Seasoning & Additives 103 - The Importance of Salt
Seasoning and Additives 103 - The Importance of Salt
Attend this entry level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!
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.
I do it all the time. Still remember my mom saying it’s not a good idea. I’m sure if you are buying a nice steak and intend it eat it as a grilled T-bone you might notice some flesh cell break down (texture change). If you are going to use it in sausage you will not notice any difference. Made brats last night. Once frozen pork and elk. Refroze the brats. I do it time and time again.
Here is a link to a website that has a handy Excel spreadsheet. It is, as it says a free non-commercial site.
As for Waltons dropping the ball, I vote they are doing a great job.
I think for all of us there are general guidelines, but unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled environment, both for the preparation, cooking (if you cook them) smoking, hanging etc, the results are bound to vary from batch to batch.
Personally, I am searching how to get my home made smoked and dry cured pepperoni to the exact texture and firmness of Margarita pepperoni from the store.
Through trial and error I have the flavor where I want it, but not the texture or firmness. I know time, temperature and humidity are all crucial, but the best I can do is in the basement and then subject to the environment that is there.
I figure as long as I am not killing anyone or making anyone sick I am making progress. Thanks Waltons for all of the great information so far.
Having said that, it would be nice to have your chart in an Excel spreadsheet.
Thanks Jonathon! One question tho! You eluded to 178 being high for a temp! Don’t you guys recommend setting the temp at 175 during the final stage to completion to internal temp? Three degrees shouldn’t make that much difference should it??
Sounds reasonable. Thanks for your input. Pulling the meat at 152 will make a big difference I bet! Thanks again.
@Kinger Thanks for the information. Your process, other than going to 178, is on in my mind. The only thing I do differently is an ice bath for 20 minutes. Showering for 10 minutes, if you are running a cycle and a fan in your smoker can work, but I still think an ice bath would bring it down faster and more. Last time I did thick summer sausage it was down to 110 in 20 minutes, I also tried showering it at 2 minutes on 2 minutes off for 20 minutes and it was only down to 136 (ish) but i did not have a fan running on them.
One more thing you might want to try, if you are stalled towards the end you can finish them up by putting them in a vacuum bag (I have done then hot, right from the smoker, some condensation in the bag but it still gets a good vac) and get some water going at around 165, it should get up to temp in under an hour depending on the thickness.