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Does Poking Meat During Cooking Cause Moisture Loss?

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2012

A widespread belief holds that piercing meat with a fork during cooking should be avoided since it allegedly allows precious juices to escape. We put this theory to the test.

A widespread belief holds that piercing meat with a fork during cooking should be avoided since it allegedly allows precious juices to escape. To put this theory to the test, we cooked two sets of five steaks to medium-rare. We gently turned one set with a pair of tongs, the other by jabbing the steaks with a sharp fork. We then compared the raw and cooked weights of each steak. Both sets of steaks lost exactly the same amount of moisture during cooking—an average of 19.6 percent of their weight. The reason: Virtually all moisture that is lost when meat is cooked is a result of muscle fibers contracting in the heat and squeezing out their juices. Piercing does not damage the fibers enough to cause additional juices to leak out (any more than poking a wet sponge with a fork would expel its moisture).

When it comes to the moisture level and tenderness of meat, cooking time and temperature are the most important factors.