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Meat Ripening – Basic Knowledge

Aging or ripening meat is an important culinary preparation of raw meat for further cooking.

The right approach to it allows you to get a high-quality product with optimal organoleptic properties, which will be an ideal basis for steaks, meat stew, boiled pork, boiled pork, broths, etc.

What you should know about the ripening of meat?

Firstly, we will define the concepts. So, ripening is a process of aging meat raw materials, aimed primarily at softening muscle tissue in it, changing chemical and physical properties, namely density, taste, color and smell, as well as water-holding qualities. The scientific name for this process is autolysis.
Stages of ripening meat
Autolysis proceeds in several stages:

1. Fresh meat
2. rigor mortis
3. The end of rigor mortis. Maturation.

The stages flow smoothly into one another and have their own characteristics, having become acquainted with which we will understand the gastronomic value of aged meat.
1. Fresh meat.
The meat is considered paired for a short time after slaughter. For poultry, this period is 30 minutes, for beef and pork – no more than 4 hours. Fresh meat is characterized by a dense, moist consistency, the absence of a pronounced meat smell and taste. A broth from such raw materials is unclear with a faint aroma. The pH level of quality fresh meat is 7.2 units.

2. Start of change. Rigor.
This period begins 3-4 hours after slaughter and reaches its peak after 24-48 hours, at a temperature of 0-4 ° C. The meat at this stage is notable for its rigidity and low water-holding properties, and the pH level gradually decreases towards acidity. For the sample, the meat is dry with a characteristic sourish flavor.

3. The end of rigor mortis. Maturation.
Acid accumulating in the previous stages in meat softens muscle tissue, and it loses elasticity. A noticeable decrease in stiffness is observed after 5-7 days at 0-4 ° C, reaching optimal values ​​after 25-30 days. Taste and aromatic characteristics reach their optimum on average after 2 weeks, subsequently remaining at this level unchanged. The moisture-retaining properties of meat also increase.

The ripening speed of the product depends on its type, as well as on the age of the animal – the meat of old animals changes more slowly than the meat of young animals.

Dry and Wet Meat

To date, two main methods of ripening meat are known and successfully used, namely:
– wet exposure;
– dry exposure.

Wet meat
This method has appeared relatively recently. For its implementation, the product is placed in a vacuum plastic bag, where it is aged without air from several days to 4 weeks. At the same time, the raw materials practically do not lose weight, losing only 5% moisture. The final product becomes very soft, juicy and tender. Almost 90% of raw meat in the world is prepared in a wet way.

Dry meat
This method has been known for a long time and is used almost everywhere. It is aimed at evaporating moisture and softening connective tissue as a result of fermentation. The meat is placed in special chambers (and previously in the basement) and aged at a special temperature and humidity. After 15-30 days, it reaches the optimum degree of aging, gets a wonderful rich taste and delicate texture. In this case, the raw material significantly loses weight – up to 20-30% of the original. The dried upper edge of the dry-seasoned meat piece requires cutting, which also reduces the mass of the product. These features increase the final cost, and meat after dry aging is very rarely found on the market, and is used in restaurants and steakhouses.

Process automation and meat processing equipment

If the ripening technology is violated, the meat may deteriorate. To prevent this from happening indoors it is important to maintain an optimal microclimate. However, under normal conditions this is quite difficult to achieve.

Modern manufacturers of kitchen equipment offer their solution – cabinets for ripening meat (chambers for ripening meat). This equipment was created specifically to create the necessary temperature and humidity conditions for the exposure of raw materials. Managing such devices is quite simple, because all the important points are already programmed and the stages will replace each other in automatic mode. Cabinets are equipped with thermostats, which, depending on the model, maintain a temperature in the range from -7 to + 4C °.

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