Project Summary

Collaborator I & II ‐ The Effect of Beef Strip Loin Enhancement, USDA Quality Grade and Degree of Doneness on Volatile Flavor Compounds

Principle Investigator(s):
T. O’Quinn1 and J. Legako2
1Kansas State University
2Utah State University
Completion Date:
May 2016


Flavor contributes greatly to overall beef palatability. Flavor development occurs through chemical alterations lipids, protein components, and sugars during cooking. Flavor development, therefore, is highly dependent on beef composition and cooking. Ultimately, flavor development is realized through production of volatile compounds which greatly influence the perception of flavor.

One common beef component which has been demonstrated to influence the perception of beef flavor and volatile compounds is intramuscular fat (IMF) content. Recently, enhancement of beef steaks with a simple brine solution of sodium chloride and sodium tripolyphosphate was determined to increase consumer beef flavor liking. Furthermore, enhancement of beef steaks has been demonstrated to decrease abundance of lipid‐derived volatile compounds. It is, however, unclear if volatile compound abundance is dependent on an interaction of IMF and enhancement. Recent work has also demonstrated that volatile compound abundance is greatly influenced by degree‐of‐doneness (DOD) dependent on product type (whole muscle, ground patties). It is also unclear if this dependence on product type is true among enhanced and non‐enhanced beef.

The objective of this study was to determine the influence of IMF content and enhancement on volatile compounds of beef steaks cooked to multiple degrees‐of‐doneness.


Experimental Design:

This experiment was set up as a split‐plot design with 12 replicates per treatment.

Fixed effects of interest:

  • Enhancement level (8%, 0%)
  • USDA quality grades (Prime, Low Choice, Low Select)
  • Degree of Doneness (60, 71, 82 ºC)

2‐way Interactions:

  • Enhancement level × USDA quality grade
  • Enhancement level × Degree of Doneness
  • USDA quality grade × Enhancement level

3‐way Interaction:

  • Enhancement level × USDA quality grade × Degree of Doneness


Volatile compounds were determined from cooked steaks (n=216). Volatile compounds were quantitated relative to sample weight (ng/g). Volatile compounds originated from lipid degradation and Maillard reaction pathways.


Both lipid‐derived and Maillard reaction compounds were influenced by enhancement, quality grade, and degree‐of‐doneness. Quantities of Maillard reaction compounds were determined to delineate according to quality grade for non‐enhanced, well‐done beef. However, Maillard compound quantities of enhanced beef did not differentiate according to quality grade and in many cases did not differ due to quality at increased degree‐of‐doneness. In general, quantities of lipid‐derived compounds were inversely related with degree‐of‐doneness and most abundant and varied among lower fat content beef. The greatest impact of enhancement occurred with Maillard products where variation of Maillard compounds was reduced within enhanced product. This result matches previous sensory work where enhanced beef steaks had little variation in flavor liking.


While enhancement has previously been attempted in the beef industry, the recent climate seems reluctant to further adopt enhancement for fresh beef. Previous consumer negative impressions of enhanced beef may have been due to inclusion of too many ingredients into brine solutions (antioxidants, CaCl2, enzymatic tenderizers, etc.). Though recent research utilizing enhancement solutions containing only salt and sodium phosphates have repeatedly indicated a high level of consumer eating satisfaction, greater than that of even USDA Prime. Results of this study as well as the previous consumer work imply great potential for improvement of flavor when simple enhancement solutions are utilized. Future work should be carried out to determine if a simple brine enhancement may improve flavor in cuts beyond the middle meats including undervalued cuts from the Round and Chuck as well as among lower quality beef with known flavor problems (dark cutting beef, cull‐cows, etc).

Furthermore, this study has revealed that enhancement does influence volatile flavor compounds. Recognizing this result raises further fundamental questions. Is this chemical change related with pH, sodium, increased water retention, or perhaps changes in thermodynamics during cooking? We feel that many of these fundamental questions may be answered through a study having a series of ingredient levels to isolate which component of enhancement is most greatly impacting flavor development.


Figure 1. Concentrations of 3‐methyl butanal determined from longissimus lumborum steaks from strip loins of three USDA quality grades which were either enhanced (8% of weight with brine containing 0.35% salt and 0.40% sodium phosphate) or not enhanced and cooked to three degrees‐of‐doneness (60, 71, or 82ºC). Three-way interaction observed (P = 0.047). Error bars represent the pooled (largest) SEM

Figure 2. Concentrations of hexanal determined from longissimus lumborum steaks of strip loins from three USDA quality grades which were either enhanced (8% of weight with brine containing 0.35% salt and 0.40% sodium phosphate) or not enhanced and cooked to three degrees‐of‐doneness (60, 71, or 82ºC). Three‐way interaction observed (P < 0.001). Error bars represent the pooled (largest) SEM.