Curing and Smoking
Meat curing refers to the production of the characteristic thermally stable pink meat pigment and cured meat flavour by the action of sodium nitrite and other curing agents. Addition of salt, sugar and nitrite / nitrate to meats helps in preservation, colour development and flavour enhancement. The functions of different curing ingredients and adjuncts are as fallows:
Salt: Contributes characteristic flavour to the product. Acts as a preservative and inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Penetrate through meat via osmosis, enhances the transport of nitrate, nitrite and sugar into the muscle.
Sugar: Imparts characteristic flavour to the product. It counteracts the harshness of salt. Sugar provides a source of energy for the bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite during curing. It also helps in improving the acidity (pH) of the cure.
Nitrite (NaNo2) or nitrate (NaNo3): Contributes characteristic pink colour and flavour to the product. Use of nitrite prevents warmed over flavour in reheated products and retards the development of rancidity during storage. It prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum in canned products and provides a bacteriostatic safeguard against mishandling of cured meat. Sodium or potassium nitrite up to 150 mg /kg is incorporated as ingoing amount in cured meat products.
Ascorbates: Ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate and sodium erythorbate hasten colour development in cured meats. The maximum allowable level of ascorbate is 550 mg/ kg. The treatment of cured cuts by spraying with a solution of 5 to 10 % ascorbic acid is very effective in reducing fading of the cured colour under display lighting conditions.
Alkaline phosphates: Food grade polyphosphates are added to meats to increase water holding capacity of muscle proteins and thereby reduce cooking loss (shrinkage) of the product. Approved polyphosphates include sodium pyrophosphate, sodium tripoly phosphate and sodium hexametaphosphate. The finished product shall not contain more than 0.5% of added phosphate.
Water: It is considered as a curing ingredient, when curing is accompanied by immersion curing or by pickle pumping. Water disperses the curing ingredients through out the meat, makes the end product juicier and tender and reduces cost of product. Water incorporated in a product that remains in the final product at the time of sale is termed "added water" and the method to calculate added water is based on the protein fat free (PFF) method.
Protein fat free value = (Percent of meat protein/ 100 Percent fat)× 100