The real reason Arby's roast beef is cooked in a bag

Many a school kid knows the mental dread cafeteria mystery meat. In your heart of hearts, you have to believe that the suspicious slab that got slapped on your plate came from one or more creatures found on planet Earth — though, 3D-printed space beef is technically now an option. But hope doesn't make your taste buds tremble any less. Fast food should not be of that same inscrutable ilk, elk, or any other unexpected protein. But Arby's, the famed haver of meats, has had to grapple with customer uncertainty about the true origins of its roast beef.

The name should be self explanatory — it's beef of the roasted variety. Yet when Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributor John Kessler asked the internet what Arby's roast beef actually is, Ask.com responded with culinary nightmare fuel: "At Arby's, the roast beef is delivered in a liquid form in a bag. Then employees will squirt the liquid onto a flat tray and bake at 350 degrees for a specified amount of time, which turns the liquid into a solid ... made into a sandwich." Yikes. That's the opposite of appetizing. Luckily, it's also the opposite of true.

Arby's likes to keep its roast beef juicy

In 2015, an Arby's in Manhattan invited Business Insider to observe firsthand how the restaurant heats its meat and what the deal is with their bagged roast beef. Admittedly, this already sounds like a self-inflicted shot to the foot. A gesture specifically intended to convey, "Here's proof that our meat isn't liquid" seems like a terrible way to inspire confidence, no matter how true the assertion is.

But just to be clear, Business Insider confirmed that the roast beef is solid meat that undergoes a few hours of slow-roasting. The bag does contain liquid — it just isn't liquid beef. Snopes asked Arby's to clarify what precisely sloshing around in those meat bags, and a Quality Assurance representative named Jim Crowder explained that "Arby's Roast Beef consists entirely of Beef and a Self-Basting solution, which contains just enough water to keep the product juicy throughout our restaurants' 3-hour roasting process and during slicing." See? It's just self-basting beef. Doesn't that sound delectable?