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The Technical Corner March

October 25, 2021

The purpose of marinating is to improve the water retention capacity (CRA) of the meat which allows offering the consumer a better quality meat. The previous two articles have covered the impact of meat quality, and formulation and ingredients in brines with respect to CRA. In part three, the impact of the marination method on CRA will be discussed.

The method of marinating meat has evolved over time, from just rubbing the meat with salt and spices to using technology that improves the efficiency and consistency of the finished product. The meat used to be immersed in a brine between 24 hours and 48 hours to allow an increase in its yield of up to 8% over the weight of the meat. The use of salt and phosphate in the brine aided the migration of water into the meat by osmosis. Additionally, the salt and phosphate extracted proteins that also contributed to the improvement of the CRA in the meat, thus improving the acceptability of the consumer. This technique was used for a long period until new technologies improved the concept of marination.

The use of the vacuum raffle allowed to shorten the marination times and improve the yields even more. Vacuum tumbled, as the name implies, combines the mechanical effect of rotating the meat within the tombola and the removal of air within it. : The friction created by the meat as it rotates within the tombola acts as a massage that helps extract protein and push the brine into the meat. The vacuum created within the tombola expands the myofibrils of the meat, which allows a more efficient interaction of the brine with the meat proteins. All of these effects in play during tumbled enhance the CRA of the meat, which allows up to 20% yield under ideal circumstances. 

Injection marination is another technology used to marinate meat. Injectors use needles to feed the brine into the meat. Ensuring that the brine comes into contact with the highest amount of proteins to increase the CRA. This technology allows an extension of the meat above 20%

It is important to mention that both vacuum marinating and injection marinating technologies have variables that can impact final performance. In vacuum wiring, ensuring that the vacuum level reaches a minimum of 22 in Hg at the gauge (26 kPas abs. Or 74% vacuum) is essential to maximize performance. The filling level of the tombola will have a direct effect on the time that the product takes to be marinated.   

In injector operations, the cleanliness of the needles is crucial to prevent blockages that prevent the equitable distribution of the brine. The belt should always be full to ensure that the needles are in contact with the meat at all times. High injection pressures can cause damage to muscle structure, and reduce CRA.

In general, these marination technologies allow for a higher CRA in meat due to improved brine absorption and protein extraction. Understanding the equipment and how it varies is important to maximize the yield and retention of the brine throughout the marination process and then through the logistics chain. Proper application of the marination method along with the quality of the meat and marinating ingredients / formulation improves CRA and consumer acceptability.

By Dr. Gerardo Casco

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