Seasoning & Additives 103 - The Importance of Salt
Seasoning and Additives 103 - The Importance of Salt
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Why Is Salt So Important?
What spices are used in a seasoning will differ from product to product and between flavor profile but the #1 ingredient in almost every seasoning will be Salt. Aside from being very useful as a flavoring agent, it is also used as a preservative, and it has some other benefits and uses as well. Salt is used to enhance flavor and improve the basic meaty taste. Salt can reduce the bitterness of certain flavors and enhance the sweetness in other flavors if you’ve ever heard of people salting watermelon or chocolate milk this is why they do it. If you’ve never done that I suggest you try it, it will give you a better understanding of this. Basically, the presence of salt activates or tricks a taste receptor in your mouth into being more sensitive to a sweet flavor.
Salt is typically known as Sodium Chloride, and the sodium in salt is what gives flavor, while the Chloride is what provides most of the other functionality in salt. It is also one of the oldest forms of preservation and still plays an important role in increasing shelf-life of meats and other food products. It can reduce and prevent the growth of microbes, which in turn increases the shelf-life of food products. Salt can also inhibit pathogens during the fermentation process in meat snacks, and it cooperates with nitrites in preservation, and when both salt and nitrite are used in the correct levels, they can increase the effectiveness of preservation by 3 to 5 times compared to just using one or the other. Salt also increases the water holding capacity of meat products, which allows for a greater yield in the final product, plus a moister texture and juicier final product.
Another benefit of salt is the binding and meat emulsifying functions it provides. Salt can help water, fat, and proteins bind together more efficiently and produce a better texture in processed meats. Finally, we get to appropriate usage levels for salt in meat products. Salt in seasoning added to meat products is typically added at a usage level of 1.6% to 2.2%. 1.6% is what might be suggested as the lowest limit of usage where the flavor is truly impacted in a meaningful way to really be able to taste the effect. From 2 up to 2.2% is the amount typically seen and used that most people will find most beneficial from a taste aspect. Some sausage formulations may be less than 2.2% and some meat products up to a 3% usage level though. It still does depend on the type of meat product being created.
Overall, salt is used in meat products for the flavor enhancement, preservation and shelf-life benefits, plus for the benefits in binding proteins and added water holding capacity.
Isn’t Salt A Mineral?
Technically yes, Salt is not a spice or seasoning, it is a mineral and because of this, it does not lose its flavor over time. However, for our purposes, we refer to it as a spice as that is what it is most commonly used for in our industry.
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