Feast. Oxtail soup.
“When I drink this…broth…it’s like eating a steak! It’s so thick and flavorful. What gives?”
Gelatin. (Oh really?)
…and the science behind it is… (Fug. Is it on the test?)
I’ll do a quick breakdown though. Give you a couple of tips, some recipes, a slap on the back, a thermos full of the stuff, and send you on your way.
Two minutes. I promise.
Gelatin, at its very core, is protein. When mixed up with a liquid, it usually turns out clear (like Jell-O) because its molecular size is fairly small. Small molecular sizes mean they don’t block light rays. When light rays can pass through something without being blocked, it’s translucent.
Gelatin is found in collagen, which is the connective tissue of animals. Visualize collagen like Twizzlers (the candy). As a whole rope, it’s collagen. Peel little strands off, and each one is gelatin, containing about 1000 amino acids.
Each gelatin strand (single Twizzler) can form reversible bonds with two other strands. These bonds are not very strong nor permanent, but do form loose, continuous entanglements. When these entanglements set (cool down, lose kinetic energy), a loose matrix can be formed (thus the gelling of thick soups and/or Jell-O).
When gelatin is extracted from meat collagen, it provides better flavor compounds, but less thickening power. (Less gelatin content, more flavor compounds)
When gelatin is extracted from bones and skin, it provides better thickening power, but less flavor. (More gelatin content, less flavor compounds)
Starch can also be used as a thickening agent. But my two minutes are up.
Simple explanations for simple soups. Drink up.