In this Lesson we are looking at the range of treatments like Marinades and Rubs that can be applied to meats to enhance the flavour or modify the result.
Brining (wet) Is when meat is submerged in a salty liquid.
The meat absorbs the liquid and the salt.
The salt converts the proteins allowing them to re-form as a gel matrix which holds liquid and prevents it from being driven off during the cooking.
The meat absorbs the liquid and holds it in the modified protein matrix
Click to learn about Wet Brining and Brining Recipes
Probably more correctly described as a Rub, dry brining is salting the food before cooking.
It works in a similar way to Wet Brining.
The salt on the meat surface draws up moisture from the meat and creates a concentrated brine on the surface which is then absorbed into the meat by diffusion, it seasons the meat and creates a moisture holding gel inside the meat.
***When you salt your steak before grilling, you are “Dry Brining”***
Click to learn about dry Brining
Rubs come in many forms, some have sugar, most have salt, herbs and spices as well.
The idea here is to get the benefit of a Dry Brine and leave a layer of flavour on the outside of the meat.
Never “Rub” a Rub, I know that sounds silly, but Rubs should only be dusted on and patted onto the surface, you do not want to break up the surface by scouring it with the abrasive elements in the rub.
Sugar is something to be aware of in a rub, Sugar will start to caramelise (burn) at 160°C (320°F), so be aware of the temperature you are cooking at, if you are grilling or roasting, the sugar will burn! Cooking “Low N Slow” is generally done at temperatures too low for the sugar to burn
Click to learn about Rubs
Marinades are similar to a wet Brine, they differ a little in that most of them are thicker and contain sugars and stronger flavours.
Marinades that tenderise will contain Acid or Enzymes
Click to learn about Marinades
Acids will tenderise meat by denaturing the protein in the muscle fibres
Common examples of acids used in cooking are vinegar, wine and lemon juice
Take care when using Acids, if left long enough they will turn the meat to mush, use sparingly and do not leave food soaking in marinade too long
Enzymes occur naturally in meat and work Post-mortem to break down the structure of meats in the Aging process
Enzymes from other sources can be added to a brine or a marinade to assist or accelerate the breakdown Amino Acids in the proteins.
Common examples of Enzymes used in cooking are papaya, kiwifruit, pineapple, fig and mango, they all contain type of enzyme called a protease
Take care when using Enzymes, if left long enough they will completely change the texture of the meat, eventually they will completely digest the meat, leaving you with an unattractive “soup”.
Cures will contain a Nitrate salt, this compound can come from a natural source (like Celery).
The purpose of a cure is to preserve the meat and provide a greater shelf life.
The process also sets the Myoglobin (the red pigment in meat), so the meat remains red or pink after cooking instead of turning grey.
***The presence of nitrates is what develops the “Smoke Ring”***
There is Wet Ageing (in a Vacuum sealed bag) and Dry Ageing (uncovered).
With both Wet and Dry Ageing, the enzymes in the meat begin to break down the meat fibres and this softens the meat.
The meat is vacuum sealed in a bag and stored in the fridge.
Meat that is wet aged can have a metallic smell when removed from the bag, this will dissipate if left to breathe for a while,
Some people will wash the meat with vinegar to seduce the initial smell.
Wet ageing is good for up to 120 days so long as the integrity of the bag is not compromised, that said, I never go more than 90 days.
The meat is stored uncovered in refrigeration, often the refrigeration will have a method of moving the air and sanitising it.
The exterior of the meat dries, there is considerable moisture loss during the process as the meat fibres breakdown and the flavours concentrate and get a bit “funky”. The dry exterior is discarded before the meat is cooked.
The time and moisture loss increases the price of Dry Aged meat.
Some restaurants will Dry Age 300 days and more.
Smoking has long been used as a preserving technique.
The process of smoking also adds flavour and is often used to add that something extra to foods.
Sometimes when people refer to Smoking they actually mean US Style Low N Slow BBQ
Click to learn about Smoking or Low N Slow