Tastes like chicken
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"Tastes like chicken" is a common declaration used when trying to describe the flavour of an unusual food. The expression has been used so often that it has become a cliché. As a result, the phrase is also sometimes used to provide incongruous humor, by being used to describe foods or situations where it has no real relevance.
As an explanation of why unusual meats would taste more like chicken than common alternatives such as beef or pork, different possibilities have been offered. One idea is that chicken has a bland taste because fat contributes more flavour than muscle (especially in the case of a lean cut such as a skinless chicken breast), making it a generic choice for comparison. Also, chicken reportedly has lower levels of glutamates that contribute to the "savory" aspect of taste known as umami; processing or tenderizing other meats would also lower glutamate levels and make them taste more like chicken.
Another suggestion, made by Joe Staton of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, is that meat flavors are fixed based on the "evolutionary origin" of the animal. Specifically, he noted that tetrapods largely taste like chicken, whereas other animals usually do not. Accordingly, birds (the most numerous form of meat by type) would (in most cases) naturally taste more like chicken than mammals.[clarification needed] Furthermore, because dinosaurs are supposedly ancestral to birds, their meat would hypothetically have also tasted like chicken. However, the meat of other fowl often taste nothing like chicken; for example, pheasant meat is described as a "unique" flavor and ostrich meat is thought to taste very similar to beef.
Seafood, however, would logically have a more distinctive flavor. Also, although mammals are tetrapods, very few mammals taste like chicken, which implies that there had been a mutation that changed their flavour on that branch of the evolutionary tree.
Another possibility is that since much of the meat of a chicken is taken from the chest, which contains the white 'fast fibers' that are necessary for the short, fast flight of a fleeing chicken, it tastes like these other animals due to similar concentrations of fast fibers in the parts that are used for meat. The taste difference is usually attributed to low concentrations of myoglobin, a high concentration being more typical of vertebrates and tissues adapted for slow, sustained exertion. Myoglobin rich meat is contrariwise often called red.
- "About Food: Pheasant". 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
- Canadian Ostrich Association (April 2008). "Cooking Tips".
- Staton, Joe. "Tastes Like Chicken?". The Annals of Improbable Research 4 (4). Full article (PDF)
- Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology Fourth Edition, Martini/Bartholomew and others, page 201, 2007
- Cloud, John (June 14, 2010). "Tastes Like Chicken: The Quest for Fake Meat". Time. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
- Spice, Byron (July 17, 2000). "Mmm, tastes like chicken: Common ancestors could account for phenomenon". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved November 24, 2012.