Why does cooked meat become white? The Surprising Reality

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Meat’s color and appearance vary when it interacts with the components in its environment, particularly oxygen and heat. The application of heat and exposure to air alters its fundamental properties.

Through its interaction with the protein myoglobin, oxygen plays a significant part in transforming red meat’s typical brilliant red hue into a purple-red or brown tint.When heated, the flesh undergoes a chemical process using this same protein, which changes color depending on the temperature.

But what happens when the flesh becomes white instead of red? Why does cooked meat sometimes become white?

Why Does Meat Turn White When Cooked?

Why Does Meat Turn White When Cooked? The Surprising Truth

flesh gets white when cooked because heat causes proteins to denature or break down, then reassemble or coagulate to create a new protein structure, which causes the flesh to become more opaque or white in color. This is more noticeable in what is known as white meat, such as chicken and fish. The protein myoglobin is primarily responsible for the color shift in red meat.

Why Did My Meat Turn White After Cooking?

The use of heat alters the taste, texture, and color of meat. This is why raw meat differs greatly from cooked meat.

So you put a piece of meat on the grill and it immediately becomes white. What prompted it to do so?

So, let’s look at some ideas that could help explain it.

Denaturation and Coagulation

When meat is exposed to extraordinary environmental conditions, such as high heat, the proteins in it degrade and alter their nature and structure, a process known as denaturation and coagulation.

When meat is cooked, the proteins in it unravel and get denatured, which means they become entirely different and display distinct properties.

This breakdown of their fundamental structure enables them to subsequently recombine with other protein molecules to reassemble and produce a whole other protein with different physical properties, such as transitioning from a liquid to a solid state.

To demonstrate, consider the simple example of boiling eggs. When uncooked, egg whites are transparent and liquid. When heated, the proteins in egg whites begin to denature, break down, and alter properties in reaction to the agitation of heat.

This breaking down enables them to recombine and reconstruct with other protein molecules, resulting in whiter and more firm egg whites.

The egg whites are no longer transparent and liquid, but rather white and solid. The heat of frying permanently alters the egg whites, and they cannot be returned to their original state.

In relation to our inquiry, flesh may become white when cooked due to the similar notions of denaturation and coagulation.

When meat is heated to high temperatures, the proteins denature or break down, allowing them to coagulate, rebuild, and recombine to produce something completely different from their original shape.


Myoglobin is an iron-containing protein that contributes to the reddish and pinkish hue of meat. The greater the quantity of myoglobin in the flesh, the redder or darker it appears.

Beef contains more myoglobin than poultry, with pork being somewhere in the middle.

Myoglobin transports oxygen to the muscles in the same way as hemoglobin transports oxygen to our blood cells. Its connection with oxygen–whether it is present or not–determines the color of the meat. beef may become purple-red when exposed to little or no oxygen (as in vacuum-packed beef).

When exposed to air, it transforms into a vivid cherry red, the color associated with freshness. The iron in myoglobin may bond with oxygen, allowing it to retain its vivid red hue.

However, after a few days, the iron in the myoglobin will exhaust its capacity to bond with oxygen, oxidizing and turning the flesh brown, comparable to the rusting process.

Myoglobin contributes to the color of meat in reaction to heat. Myoglobin is stable around 140°F and does not change color, which is why rare beef looks brilliant red.

Above that temperature, the myoglobin gets agitated, and the iron in it loses its ability to combine with oxygen (thus losing its crimson hue) and forms hemichrome, which gives the meat a pale brown color.

As the temperature rises, more hemichrome is formed, and the flesh finally becomes a gray-brown hue that is characteristic of well-done beef.

As a result, myoglobin has a significant impact on the color of the meat both before and after cooking.

If your meat has gone white or pale in color after cooking, this might be due to substances created or changes in myoglobin in reaction to heat.

Do All Types of Meat Turn White After Cooking?

When exposed to heat, all varieties of flesh undergo chemical changes. Color, texture, and taste are examples of chemical alterations.

Because red and white meat are made up of various kinds of muscles, they appear and taste different.

Red meat vs White Meat

Slow-twitch muscles are the most common kind of muscle found in red or dark meat. These muscles are employed for tasks that require prolonged movement, such as walking or standing.

Because these muscles must be utilized for extended periods of time, they need a continuous supply of energy to power them. This is when myoglobin enters the picture. Myoglobin, which is responsible for transporting oxygen and hence nutrition to the muscles, is abundant in red and black meat. Myoglobin is also highly colored, which explains why red meat has a dark, reddish hue.

White flesh, on the other hand, is largely made up of fast-twitch muscles, which we may deduce from the name are utilized for quick bursts of action, such as flying to a tree limb or escaping to avoid a predator.

This kind of muscle’s primary fuel source is glycogen, which is stored in the muscles. Because quick twitch muscles do not depend on oxygen as a fuel source, they do not contain a lot of myoglobin, which is why white flesh seems lighter and becomes white when cooked.

When uncooked, white flesh appears nearly crystalline and transparent. When heated, it transforms into an opaque white.

To that end, do all forms of meat become white when cooked? We can say that heat causes color changes in meat, but meat turning white is typically more easily observed in white meats like chicken and fish, which do not have much myoglobin (and thus pigmented red color) to begin with, making this type of color change easier to observe.

However, red meat experiences color changes as well and passes through a period when the flesh becomes tan or light-brown, thus red meat may also turn a lighter hue depending on time and temperature.

Can Raw Meat Turn White?

Other Things That Denature Proteins

Heat isn’t the only thing that can render meat white or denature it. Denaturing may also be caused by the addition of an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, as well as large quantities of salt, or by mechanical agitation of the item (as in beating egg whites).

For example, you may observe that ceviche looks white despite the fact that it is raw food that has not been heated. This is due to the inclusion of an acid, such as lime juice, which caused the proteins to denature.

The acid cooked the fish, causing it to become white. You can oversoak and overcook your fish in acid, just as you can with heat, resulting in an unpleasant chewy texture.

Salting and brining meat also denatures proteins and produces color and texture changes.

Storage and Handling

Aside from the addition of spices, the way the meat was kept and handled might also cause it to become white.

Meat may look white owing to congealed fat, such as in fatty ground beef. Fat may congeal and harden at low temperatures, leaving white patches on meat. If the white spots in your meat are fat, heating will dissolve the fat and remove the white spots.

Color changes may also occur as a result of how the item was kept. The most prevalent cause of color and texture abnormalities in fresh meat is freezer burn.

When flesh is frozen, ice crystals form on the surface due to water molecules. These frozen water molecules eventually leave the meal and move to the coldest section of the freezer, causing moisture loss in the meat. This lack of moisture causes the meat to dry out and shrivel.

Because water molecules may leave, oxygen molecules can enter and begin the process of oxidation. Oxidation alters the color and texture of meat and might lead it to become white.

You will notice that some of the blood will leak from your meat if it was frozen and then thawed. This is really myoglobin mixed with water, not blood. Due to the loss of part of the myoglobin during the freezing process, your meat may seem paler and hence whiter when cooked.

Is Meat That Has Turned White Safe to Eat?

It is safe to consume as long as your meat was handled and kept correctly, does not exhibit symptoms of food rotting, and is cooked to the specified minimum safe internal temperature.

In most circumstances, meat becoming white is a natural effect of denaturing flesh during the cooking process, interacting with the chemicals added to it, or oxidation.

Frequently Asked Questions to Why Does Meat Turn White When Cooked?

Why Did My Uncooked Meat Turn White In the Fridge?

If your meat has become white in the fridge but shows no indications of food degradation, it is most likely due to congealed fat or freezer burn. Fat solidifies at lower temperatures, so if you see white spots on your package of beef, this is most likely the cause. If your meat was previously frozen and then thawed, it is possible that it has freezer burn.

Why Is My Cooked Steak Pale?

The activity of the pigment-rich protein myoglobin in the presence of heat causes color changes in red meat. When the steak is cooked at higher degrees, a tan-colored chemical called hemichrome is produced, changing the color of the meat from reddish to pinkish, then tan, and finally grayish brown. If your steak seems pale, this is most likely due to natural color changes that occur while the flesh cooks.

Conclusion to Why Does Meat Turn White When Cooked?

When meat is heated, the proteins denature or break down and reassemble to generate a protein with different properties than the original protein.

White meat begins as glassy and transparent, but when heated, the protein restructures to become white and opaque.When heated, red meat also changes color, owing to the interaction of the pigmented protein myoglobin with the external environment.


Why does cooked meat turn white?

When white flesh is uncooked, it has a transparent “glassy” appearance. Cooking causes the proteins to denature and recombine, or coagulate, causing the meat to become opaque and white.

What does it mean when meat goes white?

Meats with more myoglobin tend to become brown or red when cooked, whereas meats with less myoglobin tend to turn white. Myoglobin is a protein present in animal muscles that serves primarily to store oxygen.

Why does red meat turn white when cooked?

What’s the deal with my white cooked steak? Myoglobin, which gives red meat its color, is found in red meat. When steak is grilled, the proteins begin to degrade or change shape. Consider how an egg white is transparent while raw, but becomes white when cooked—the process of cooking red meat is identical.

What is the white stuff on cooked beef?

Tyrosine crystals – Tyrosine, an amino acid, might be the source of the issue. Tyrosine crystals may grow on the surface of meat just as they do in cheese when it ages. This is more common on the sliced surfaces of country-style hams, as well as a solid white coating that seems to be slime or mold but is really tyrosine.

Is human meat red or white when cooked?

Even if you have no urge to eat other people’s flesh, it’s pretty unusual to wonder what human flesh looks and tastes like from time to time. The first question was recently addressed by io9, which clarified that human flesh is classified as red meat.

Why can’t you eat white meat rare?

When compared to other forms of meat, you can’t consume raw chicken since germs may readily survive the preparation processes.

Is white meat OK?

In conclusion. Throw go the notion that white meat is healthier; both white and dark meat have nutritional benefits. White meat has fewer fat and calories than dark meat, but the variations are minor and unlikely to make a significant impact in your general health.

What meats are white when cooked?

Red meat comes from animals such as cows and calves, sheep, lamb, and pigs, whereas white meat comes from rabbit, chicken, and turkey. It all comes down to the amount of myoglobin, the iron-containing protein in muscle that gives meat its red color.

Why does white meat taste different?

White meat dries quicker than dark meat, resulting in a milder flavor. It’s up to you whether juicy meat tastes better than dryer meat, but we provide both.

Why does meat turn GREY when boiled?

A gray steak that has been cooked is not the same as a gray steak that was gray while it was raw. This kind of graying, known as metmyoglobin, happens when a protein in muscle tissue called myoglobin reacts with oxygen, according to My Chicago Steak.

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