Food-Grade Sodium Phosphate

sodium phosphate

There is nothing that can make someone give up artisan meat processing more quickly than discovering that upon reheating, their previously good tasting pre-cooked products have picked up a stale flavor i.e. Warmed Over Flavor (WOF).  Equally disheartening, this flavor deterioration can literally take place overnight.  Such changes are caused by fat oxidation and take place more rapidly in softer animal fats.  Fish have the softest (least saturated) fat followed by poultry, hogs, cattle, and sheep & deer.

Cure (sodium nitrite) is akin to the 8th wonder of the world in meat processing.  Cooking uniformly cured meat sets a stable appealing meat color, imparts a unique desirable meat flavor, inhibits the growth of some harmful bacteria and also substantially inhibits fat oxidation/WOF development.  But, like me you may be cutting back on the consumption of nitrite containing products (either “Natural” or conventional) for perceived health reasons.

Food-grade sodium phosphate is used in most commercially produced pre-cooked meat products because it will enhance the emulsifying capacity of raw meat, it increases finished product moisture retention and greatly inhibits WOF development by way of slowing fat oxidation.  Sodium phosphate might also be an ingredient in brines that smart “Barbecue Pit Masters” pump into raw roasts.  Another common BBQ practice is to use a sodium nitrite containing rub on the exposed lean of raw cuts to produce a faux smoke ring upon cooking.

Don’t let the word phosphate immediately turn you off.  Naturally occurring foods that contain fairy high levels of phosphate include: oats, nuts, wheat germ, soy bean products, peas, beans, lentils, corn, mushrooms and cocoa beans.  In the US there is a sodium phosphate limit of 1/2% in the finished product.  Sodium phosphate, for either roasts or sausage processing, can be purchased on-line.  Follow label usage directions.

Other additives or practices that inhibit fat oxidation include: ascorbic acid/erythorbate, Maillard reaction browning, use of fresh starting meat, light exclusion. oxygen exclusion, rosemary, sage, thyme, mace and allspice.  Be aware that non-sterilized herbs/spices can contain bacterial spores that might go vegetative (grow) when added to meat products.  I like to boil spices ahead of time then let them chill before adding to marinates.

Written by George Wolfer

George Wolfer

Been associated with the meat industry pretty much since starting at a Vocational High school Meat Processing program in 1974. Like to learn and teach interesting and worthwhile livestock production, meat processing and marketing practices.

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