Why Does My Roast Beef Have A Rainbow?

A note from the chef: The iridescence (‘rainbow-like shine’) of the roast beef and ham that you have seen is caused by the regular muscle fiber structure of the flesh combining with water droplets to form a ‘diffraction grating.’ The reflection of light off the water in the regular fiber grating results in the separation of hues in the same way that a prism does this.

Meat is rich in iron, lipids, and a variety of other substances. When light shines through a slice of beef, it breaks into colors in the manner of a traditional rainbow. There are also numerous pigments in meat components that, when subjected to heat and processing, can give the meat an iridescent or greenish color. Beef that is iridescent is not always rotten.

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