Protein Denaturation With Slow Cooking?

Commented on October 02, 2014
Created October 02, 2014 at 5:37 PM

I understand that blasting meat at high temperatures causes denatured proteins and/or unwanted oxidation. My question is, does the same or something similar occur when cooking meat low and slow?

I've got some beef ribs in my slow cooker at home right now and the question just popped into my head.

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1 Answers


on October 02, 2014
at 06:25 PM

First of all, it seems like you are getting your information from a very bad source, so lets begin with what it means to "denature proteins". All protein eaten by humans must be denatured in order to be absorbed by the human body. Denaturing proteins simply means breaking down their structure with either heat or chemicals. Scary, huh? Actually no, not at all. Whenever you eat something with protein, your stomach releases acid because this acid denatures protein which then allows enzymes (proteases like pepsin for example) to break these proteins down into individual amino acids, which can then be absorbed by your intestines. 

Let me make that clear, denaturation is 100% necessary for you to break down and absorb the protein you eat. 

Cooking makes it easier to digest because it initializes the denaturation process by breaking the proteins up using heat, applying acid on foods (like lemon or vinegar) will also initiate the denaturation process. This extra step can make it easier for your stomach to digest the food since less energy will be required by your stomach to break down these proteins since you gave it a head start by cooking your food (or marinating it in acid).

Cook your food, don't be afraid and stop listening to people who have no idea how the human body works ;)


on October 02, 2014
at 07:14 PM

Well, animal tissues have many components so I don't know which ones you are referring to when you say meat oxidation. I guess you should be more specific. Nevertheless, if you are referring to the fats in meat (my best guess) then to my knowledge, at high temperatures the fats which are most prone to oxidize would be polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats and saturated fats could also oxidize but they would oxidize a lot less than polyunsaturated fats. So, for example, cooking salmon (fish oil is high in polyunsaturated fat) at high temperature would probably yield more oxidized fat products than cooking, say beef, at a high temperature (beef is mostly saturated and monounsaturated fat). So I guess the answer would be....it depends on what you're cooking.



on October 02, 2014
at 06:59 PM

I guess I really should have worded my question differently. 

I'm more looking for whether or not oxidation or the negative effects that come from high-heat cooking apply to slow, long cooking as well. 


on October 02, 2014
at 06:53 PM

Denaturation takes place in BOTH the GI tract AND when cooking food.

It makes no difference how you denature the protein, the end result is the same, that is, the individual amino acids. 

I never said you don't synthesize the proteins in raw eggs or steak, I said the exact opposite of that: I said that your stomach denatures those proteins in order to break down and absorb them.



on October 02, 2014
at 06:43 PM

When you say "all protein eaten by humans must be denatured in order to be absorbed by the human body..." are you refereing to denaturation that takes place in the GI tract, or are you referring to cooking? 

If you're referring to cooking, I have to respectfully disagree. I eat raw egg yolks and steak tartare on the regular and I find it hard to believe I'm not synthesizing those proteins. 

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