Hala Nelson and her colleagues wanted to
cook the perfect steak. So they decided to use math.
The researchers created a mathematical simulation of a lean slab of beef roasting in an oven. That simulation successfully reproduced
the temperatures and moisture levels seen within meat in laboratory experiments
previously performed by food scientists, the team reports March 23 in European Physical Journal Plus.
In the simulation, the steak consists of
a two-dimensional network of proteins filled with fluid. Mathematical equations
determine what happens as the simulated meat cooks. For example, the proteins
are deformed, water evaporates, and the steak shrinks. The exterior of the
steak dries out, while liquid moves toward the center, making the interior nice
Based on how well-done you prefer your steak, and how moist you want it inside, you can use the results of the study to determine how to cook it to perfection, says Nelson, an applied mathematician at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. But she hasn’t changed her cooking technique: “I still make my husband cook the steak.”
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