Deli Meat Ingredients - Deli Meat 103
Deli Meat Ingredients
Have you ever looked at the ingredients on the back of a package of deli meats? It can be a pretty eye-opening experience, they are usually filled with things that most people have no idea how to say, let alone know what their purpose is. Generally, the fewer ingredients in meat products, the better, but this is not always true. Let’s start with a few of the more common and benign ingredients, and we will look at some to avoid in later posts.
Citric Acid – This has a few different functions as an additive, it is going to protect the flavor of the meat, and as it is a strong antioxidant, it is also going to play a role in keeping the color of the meat and preventing it from looking brown or grey. Depending on the amount used, it can also add a certain amount of tang to the taste.
Papain – This is an extract from Papaya fruit, and it is used to help break down the proteins in the meat to help them form into loaves more efficiently. It is also a common ingredient in meat tenderizer solutions.
Phosphates – This ingredient covers a few different types of phosphates, including cold phosphate and sodium phosphate. It functions as a moisture retainer, and it helps your meat stay juicy. Commercial processors also like it, as it can increase their final yield by allowing the meat to retain more water through the cooking or smoking process. It does this by increasing the ionic strength by raising the pH of the meat from around 5.5 to 6.
BHA and BHT – It is a form of vitamin E and a powerful antioxidant that is used to fight off rancidity in taste and keep the color looking fresh.
Sugar/Corn Syrup – Widely used as a sweetener in meats and a ton of other foods. I’m fine with this as an ingredient as long as it is not High-fructose corn syrup.
Nitrates/Nitrites - These are used to kill off botulism spores in your meat. As you smoke or slow-cook meat, you are creating the perfect temperature and humidity range for the growth of these spores, and without a Nitrite based cure, you could quickly have spoiled meat. Nitrates break down into nitrites which then break down into nitric oxide, so for slower cures, a mix of nitrates and nitrites is used to provide nitrites right away and a source for them later during the curing process.
MSG - Mono Sodium Glutamate is used as a flavor enhancer to provide a fresher taste or enhance an already present flavor. Some people do have a negative reaction to this. However, it is not as common as it is made out to be.
Hydrolyzed Protein - Used as a flavor enhancer in the meat industry.