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Curing, brining, injecting article

BluesnBBQBluesnBBQ Posts: 615
edited 6:41PM in EggHead Forum
There's an article in today's Washington Post about curing, brining, and injecting meat. It includes some recipes. You can read it online at:
[ul][li]WP Article[/ul]


  • BluesnBBQ,[p] Thanks, after I checked your note, I pulled out the Food section and read it. But after reading this and other articles recently, I'm a bit confused. All of the articles state that brining works on osmosis -- I'll buy that argument. However, they state that since the concentration of salt water in the meat cells is low and the concentration of salt water in the brine is high (duh!), salt water is forced into the cells. *Salt* water moving by osmosis?[p]Adding to my confusion: In Cookwise, Shirley Corriher states that the osmosis works based on the total concentration of dissloved stuff inside the cells and out. Since the concentration of "stuff" on the insinde of the cells is high and the concentration of "stuff" in the brine is lower, the water alone goes into the cells to try to equalize the concentration of "stuff". After reading that, I was forced to ask the question: Why not just soak in pure water? [p]I guess I should be happy it works and not try to overanalyze this stuff . . .[p]MikeO, The Bored Engineer
  • MaryMary Posts: 190
    I read the article too and thought it rather poorly done. Corriher seems to know her stuff in other food science things, and I recall cells are rather salty anyway, so what she says does make some sense. Osmosis works by equalizing concentrations of chemicals thru a permeable membrane.[p]The Wash. Post article explicitly said the sodium concentration of the meat was increased, yet folks who brine claim the meat isn't salty - supporting Corriher, not the Wash Post article.[p]I dunno either.[p]Mary

  • SpinSpin Posts: 1,375
    MikeO,[p]Osmosis is the process of the equalization of liquids of differing specific gravities. The specific gravity of a liquid is simply how dense a liquid is as compared against pure water when equal amounts of both are weighed in free air. Salt raises the specific gravity (density) of water.[p]Stick with me here; Since the water (whatever the mix) in the cell is contained within the walls of the cell it is not in free air (always under varying pressure exerted by the elasticity of the walls of the cell). A salt molecule is much larger than a water molecule. The cell wall acts as a filter and only allows the water molecules in and out of the cell. Brining introduces a high specific gravity liquid (in free air) to a lower specific gravity liquid (in a containment). Water in the cell compresses (by the cell walls) as it expands from water intake and it the becomes more dense. Its specific gravity (in relation to the surrounding brine) raises to equal the brine.[p]For our use, osmosis is the movement of water alone in the attempt to equalize all of the differing pressures caused by the differing specific gravities of the liquids surrounding the cells of the meat.[p]Soaking in pure water would represent a slight reverse brine. Since the pressure exerted by the cell walls, and proteins and "stuff" in the water in the cells would act to "thicken" it (make it more dense), water would exit the cell in the attempt to reach equal density (osmosis).[p]I sure hope I've not confused :-},

  • Lee2Lee2 Posts: 38
    Interesting article. Thanks for posting it. I'm picking up a 10 lb fresh ham tomorrow for the weekend. I couldn't decide to inject it with maple syrup, brine it or try to cure it and smoke it next weekend. An old country fellow talked me out of trying to cure it. He said it was too warm to cure hams now and the cure wouldn't "take" in the refrigerator.
    I'm still trying to decide which would work best with the curing option gone, brine or intection. If anyone has any suggestions, I would _love_ to hear them.

  • SpinSpin Posts: 1,375
    Lee2,[p]You ask a great question that I would hope to answer in another 30-40 years. The only help I can give is the basic intent of each.[p]Curing is historically the process of preserving a meat by drying. Bacteria require moisture to survive. Salt is used as a rub to draw (by osmosis) the water from the meat. The air evaporates this moisture from the salt. Cures take time and temp. Your friend is right, the meat must dry before it spoils and the fridge doesn't breathe enough to evaporate the moisture.[p]Injection is a method of introducing a liquid agent (flavoring, tenderizer, or both) directly into the meat. It requires inserting a needle of sufficient diameter to pass the ingredients into the meat. This injected fluid then occupies the pocket formed by the pressure used to force the liquid there. A great tasting injected meat involves a very large amount of small injections to produce an evenness of the flavor and juice.[p]Brining is a process that requires soaking in a salty liquid and (if done properly) adds moisture to the meat. On such a thick meat as your ham brining could be as long as 48 hours. The meat could be juicier and any flavoring would be added from the brine because of marinating.[p]Marinating is the process of soaking a meat in a flavored liquid. This liquid may or may not contain an acid. Acidity will break down the meat by destorying the meat cells in contact with the acid. This is interpreted as more tender when eaten. A marinade with little to no acid slowly adds the flavor to the meat. Marination times without acidity tend to be much longer.[p]My suggestion is to first learn the meat and what you can expect from it. Rather than attempt to adjust it to whatever flavor using whatever intricate method that may or may not work - just cook the meat and learn what it is, how it likes to work, its flavor, and then what you my want it to taste like. Then play with it. Smoke is an intricate and complex spice. What wood(s), how much, when and how to apply, and temps used all affect the end result.[p]I have no good shortcuts to offer.[p]Spin
  • Spin,[p] OK, I'm with you on some of this. At least the part about the flow of water being based on the balance of hydrostatic pressure and osmotic pressure as well as the reflection coefficient of the membrane (how permeable it is). After all, reverse osmosis machines are based on the concept that you can force water the "wrong way" through a semipermeable memberane by jacking up the hydrostatic pressure on the side the water "wants" to go to. I would contend, however, that the reason we don't use pure water is that the osmotic pressure would be high enough such that the cell walls could not contain the fluid flowing into them anymore (if the cell walls were strong enough to push water out with just the pressure of the pure water against them, why would the cells not force all the fluid out of themselves when exposed to just air? Also, the best way I know of to get the liquid out of the cells is to coat the meat with nothing but salt (jerky, anyone?)). I seem to recall some experiments in biology lab where we soaked plant and animal cells (red blood cells?) in solutions of different concentration. Eventually, the plant cells would swell but not burst because plants have thick cell walls. The red blood cells, however, would eventually burst (as the concentration of the soaking fluid approached closer to pure water) because they don't have the thick cell walls. I've also seen what happens to my hands when I've been in the bathtub too long (though the tap water around here is, admittedly, anything but pure!). Guess I need to think about this a bit more, especially in light of the fact that many people recommend a "quick brine" made by increasing the salt concentration. Seems to me that would slow down the osmosis.[p]MikeO (Now the interested, but sleepy, engineer)[p]PS I'm also inclined to think that the brining does get some salt and flavoring into the meat just as a marinade does. There has to be some penetration of the spices into the spaces in between the actual cells. Maybe the reason for the higher concentration brines being "quick" is that they can actually over salt the meat. Hmmmmm . . .
  • BluesnBBQBluesnBBQ Posts: 615
    Inspired by the article, I'm going to try curing a small pork roast. I bought one last night, and put it in the fridge, rubbed with kosher salt. It's sitting on a rack over a plastic cutting board. I'm going to smoke it on Sunday or Monday (unless it starts to smell funny - then I'll throw it out!)

  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,469
    Wow. Fun listening to you guys go at it. Spouting off interesting scientific information. As a graphic artist, I understand where you are getting at, but could not repeat it![p]Lacking extensive scientific knowledge, I really on trying and observing. Who knows why, but it seems pretty clear to me that the salt flavoring goes into the meat as well as water. That is based on the brine/rinse/cook/eat method. Even though salt was used only in the brine, and the meat was rinsed well, the presence of salt was detectable throughout the meat.[p]Thanks for the lessons Mike and Spin.[p]NB
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
    Facebook: Dizzy Pig Seasonings
  • MaryMary Posts: 190
    Nature Boy,[p]Ah, so brining does salt the meat. Others claimed it didn't. I'm not thrilled with the idea of salting the meat because I'm not fond of salted meat.[p]I can't remember enough of what I learned those many years ago about just how osmosis works. I think straight salt dries the meat because the salt is hygroscopoic and sucks water out of the cells. Straight salt is caustic to cell membranes.[p]The concentration of salt in water must affect the transfer rates thru the cell walls, and the interstices between cells would be filled with liquid if soaked long enough.[p]Enug musing aobut stuff I can't remember well enuf.[p]Mary
  • MaryMary Posts: 190
    What I wondered about in that article is why wouldn't meat sitting open in the refrigerator for days start to absorb that yucky refrigertor taste?[p]Curing meat used to be done in usually stone buildings made for that purpose. i'm sure the refrigeraotr is suggested to be safe bacteria-wise.[p]Mary

  • BluesnBBQBluesnBBQ Posts: 615
    Mary,[p]I wondered about that too. I'm just doing this as an experiment for now. Maybe I should stick a box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb odors. I guess I'll find out in a few days how well refrigerator curing works. If it ends up nasty, I'll complain to the Post! :) I'm also curious about her idea of aging beef by keeping it uncovered in the refrigerator on a wire rack.
  • Char-WoodyChar-Woody Posts: 2,642
    BluesnBBQ, [p]I would view that with some skeptism, as aging beef is a art in itself, done under strict temperature, and humidity in a special aging room. Usually hanging beef in the halves. Just dragging thru my memorie bank but I think its right at 28 degreesF. Or was that days on the hook?
    Got my curiosity up now.
    A place here in Iowa called Rubes at is the only place I know of that sells aged beef to the consumer.

    [ul][li]Rubes Meats.[/ul]
  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,469
    Awww, come on!
    You still haven't tried it have you!!
    Can't be skeptical til you try it.
    I said the salt was detectable, not overpowering.
    It doesn't taste like a ham. Just lightly salted. Not salty.[p]Mix up a batch of Brant's brine. Chuck a bird in there, and cook it just like that to see what you think. No rub. Nothing. Just Brant's brine. Let me know what you think.[p]Why am I still up working??
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
    Facebook: Dizzy Pig Seasonings
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