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Meats Touching Meats in Curing Brine

By pops6927, Mar 21, 2015 | |
  1. A question I often get is if it is ok for meats to touch other meats while curing in brine.  The short answer is yes, it is fine.  At my dad's store, we cured meats (beef with beef, pork with pork, poultry with poultry, never mixing species) in 55 gallon poly barrels.  We'd stack the meats in them, then fill with brine, then put a 5 gal. poly water jug on top to weigh down so nothing floated above the brine.

    For an example, my younger son brought me some buck board bacon he'd cured in a Rubbermaid tub for me to smoke in my smokehouse.  This is a posting I wrote up on it:

    http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/...bacon-and-red-spots-on-cured-meat#post_771341

    From the posting:

    Youngest son came over a week and a half ago with a pork butt and he boned it out, split it and butterflied the clods and made up his brine, putting it in a 2.5 gal. Rubbermaid container and into the back fridge.  

    Today is the day to smoke, so I wanted to document the curing portion and a question I often get; rotating the meat.

    You do not have to alter the position of the meat once it is immersed in the brine.  The parts that touch one another are still getting fully cured through the meat; the brine immersion still allows the brine to seep into the meat even though the surfaces are touching.  Here is the container as it has sat in the fridge from the day it was put in there; no agitation, movement or shaking of it at all


    Here it is with the top off:


    With the bag removed:


    OMG!  What are the blood red areas?  .....

    Well, all they are, are the areas that the bag touched.  The first stage of meat is deoxymyoglobin, where the meat is a purplish color as it isn't exposed to oxygen.  2nd stage is oxymyoglobin, where it is exposed to oxygen and turns a bright red color.  Third stage is metmyoglobin where the meat turns brown.  This occurs naturally through age, but with the infusion of sodium nitrite, it occurs within a minute or two once exposed to the air, just a chemical reaction to the sodium nitrite.  So does that mean that the meat did not cure?  Well, kinda-sorta but not really - only the surface area a few microns thick did not turn brown, but it was because the surface did not get a chance to oxidize and turn brown.  It still cured totally; it just didn't get a chance to turn color because the bag laid on it!  So, the assumption is that the meat never got to cure, but it did, it just didn't get a chance to turn it's nice ugly brown color is all!  I've said that a couple times now, haven't I?  Oh well... lol!

    So, now it's time to hang it in the smoke house and fire it up... it's 22 here this morning.. brrrr... for Texas!  But, it fired up fine and smoke is a rollin'...



    Now, just checked the temp for the first time, and we're within 10 degrees... at 140°!


    Isn't that a wonderful color?  Corn cob pellets and maple pellets on top!  

    Edited by Pops6927 - 12/14/14 at 5:15pm View History

    Pops §§  [​IMG]

    About Me!-Smokehouse-Wet Curing Brine-Leg to Ham-Orig Bacon Ona Stick-Breakf Saus-B.S. Seas-Cured Turkey-Corn Cobs-Orig Dried Beef-Naked Dixee Chx-Chix CutUp-Salt Potatoes-Cold Smoke Chs-Lo-Salt Turkey-YAWYE-Chx Skin-Brine Needle-Curing Salt-Ham Bags-BuckBoard-BP Biscuits-Butcher's Knot-Sausage Prep-Son's BBB-ANSI-MiniFridge-Graduation-POBx-Search-Stuffing-Qview-4turkey-Chris Smoke-Easter-Beef Needle-V Ribs-LS Cure Brine-CCpellets-Smoked Chs-Piggy-Buffet-Picnic-Can Bacon-PkPic-MknBcn-Party

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    post #2 of 37

    2/12/12 at 1:26pm

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    Color of Fresh Meat: The Basics


    The information from the above post was taken from the source below and is in the public domain:

    Posted on 
    23. September. 2009  by Chris Raines

    By Christopher R. Raines

    The color of fresh meat is considered one of the most influential factors related to fresh meat purchasing decisions.  To many consumers, it can be a troubling thing, to go to the self-serve retail meat case and see one steak that is a bright, cherry-red color (packaged on a tray and wrapped in film) and right beside it is a dull, purple appearing steak (packaged in vacuum).  Why the color difference? Even if those two steaks were cut from the same loin, they can appear very differently.

    The reason for this apparent difference is probably due to how the meat was packaged.  In order for meat to “bloom” (meat industry jargon for turning from purple to red), exposure of the primary pigment in meat (myoglobin) to oxygen is needed (*meat color is a super-complicated thing; for now, let’s presume oxygen is the only substance that can cause meat to bloom; I’ll delve into others in later entries).  Thus, if fresh meat (“fresh meat” meaning steaks, chops, ground beef, etc. — not salami, bacon, ham…) is packaged in a way that lets it contact oxygen (this is how most meat in self-serve meat cases are packaged), or displayed fresh at the meat counter, it should look red.  Problematically, once the steak is cut and exposed to air, oxidation (going rancid or “off”) may begin.  To mitigate oxidative deterioration and essentially keep meat fresher longer, there is vacuum packaging (some folks use the blanket term “Cryovac” in lieu of vacuum), in which meat is packaged without oxygen, and thus the fresh meat would appear a dull, purplish color.  Vacuum packaging is pretty handy – take the air away, and meat will keep (frozen orrefrigerated) longer.

    Below is an illustration of the relationships among different states of myoglobin in fresh meat:

    [​IMG]
    Forms of myoglobin, adapted from Mancini & Hunt, 2005

    There is a lot happening in this diagram! (1) Let’s start with DEOXYMYOGLOBIN in the upper left, which appears purplish.  This is the color of meat when myoglobin is in its native state, or immediately after cutting and before blooming.  For example, purple is the color of meat in the middle of a steak (i.e., When you cut across a raw, fresh steak that’sred on the surface, it should be purple in the middle.  If you let the steak sit for a bit exposed to air, that color will change, or bloom, to cherry red.)  (2) In the presence of oxygen (better referred to as oxygenation), fresh meat blooms and turns its characteristicred color.  This form of myoglobin is called OXYMYOGLOBIN.  After prolonged exposure to oxygen, (3) we then have METMYOGLOBIN, which appears brown.  If you’ve ever been to the grocery and see brown spots on the “Reduced for Quick Sale” fresh meats, those superficial blemishes are METMYOGLOBIN.  (Those little brown spots may not look appealing, but may not mean the meat is not safe to eat after cooking.  However, if you’veany reason to believe it’s not safe – such as smells spoiled - don’t eat it!)  After the meatoxygenates and turns red, it will eventually oxidize and turn brown.

    Getting into the chemistry of the matter, the state of the iron in myoglobin (the heme pigment – this is the iron than makes red meat “high in iron”) is a determining factor to fresh meat color.  DEOXYMYOGLOBIN and OXYMYOGLOBIN contains iron in the ferrous (Fe 2+) state and METMYOGLOBIN contains iron in the ferric (Fe 3+) state.    Let’s dig deeper into this ferrous/ferric business…

    Electron management is the key to meat color management. As outlined above, the difference between desirable, red fresh meat and undesirable, brown meat is oneelectron.  Yep, one. Follow the arrows in the diagram, and you can see how the different color forms relate to each other.  A classic example of these color dynamics in action that you may have observed yourself are the different colors of beef present in one ground beef vacuum chub.  Meat may look red or purple on the outside, but have a brown, muddyappearance in the middle.  That’s totally okay — look above at the color cycles.  The red(bloomed) ground beef was put into a vacuum package, and before it turns purple, it turnsbrown.  Since the beef has gone through this natural color cycle a few times (from purpleto red to brown to purple…), the enzymes in the meat that allow for this cycle to continue are worn out (those guys tucker out pretty quickly and easily).  Thus, the meat may stop atbrown and stay there. That’s just how the color dynamics work — it does not necessarily mean the beef has gone bad.

    I’m working an entry as to why cooked beef color is not a good indicator of doneness, and why a meat thermometer should be used to ensure that any ground meat is cooked to 16o°F.  (UPDATED: cooked ground beef color post here)  There’s another thing happening in the upper right of the myoglobin color forms diagram —CARBOXYMYOGLOBIN.  I’ve left that out of the color dynamics explanation for now, but will address it soon.  (UPDATED:  Carboxymyoglobin post here)

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    Pops §§  [​IMG]

    About Me!-Smokehouse-Wet Curing Brine-Leg to Ham-Orig Bacon Ona Stick-Breakf Saus-B.S. Seas-Cured Turkey-Corn Cobs-Orig Dried Beef-Naked Dixee Chx-Chix CutUp-Salt Potatoes-Cold Smoke Chs-Lo-Salt Turkey-YAWYE-Chx Skin-Brine Needle-Curing Salt-Ham Bags-BuckBoard-BP Biscuits-Butcher's Knot-Sausage Prep-Son's BBB-ANSI-MiniFridge-Graduation-POBx-Search-Stuffing-Qview-4turkey-Chris Smoke-Easter-Beef Needle-V Ribs-LS Cure Brine-CCpellets-Smoked Chs-Piggy-Buffet-Picnic-Can Bacon-PkPic-MknBcn-Party

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    post #3 of 37

    2/12/12 at 2:00pm


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    Looks great Pops!

    This may be a silly question, but what is the bag for?

    Thanks.

    If God didn't want us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?

    2 Weber 22",

    1 UDS
    Weber Smokey Joe

    Hibachi
    Turkey Fryer,Outdoor Wok,Grand Cafe Gas grill,Kotal,

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    post #4 of 37

    2/12/12 at 2:04pm

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    Now, the BB Bacon is finished!  Let's examine the exteriors:

    Before, piece 1:


    After, piece 1:


    Before, piece 2:


    After, piece 2:


    Now, I've cut the smaller piece right where the bright red was:


    and, voila, cured all the way through!


    MMmmm, now doesn't that just look good?!

    Thanks for looking!

    Pops §§  [​IMG]

    About Me!-Smokehouse-Wet Curing Brine-Leg to Ham-Orig Bacon Ona Stick-Breakf Saus-B.S. Seas-Cured Turkey-Corn Cobs-Orig Dried Beef-Naked Dixee Chx-Chix CutUp-Salt Potatoes-Cold Smoke Chs-Lo-Salt Turkey-YAWYE-Chx Skin-Brine Needle-Curing Salt-Ham Bags-BuckBoard-BP Biscuits-Butcher's Knot-Sausage Prep-Son's BBB-ANSI-MiniFridge-Graduation-POBx-Search-Stuffing-Qview-4turkey-Chris Smoke-Easter-Beef Needle-V Ribs-LS Cure Brine-CCpellets-Smoked Chs-Piggy-Buffet-Picnic-Can Bacon-PkPic-MknBcn-Party

    Perfect example of meat touching meat while curing, with no visible negative results after smoking!  We also did a lot of custom curing and smoking after cutting up farmers' hogs.  We'd pack the barrels with all cuts of pork that the farmers wanted (we would brand the hides to identify the farmer's meats) in barrels as tight as possible, then fill with brine, and they all cured evenly and properly.  No stirring, no massaging, no agitating, just let sit and cure.  Of course, we would top off each barrel with fresh brine each week or as necessary, but other than that, no other action required.

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  1. daveomak
    It's not necessary, but a more uniform product may be achieved by overhauling....
    From the FSIS manual...   Definitions section....
    Overhauling.  The process of transferring meat or poultry from one curing vat to another and then pouring the original curing solution over the meat or poultry when it is in the second vat. This process insures a more uniform cure by mixing the curing solution and exposing individual pieces to the curing solution at a different location in the curing vat.