Meat Hacks: MSG and Umami, how are they related?
Learn about MSG and it's use in meat seasonings, plus what benefits it provides to meat products with Walton's and Meatgistics. Read the guide and then post your questions or comments below.
MSG or Monosodium Glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid that first entered into the Mainstream consciousness back in the 80’s and 90’s when there were health debates over its use in the food industry. I am not going to try to convince you one way or the other on the health issues associated with MSG, you can easily google it and there are plenty of articles out there both for and against the use of MSG. I encourage you to do your own research if you want to know more about it. The one thing I will say is that there is strong evidence that a small percentage of people do have a bad reaction to MSG again there are differing opinions on what percentage of people it affects and you can find all sorts of statistics on both sides. Like I said, I am not going to go into the health issues, the FDA says it is okay for use in food products and that is good enough for me at this point.
MSG works as a flavor enhancer and is commonly added to canned or packaged foods to make them taste more fresh or to increase an already present flavor. MSG is an inexpensive ingredient so it is often used in conjunction with more expensive ingredients to cut back on production costs. It is able to be used this way because to some degree MSG takes on the flavor of whatever you add it too. So say you had a recipe that called for a lot of nutmeg, well nutmeg is currently very expensive so what some companies will do is cut back on the nutmeg and add MSG. As you have probably seen we sell a few seasonings that have both an MSG Free and a normal version. If the seasoning you have been getting from us does not say MSG Free don’t worry, that does not mean it has MSG in it, it just means that if it does there is not an MSG Free version of it. Mono-sodium Glutamate has to be listed plainly as an ingredient in any seasoning that uses it so you can easily check on Waltonsinc.com by selecting the seasoning and then at the bottom clicking the additional information tab.
You have probably heard the word Umami pop up in the past couple of years. For those of you who do not know Umami is defined as a strong meaty taste and it is now considered one of the basic flavors along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. If you think of it in those terms then it makes sense that there HAS to be a designation for something like Umami out there right? Would you call a steak sweet, sour, bitter, or salty? If you would then you have been cooking your steaks all wrong and you should check out our post on reverse searing a steak to see how you should be doing it! You should probably check out that post anyway as reverse searing a steak gives you a beautifully cooked steak every time. Some foods commonly said to have an umami flavor are beef, pork, chicken, some cheeses, tomatoes and mushrooms. That’s a pretty good list other than mushrooms which in my opinion should never be eaten!
So how are MSG and Umami connected? Well you taste something with an Umami flavor through the same taste buds or receptors that you taste glutamates in. So, since MSG is a glutamate we can assume that since they are experienced through the same receptors that they will probably taste similar or at least go together right? Well we could…but by now you should know that we are NEVER going to pass up the opportunity to fire up our grill … you know … for science!
I went out and purchased a managers special bottom round steak from the grocery store. We are going cut it in half, marinade both in the same authentic steak sauce but we are going to add MSG to one of the marinades and see which one ends up with a better taste!
I put them both on the grill and cooked them medium rare, about 135 degrees. There is no question the one with the MSG had a better taste to it. The non MSG one was still tastier than I would have expected from a $5 steak but the one that we added MSG to was loaded with flavor.
So, should you cook with MSG? From a flavor standpoint it is a no brainer, it makes whatever you are cooking taste better and since it is inexpensive it saves you on the final cost. From a health standpoint that is up to what you believe.
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Authentic Steakhouse Sauce
Mono Sodium Glutamate