Can You Cook A Steak By Dropping It From Space?

The Food Lab's Perfect Grilled Ribeye Steaks

Not how a steak dropped from outer space will look. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Anyone else a big fan of the stick-figure-talking-about-nerdy-science-and-pop-culture webcomic xkcd? Yeah, thought so.

I only recently became aware of its newer satellite blog what if?, in which every Tuesday, Randall Munroe answers a user-submitted question in his typical hyper-nerdy, insanely entertaining style. This week's question: "From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?"

Citing sources ranging from scientific research papers on Predictions of Aerodynamic Heating on Tactical Missile Domes and Calculation of Reentry-Vehicle Temperature History to popular science cookbooks like Cooking For Geeks and The Science of Good Cooking, Munroe simulates the effects of dropping steaks from various heights ranging from 39 kilometers (the height skydiver Felix Baumgartner recently did his "space drop" from) all the way up to 250 kilometers (well outside the official limits of what we define to be the start of outer space).

His final conclusion? "I hope you like your steaks Pittsburgh Rare. And you may need to defrost it after you pick it up."

Check out the full blog entry here.

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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