Why Is Salt The #1 Ingredient In Meat Seasoning?
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Meat Hacks: Why Is Salt The #1 Ingredient In Meat Seasoning?
Learn why salt is used in meat seasonings, plus what benefits it provides to meat products with Walton's and Meatgistics. Watch the video, read the guide, and then post your questions or comments below.
Why is salt the #1 ingredient in seasoning for meat products?
First and foremost, salt is used for flavor in meat products, but it is also used as a preservative, and it has some other benefits and uses as well. For flavor, salt is used to enhance flavor and improve the basic meat taste. Salt can reduce the bitterness of certain flavors and enhance the sweetness in other flavors. Salt is typically known as Sodium Choloride, and the sodium in salt is what gives flavor, while the Chloride is what provides most of the other functionality in salt.
Salt 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 microbials, 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 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 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.
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For mixing meat for sausages to be put into casings, I usually go for 1.3% or less per pound of meat. The casings seem to retain a lot of salt even if well rinsed, plus if you’re using spice “mixes” there is usually added salt in those as well, such as “chili powder”, etc. The salt content can really add up and become a killer. I’m all for low-sodium, but there is a minimum that needs to be in there for the overall flavor.