If you've ever put a thick juicy steak down on the grill or pan and brought it out thinner and lighter a few minutes later, you'll know that cooking can reduce its weight significantly. This occurs as moisture in the steak evaporates and fat melts away. The level of weight loss in a cooked steak can vary considerably.
Variation by Cut
Different cuts of steak experience varying weight changes, depending on factors such as their fat and moisture content. For instance, a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that grilled outside skirt steak lost 32 percent its weight when grilled. A cut from the inside skirt lost only 27 percent of its weight, the study found.
In general, well-done meat loses more of its weight through cooking than rare meat. However, this isn't always the case. It's possible to cook meat well-done while keeping weight loss to a minimum, as long as it's cooked at a relatively low temperature. Well-done meat can have a cooking loss as low as 15 percent if cooked for a long time at low temperatures, although the typical loss is closer to 20 percent to 45 percent.
Preparing the steak before cooking can alter its weight loss. For example, the Canadian Beef website warns that salting steak and letting it stand before cooking can lead to increased moisture loss during cooking, as the salt absorbs moisture from the meat. However, salting shortly before cooking should have a minimal effect.
Although a variety of factors influence overall weight loss from cooking, most steaks will lose approximately the same amount of their mass. The average loss from cooking is about 20 percent to 30 percent of weight, including both fat and moisture loss. Any loss greater than this amount would result in a steak that is dry, tough and unappetizing.
- USDA: Table of Cooking Yields for Meat and Poultry
- Experimental Cookery from the Chemical and Physical Standpoint: Belle Lowe
- Canadian Beef: Cooking and Preparing Beef FAQ
- Simply Beef and Lamb: Diet and Lifestyle
- Photo Credit Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images