Friday, January 23, 2015

Food Reward Friday

This week's lucky "winner"... barbecue ribs!!

Is nothing sacred??  I love barbecue ribs as much as the next guy, and probably more.  Especially pork ribs.  But there's a reason we usually push away from the table feeling stuffed.

Imagine yourself eating ribs... raw and plain.  Not very appetizing, right?  Probably not something most of us would be tempted to overeat, despite a nutrient and calorie value in the same ballpark as cooked ribs.

Ribs are very high in fat, which is inherently rewarding, but the thing that puts ribs over the top is the cooking process.  As meat cooks slowly, the protein in it begins to break down, releasing glutamate, which has an attractive meaty flavor.  The rib bones also release glutamate into the meat, further accentuating this meaty flavor.

At the same time, the meat becomes soft-- easier to eat and easier to digest.  We put sauces on it that contain salt, sugar, and more glutamate (e.g., BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce), further accentuating its reward value.  We're giving the brain a concentrated combination of exactly what it's looking for in a food, and our motivation to eat is correspondingly high.

Image credit: Thogru via Wikipedia


  1. I think you've gone too far this time, Stephan. :)

  2. Spot on. The only food for which I always need to take Prilosec (Nexium type drug). I observed my eating, and realized that any fatty BBQ'ed pork was just too easy to eat and too good. So eat too much is just what I did - and everyone else. This was without any sugary sauces. So now only a very occasional treat.

  3. Nice post, though it had the effect of reminding me how good ribs are and I ended up buying a rack!

  4. For once I'm in agreement with Tucker. :)

    I haven't done my own ribs in a long while (I do dry rub, wrapped in foil, low & slow in the oven for 4 hours, grill finish, homemade sauce), so thanks for reminding me.

    One need not gorge on them. A couple of pounds should suffice for anyone. :)

  5. Yeah ribs contributed significantly to my rise above single digit body fat; they were especially appealing when I was transitioning from my lower-fat bodybuilder style diet to a vlc style diet thinking I was doing myself a favor. (Also homemade buffalo wings with Kerrygold butter).

    In the oven, foil wrapped, rubbed with some low sugar meat seasoning from Fresh Market and some white wine. When done, drain juices into a sauce pan and combine with seasonings like smoked paprika and reduce while the unwrapped ribs sit under the broiler for a bit. Pretty sure I got that from Alton Brown.

    Rivaled the ribs off the family smoker I grew up eating.


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