Your Deli Meat Is Safe to Eat Even If It Looks Like an Oily Rainbow

© Warner Bros.

I don’t know about you, buy I’ve always found it a bit off-putting to open a bag of cold cuts and see a rainbow shimmer on the roast beef. It makes me think there’s something wrong with it because, you know, meat shouldn’t look like an oil slick.

Or should it?

Turns out, that strange iridescent coloring doesn’t mean there’s anything bad with your roast beef at all. There are a couple of explanations for the why it may look that way, but neither one is the result of spoiling. Listen up!

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

#1 Diffraction

Diffraction occurs when light hits a repeating pattern of nooks and crannies, which can result from the meat being sliced “against the grain” – through, rather than parallel to, the muscle fibers in the slab of beef. When white light bounces off those fibers and the grooves in between, it separates into a spectrum of colors (in addition to giving you a more tender bite.).

#2. Interference

In darker, fattier meats, like beef and pork, a thin layer of oily grease on the meat affects what colors of the spectrum are reflected back to your eyes when light bounces off. This creates a sheen very similar to that on bubbles and oil slicks. The curing process necessary to create deli slices contributes to this sort of interference because it produces more grease than normal cooking.

So eat up, my friends, and don’t be wasteful. You know you can hear your mom in the back of your mind, reminding you to be sure you’re a member of the clean plate club.

h/t: Mental_Floss

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