Meat too cold?
I’ve become a firm believer in the benefits of keeping meat cold/semi-frozen, and how it helps the mixing and stuffing processes; however, I may have taken this to an extreme today!
Today’s project was 12 pounds of bloody mary snack sticks out of 7.5 lbs venison, 3 lbs pork butt, and 1.5 lbs pork fat, Sure Gel binder, ECA, and 21 mm smoked collagen casings.
I ground up the meat a few weeks ago and froze it. I thawed the meat in the fridge for a few days. However, I realized when I began this morning that the meat was still more frozen than I was expecting. I was able to break it up though and figured it would just keep things that much colder. It seemed to mix up ok in my meat mixer. I added seasoning and other additions, loaded up my stuffer, and started having problems a couple feet into stuffing. It was like my stuffer was plugged. I took the stuffing horn off, and realized there was a decent sized piece of frozen ground meat stuck in the tube. I pulled it out and started again, but again got stuck. I went back to the mixer and found that I had quite a few frozen meat pieces (1/2" or bigger). I decided to sift through and pick out as many of the frozen chunks as I could (it ended up being close to a pound of meat). Don’t worry, I didn’t let these go to waste. I let them thaw a bit and then later mixed them by hand and will use this as fresh sausage.
A couple questions:
- These frozen pieces obviously would not be exposed to seasonings/cure during the mixing. Could this create any problems/safety risks in my final product?
- I’m sure there were smaller frozen chunks (<1/2") that did go through the stuffing tube. Any problems here?
- How can I keep this from happening in the future? Do I just need to be sure the meat thaws out pretty completely?
I assume you added a cure since you asked about cure (but didn’t mention it otherwise).
I’m sure Jonathon will chime in with better advice, but I am most concerned about the concentration and distribution of cure in your product. While I don’t -think- that losing 1 pound of meat out of 11 would be anything to worry too much about as far as the amount of cure you used. However, I would be concerned that an uneven distribution because of the frozen bits is a real danger. Again, others have more knowledge than I do, but I would be concerned about having some areas that had too much cure and some that had none at all.
Yes, in the future, you could avoid this problem by thoroughly thawing the meat. The way I would rather do it is to grind on the same day you are mixing and stuffing. I know it’s more hassle, but you’ll get a better product and not have the problem with thawing ground meat.
Good response TexLaw . Yes I did add the appropriate cure. I didn’t think about the possibility of too much cure for the rest of the product.
cdub2007 Yeah, the problem is not knowing how much of that meat was frozen when you mixed it. Typically, I wouldn’t worry at all about adding enough cure for 11 pounds of meat to 10 pounds of meat. That certainly isn’t ideal, but I don’t think there’s much risk in making that mistake once.
I’m more concerned about the risk of food poisoning from areas that weren’t cured. I know that cure “migrates” (for lack of a better word at the moment), but I don’t know how far anyone can count on that.
DON’T GRIND THE MEAT BEFORE YOU FREEZE IT. CUT IN SMALL CHUNKS , BAG IT THEN FREEZE. THEN THAW, GRIND, SEASON,
MIX AND GRIND AGAIN THEN STUFF.
cdub2007 Few things, I am a fan of working with super cold meat as well but I normally keep it almost frozen before I grind it and then go right to mixing. By that time the meat has thawed a little and it has been completely broken down by the grinder. In fact, the few times I have frozen it too much and then ground it anyway the meat almost shaves or flakes and I think that makes protein extraction a lot easier, this is JUST A THEORY that I am working on so it might not be accurate.
As far as your situation I think you have hit the nail on the head for the issues you might see. The frozen pieces that we stuffed into a casing are not going to be bound properly to the meat around it, so you might have some leaking/rendering during the smoking process. But that’s not a big deal, the bigger deal is that they probably didn’t get the cure evenly distributed throughout all of the meat and then by smoking them you created the perfect environment for nasty little things to grow in it. How bad is it? Honestly, probably nothing to worry about, its possible but all the meat around it was cured and there will be some transference during the cooking process. For food poisoning (just like anything else) the amount of harmful stuff you take in is almost as important as what it is you take in. Most of us could deal with a strand or two of ebola and fight it off, it’s when the viral load is excessive that it becomes a problem. I know this from my extensive time spent in the congo fighting infectious diseases. Or, at least I listened to a Warren Zevon song called Roalnd the Headless Thompson Gunner and he mentioned the congo. Obviously I am kidding, I probably read that in a Tom Clancy book or something, so don’t take it too seriously!
For the last one I would say if you run into the same issue either yes let it thaw more or use your grinder to break it all up again!