the red liquid that can be seen escaping from cooked meat is not actually blood. In fact, nearly all of the blood is drained from meat during the slaughtering process, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Instead, that red color can be explained by science. Myoglobin, which helps tissue store oxygen similarly to hemoglobin in blood, contains iron that turns red when it binds with oxygen. Considering most mammals contain high levels of myoglobin in their tissue, it’s only natural that their meat is referred to as “red meat.”

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Fresh, raw meat maintains its red hue up until it hits a heat source. Once a steak or hamburger starts sizzling on a grill, the chemical structure of its myoglobin changes, resulting in a transition from red to brown. As any home chef knows, cooking a steak to the correct temperature can mean the difference between a tender, juicy medium-rare and a dry, tough well-done.

Raw meat can also undergo a color change for the wrong reasons. Once uncooked meat is exposed to air, it can quickly go from a rich red to a dull, gray-brown hue. According to the World Health Organization, some meatpackers even treat their products with carbon dioxide in order to help raw meat retain its more appetizing color.

So the next time you take a bite of a bacon burger or slice off a succulent morsel of skirt steak, just remember that the red liquid is not blood on your plate – though if you cook your meat right, it can be bloody delicious!