Yesterday, the folks over at Digg surfaced Cook My Meat, a visual simulator for cooking steak. I hadn't heard of it before yesterday, but I wish I had. It's an online tool (a bare-bones website) that was created inside an MIT classroom in 2013 by three students for a class on science and cooking. Though it's four years old, Cook My Meat seems to be making the rounds again after this video that vlogger DONG posted this past weekend.
It’s a pretty nifty simulator that allows users to visualize how cooked or hot a steak is as you cook it. Consider it a heat map with the aesthetic of a Super Nintendo game. Cook My Meat shows you how heat transfers through three different meats—steak, tuna, and turkey—throughout the cooking process. It defaults to a 3 centimeter steak that begins at room temperature, but you can input the specific measurements of your desired steak yourself.
If you hover over a given point on the grid, where time represents the X-axis and meat thickness corresponds to the Y, you'll be able to see the exact temperature of the meat. There’s a color-coded key that lets you see the denaturalization of the meat's protein as dictated by time, with a breakdown by percentage. It also lets you toggle between rawness and temperature, and if you'd like to compare two different cooking methods for steaks and the different ways they affect the meat (sous vide and liquid nitrogen versus four minutes per side, for example), you can do that, too. Adjust temperature and cooking duration to your delight.
Though the science is derived from Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, the creators of Cook My Meat warn, of course, that it’s an imperfect instrument. Everyone’s stoves, cooking tools, and pans are different beasts, after all. There's a certain impossibility in introducing a universal, surefire methodology for steak-cooking under those constraints, and it's best to combine the use of this tool with your own discretion.
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But cooking steak can be a fool’s errand more often than not. I was reminded of this a few weeks back, when my roommate and I decided to cook steak. As the night wore on, we found ourselves saddled with the impossible questions: Is this steak done yet? What did I do wrong? Is this rare, or will this steak kill me? In Cook My Meat, I’ve found an answer—or a gut check, at the very least.
Any tips or tools you use for cooking steak? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.