Smoked Meats 103 - Benefits of Marinating Meat
Smoked Meats 103 - Benefits of Marinating Meat
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As you cook any meat you are going to have a fair amount of moisture loss. This happens because as the meat is heated up the muscle fiber expel water and that is pushed to the surface of the meat where it evaporates. Different meats will lose different amounts of weight through cooking but a lot of cuts of beef can lose up to 25% of it’s starting weight during a cooking process, mostly due to moisture loss. A good way to combat this is to marinate your meat before grilling or smoking it. This is not only going to impart a flavor but will also increase the water content of the meat so you will have a moister finished product, especially if you use phosphates.
What Do Phosphates Do?
Phosphates work by increasing the pH level of the meat and move it farther away from the isoelectric point of 5.2 which is what most meat starts at. Isoelectric means that the meat has no electric charge or difference in electric potential, so there are no negative ions for the water to bind too. However, when we move the pH we are creating negative protein charges, the water will then bind to these and increase the water holding capacity of the meat. In short, it means that you can pump more water into your meat and it will stay there throughout the cooking process. An important note is that no other pH altering substance should be added.
Can I Add Phosphates?
Yes, Cold Phosphate can be added to any marinade to help it increase the water holding capacity of your meat. When adding phosphates you need to be sure that the marinade, or seasoning, that you are using does not already contain any type of phosphates. The maximum usage of phosphates is 2 oz per 25 lb of meat if you go over that amount you might notice a slight soapy taste, so be careful.
How Long Should You Marinate Meat?
The minimum amount of time to marinate any meat is 2 hours. Any less than that and you are basically getting the taste on the outside but it will not penetrate the meat. It IS possible to over marinate meat though as the ingredients in some marinades can actually toughen, or even begin to chemically cook, the meat if it is done for too long. If I am marinating beef or pork I generally like to put it in the refrigerator, in a vacuum bag, for 12 hours. For chicken, I like to marinade it for 24 hours as it takes longer for the marinade to penetrate chicken then it does for beef.
Vacuum Packing And Marinating
Adding Vacuum Packing to your marinating process helps in two ways. First, as it removes the air from the bag it will make sure more of your marinade comes into contact with the surface of your meat. The second thing it does is it will SLIGHTLY pull the fibers of the meat apart as it is under a vacuum, which allows the marinade to penetrate quicker and deeper.
Vacuum Tumbling, especially when combined with injecting, is the most efficient way to marinate your meat. The Vacuum pulls all of the air out a chamber and then the chamber rotates the meat, picking it up off of the bottom with paddles and then drops it down back into the bottom of the chamber creating impact energy. This energy loosens the fibers of the meat and allows the marinade to penetrate quickly and fully. The Vacuum also plays a small part in this but it is generally done under a vacuum to prevent the marinating solution from foaming up.
So marinating, especially under a vacuum, can provide you with a juicier more tender piece of meat with more flavor. Injecting or vacuum tumbling is the preferred way to marinate though as it will allow you to get your marinade directly into the muscle of the meat and you won’t have to rely on osmosis to pass the solution through the permeable cellular structure.
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.
@Newbe There might be some breaking down of the meat but this shouldnt cause you too many issues. I have bought pork butts fresh, then froze them then processed and froze the product again. The taste might not be the BEST possible but it certainly wont be bad.
@vjbutler no problem let us know