Deli Meat 101 - What Is Deli Meat?
Deli Meat 101 - What Is Deli Meat?
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What is Deli Meat?
Deli Meat covers a wide variety of different types of meat but most types will be Ham, Turkey or Beef. Deli meat can be made a few different ways, it can be fresh, which will be a whole muscle cut that has been cooked and then sliced like a roast or some turkey. Or it can be reformed from smaller cuts or even an emulsified product that is then sliced and sold by weight for sandwiches and subs.
Fresh Deli Meat
The fresh, or whole muscle deli cuts are fairly simple to make at home but more difficult to keep in a deli or grocery store. They will be injected with a soluble seasoning, then cooked or smoked until it has reached a safe internal temperature and vacuum packed. They generally contain no nitrates or nitrites so they can have a dull color and the shelf life will not be the same as a cured product. If you are making this at home the meat should be consumed within 3-5 days, when sold in stores this variety is generally sold at a premium due to the costs associated with product loss.
Restructured Deli Meat
The more common way is multiple smaller pieces that are formed together to make the turkey or other meat loaves that you see in your local deli. To do this the smaller cuts will generally be injected with water-soluble seasonings and cure for a cured product, then they will be massaged and vacuum tumbler to loosen the proteins in the meat to help the products bind together during the cooking process. They will then be put into a preformed plastic mold, vacuum packed and then either smoked or cooked which will bind the separate pieces together into a single solid piece.
Reformed Deli Meat
Another way to make deli meat is to use smaller excess pieces of meat that will be emulsified either with a bowl chopper or a meat grinder, which turns the meat into a thick paste-like substance. Once this is done it will follow a similar process as when it is made from larger cuts that are pressed together. After cooking some of them will be lightly fried to give them a nice crust and add more flavoring. It will then either be packaged and refrigerated for shipping to your local Deli, Grocery Store and Restaurant or it will be sliced and packaged at a processing plant for sale in prepackaged meals or cold cuts.
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.