What does Marinating do to Meat? - Smoked Meats 103
What does Marinating do to Meat?
Why Marinate Meat?
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 expels 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 their 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 more moist finished product, especially if you use phosphates.
What Do Phosphates Do To Meat?
Phosphates work by increasing the pH level of the meat and moving 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 to. 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 To Meat?
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 slightly 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 we are marinating beef or pork, we generally like to put it in the refrigerator, in a vacuum bag, for 12 hours. For chicken, we like to marinade it for 24 hours as it takes longer for the marinade to penetrate chicken than it does for beef.
Vacuum Packing And Marinating Meat
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 Meat
Vacuum Tumbling, especially when combined with injecting, is the most efficient way to marinate your meat. The Vacuum pulls all of the air out of a chamber, and then the chamber rotates the meat, picking it up off of the bottom with paddles and then dropping 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.