Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs, livers, skin, brains, bone marrow, kidneys or lungs. The word meat is also used by the meat packing and butchering industry in a more restrictive sense—the flesh of mammalian species (pigs, cattle, etc.) raised and prepared for human consumption, to the exclusion of fish, poultry, and eggs. Eggs and seafood are rarely referred to as meat even though they consist of animal tissue.
The word meat comes from the Old English word mete, which referred to food in general. Mad in Danish, mat in Swedish and Norwegian, and matur in Icelandic which also means 'food'.
What Heat Does
Meat takes on different properties when it’s heated. First of all, cooked meat has a different flavor and is sometimes more tender. It is also safer, as heat kills bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.
When it comes to tenderness, two things happen when meat is heated: Muscle fibers become tougher, and connective tissue becomes less tough. This is because of moisture and fat loss in the muscle fibers and conversion of collagen to gelatin in the connective tissue.
For this reason, different meat cuts react differently after cooking. Those with increased amounts of connective tissue, such as cuts from the chuck and round, will become more tender after long, moist heating, as it’s more important to soften the muscle by turning the collagen to gelatin than it is to avoid muscle fiber toughening.
Those cuts that have less connective tissue, such as cuts from the rib and loin, have less connective tissue. The strategy for cooking these cuts is to avoid toughening the muscle fibers by shortening the preparation time, cooking at a higher heat, usually using dry-heat cooking methods. (See sections on cookery methods below.) Many consumers prefer to consume products from these cuts with less cooking (i.e. rare or...