How well-cooked is your meat?

Gaining expertise

It won’t be difficult for the followers of the MasterChef US and MasterChef Australia to recollect those tense moments when participants would be utterly tensed about two things when it came to any kind of protein (read meat): Not overdoing it and not undercooking it either.

Back home, the adjectives associated with a good kebab or a meat preparation is limited to juicy, tender soft and melt-in-the-mouth. But these western cooking shows did introduce a discerning-meat-loving Indian audience to a new vocabulary who learnt new words like “rare”, “medium-rare” or “well done” when it came to identifying cooking style of all kinds of meat. Adding to this newer breed of food-loving Indians is their globetrotting exposure in countries where meat is taken very seriously.

“We still talk about how juicy the kebabs were after every benevolent indulgence. So the doneness and tenderness of the meats do matter to us, however they may not be scripted diligently as rare, medium or well done in any of our culinary thesaurus,” Vishal Atreya, executive chef, The Imperial, tells Metrolife.

One of the reasons why our culinary thesaurus hasn’t added these forms of meat-cooking style might be because we are not a steak-loving nation, unlike West, where they like their steaks to be the way they want it. We, on the other hand, prefer meat in curries or a smoky-seekh kebab, with regional interpretations lending in different flavours.

However, the common thread that binds together every kind of meat preparation is “cooking time”. “Time is a key in defining the meat, but doneness in cooking also depends on the thickness of the joint or cut of meat and at what temperature it is cooked in. Hence a thicker cut will definitely take longer time to cook compared to a thinner cut,” Subroto Goswami, executive chef at The Lalit, tells Metrolife.

This might not hold true for popular joints serving delicious tandoori veg and non-veg food. As Uttam, one of the cooks at Balle Balle, known for tandoori food, in Noida, points out, “I don’t have any background in cooking, neither have I studied hotel management. I have learnt on-the-job and over two years I have learnt ‘time calculation’. This means that now I know very well till what time mutton/chicken or fish should be grilled to gain
the right flavour. Basically, it all comes to experience,” he tells Metrolife.

According to Atreya, apart from timing, temperature and weight of the meat are key factors in defining the doneness of any meat.

Another important factor that has fuelled the curiosity of knowing their meat well is the globetrotting Indian who is getting exposed to a variety of ingredients and cuisines.
A growing testimony of this change is the number of restaurants, serving international cuisines, is mushrooming in the city.

“With the kind of exposure to various food channels on television, the Indian diners are willing to experiment with various cuisines. Though most of the time these cuisines’ authenticity is sacrificed to match their taste buds, however these foods are slowly getting a place on our dining table for even a humble middle class diner,” says Goswami.

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