How to cook a dinosaur, and the difference between red and white meat

Did you ever watch Jurassic Park and find yourself wondering what it would be like if the tables were turned?  What if instead of the dinosaurs eating the humans, the humans started eating the dinosaurs?

Well, you or I may not have thought about it, but David Varricchio, professor of palaeontology at Montana State University must have at least considered it, judging by an article from Popular Science.

While we joke that everything tastes like chicken, according to Professor Varricchio, different types of dinosaurs would more likely taste like steak, or even ostrich, depending on what kind of activities the dinosaurs typically got up to.

A quick guide to red and white meat

Meat is made from animal muscle.  According to Popular Science, meat’s red or white colour comes from what the owner of the muscle originally used it for.

“Red meat is composed of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are built for sustained periods of activity, so animals that are active for longer amounts of time throughout the day would be composed of mostly red meat. Those who ambush their prey or move quickly for short periods of time would have white meat, which is composed of fast-twitch muscles that allow for quick bursts of activity.”

For example, cows use their muscles to stand and walk around all day every day.  This extended low-impact activity means that their muscles are comprised almost entirely of red meat.

In contrast, chickens only occasionally use their breast muscles for a mad flapping of wings, meaning that this meat is white, while the meat from their legs tends to be a bit pinker, as they experience comparatively more use.

Types of dinosaur meat

Just like contemporary animals, the meat of different dinosaurs would have different tastes depending on their typical daily activities.

Based on the fossil record, Professor Varricchio speculates that a large sauropod such as the Brachiosaurus, which would spend all day holding its long neck in the air, would have neck muscles comprised of red meat, which could be tuned into a steak-like delicacy – though these steaks would weigh “several tons”.

If you prefer white meat, you could look for an ambush predator such the Velociraptor.  However, this meat would likely taste more like that of a modern-day bird of prey such as a hawk or eagle than that of a chicken, as a carnivorous diet changes the fat content and therefore the taste of meat.

An armoured dinosaur such as the Anklyosaurus could have had white meat in their tails, which were supposedly only used in-self defence.  The remainder of their meat would probably have been redder.

However, the best-tasting meat according to Professor Varricchio would have to come from the Ornithomimosaur family; a group of ostrich-like herbivores that would have had “lean, slightly wild-tasting red meat”.

Unfortunately, Professor Varricchio doubts that everyone’s favourite Tyrannosaurus Rex would rate a spot on our prehistoric banquet table.

“They’ve found jaw abnormalities that suggests they (tyrannosaurs) were eating fetid meat and had diseases that came about from prey items. They would be pretty parasite-laden.”

How would you cook a dinosaur?

Probably in a similar way to how we cook the animals of today.

We’ve already taken you through how to cook the perfect steak, so for the sauropod neck mentioned earlier, you’d simply have to adapt our six simple tips to suit a slab of meat of ridiculous proportions.

Professor Varricchio described sauropod neck as potentially being “a unique cut of sturdy red meat”, so you probably wouldn’t want to disturb its original natural flavour too much with a lot of marinades or seasonings.

Since the Ornithomimosaur family is also known as “Ostrich dinosaurs”, you would probably cook one in a similar way to an ostrich (which, despite looking like an overgrown chicken, have muscles of red meat from long-distance running).

According to the British Domesticated Ostrich Association, ostrich can be cooked in as many ways as beef can, so your dinosaur-themed dinner could include Ornithomimosaur fillets, roasts, burgers or mince-based dishes.

When thinking about cooking white dinosaur meat, a lot of us would probably think of drawing inspiration from how we prepare and eat crocodile meat.  After all, isn’t the crocodile a relatively close approximation of a dinosaur in the modern day already?  And isn’t the white meat of the crocodile tail a not-entirely-uncommon sight in certain areas around the world?

However, as crocodiles are aquatic creatures, their meat has a high water content, and according to Australian Crocodile Traders, is actually best prepared in a manner similar to fish.  And according to Professor Vearricchio, eating aquatic and fish-eating dinosaurs would be a bad idea:

“Dinosaurs that ate marine animals would definitely be off the list, not only for their fishy flavor, but also because the high amount of oil in fish would make the meat more susceptible to oxidation, which would give it a rancid taste.”

So if people ever perfect the cloning technology imagined in Jurassic Park, and you found yourself with a slab of Anklyosaur tail on the kitchen bench, your best bet would probably be to check out Best Home Chef’s chicken category and experiment from there.

It would be a feast that time will NEVER forget…

Mark Bristow
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Mark Bristow

Mark is the proud owner of an impractically large paella pan, and enjoys putting strange new twists on classic recipes. Google+

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