Restructured Meat Products
Restructuring technique is used for developing convenience products with texture in between intact steak and a comminuted product. It facilitates to develop more palatable products from different meats. Production of steaks, chops and oven roasts from entire carcasses through disassembling and reforming of the meat into boneless restructured items has received attention due to demand for these products. Basic procedures used are chunking and forming, flaking and forming, tearing and forming and coarse mincing and forming.
Chunking is accompanied by passing meat through a coarse grinder plate, such as a kidney plate or by putting the meat through a dicing machine. The pieces are reduced in size to 3-5 cm cubes. Salt, polyphosphate and other seasoning ingredients are added at this point, and the meat is either mixed or tumbled to extract the myofibrillar proteins. A small amount of a meat emulsion or a non-meat binder could be added before mixing to bind the chunks of meat together.
Chunked and formed meat products may be fresh or cured. Fresh type restructured products are shaped by either stuffing into casings or formed onto meat logs. After pressing and forming, the logs should be frozen immediately and tempered to facilitate slicing using a slicer to desired thickness. Freezing and storage are important steps in maintaining the quality of finished products. Achieving characteristic structure and texture of the original meat cuts is the advantage of restructured products. Careful trimming to remove the excessive amount of fat, sinews and other connective tissues is necessary to maintain quality in the finished product. Modern meat processing techniques such as blade tenderization, flaking and tumbling are employed to improve the product yield, binding, texture and sensory attributes of the products. Care must be exercised in blending meat with salt and phosphate until the batter becomes moderately sticky. Improper mixing results in a loose texture and poor binding of products. Over mixing of meat with other ingredients results in tough, rubbery textured products which are unacceptable. A major disadvantage of these products is their susceptibility to auto oxidation, which is common to all restructured meats that are not cured using either nitrite or nitrate. Addition of antioxidants particularly natural antioxidants in the form of spices will prevent oxidation.
Flaking of meat has been reported to result in lower cooking loss, better binding, improved texture and sensory characteristics in restructured products. Vacuum tumbling enhances yield, binding, cohesiveness and sensory attributes of restructured meat products. Addition of phosphates to restructured products improves the textural properties, sensory attributes and keeping quality. Restructuring helps to make health meat products with high protein and low fat content. Flaked and formed as well as sliced and formed meats are normally used only as fresh products such as steaks, cutlets, chops and roasts. Salt is added generally between 0.5 and 1% and sodium tripolyphosphate is added at 0.25% level. Nitrite/nitrate is not added as these products are not cured. Flaked and formed products are economical than intact cuts and facilitate to make use of lower priced cuts to produce higher value products. In addition have a uniform shape and size that permits better portion control. Restructuring of meat requires expensive equipment and greater labour and also impart problems due to auto oxidation.