Tips for successful marination of poultry meat

Choosing theright marinades and using a combination of injection and tumbling can result inimproved flavor, tenderness and yield of poultry meats.

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Tumbling provides an easy way to add external spices, herbs or coatings for exterior product appeal.
Tumbling provides an easy way to add external spices, herbs or coatings for exterior product appeal.

Successfully adding further-processed value to poultry starts with the quality of the meat and can include the addition of marinades through a variety of methods, including soaking, massaging, injection and tumbling.

Understanding and working with basic meat chemistry is the first step in successful marination in the further processing plant, according to J. Byron Williams, Ph.D.,  a ssistant extension and research professor of muscle foods, in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, Mississippi State University.

After that, the application of marinades can produce improved flavor, tenderness and yield of poultry meats.

Improved taste and visual appeal

Speaking at the 2013 Poultry Processor Workshop, Williams said the  bottom-line is  this: " It better look good and taste even better!"

Choosing the right marinades and using a combination of injection and tumbling can result in improved flavor, tenderness and yield of poultry meats, he said.

Additionally, tumbling provides an easy way to add external spices, herbs and coatings for exterior product appeal.

Water-holding capacity crucial to further-processed quality

There are meat quality effects on marinades, he said, and the effectiveness of most liquid marination systems depends on the raw meat's water-holding capacity.

The two most important things in processed meats or cuts of meat that are marinated:

  • The further processor must start with functional meat protein (raw material)
  • Salt and phosphate are essential for protein extraction and consistency in tenderness and juiciness

"If you have poor meat quality to begin with, it will be difficult for salt and phosphate to improve water-holding capacity and tenderness," he warned. The result is that it is difficult (almost impossible) to improve product quality when working with poor quality meats.

When starting with good meat quality, however, the salt, phosphate, and other ingredients that are within marinades can improve juiciness, tenderness, and flavor.

Doubling of marination methods

"If the poultry meat product allows, consider using a combination of injection and then tumbling," Williams said.

The combination of the two methods of marination offers the following advantages:

  • Time (optimal process and cure time)
  • Volume (greater volume)
  • Maximum yield
  • Texture improvement
  • Precise control of added ingredients

Tips for injecting solutions, marinades

The most common and most important ingredients in marinades and enhancement solutions are salt, phosphates, water, flavoring ingredients and antimicrobials.

Williams offered the following tips related to solutions/marinades and their injection:

  • Use the proper phosphate and dissolve it in cold water prior to addition of other curing ingredients, especially salt.
  • Keep the solution/pickle/marinade agitated and cold while injecting
  • Inject the cold pickle/solution close to desired percentage gain (maybe slightly under if tumbling after injection)

Tumbling and re-tumbling

His tips for the tumbling of poultry meat included the following:

  • Add solution to tumbler to bring up to desired/allowed gain (maximum of 3 percent to 5 percent)
  • Tumble temperature ranges from a recommended 40 F to 450 F
  • Intermittent vacuum tumbling
  • After tumbling for the desired time and if the product sits for several hours, re-tumble for a few minutes prior to stuffing, etc. This results in improved pliability.

Monitor ingredients and water

Tips for solutions/marinades included:

  • Be careful with the application of ingredients that alter pH (especially acid marinades)
  • Monitor water quality. It is an often overlooked factor in final product quality.

Marination increases customer satisfaction

There are customer benefits for marinated poultry products:

  • Increased tenderness
  • Increased moisture retention in the poultry product
  • Enhanced flavor from less purge and less cooking loss
  • Improved taste
  • Improved appearance (more consistent color)
  • Uniformity of salt/marinade/seasoning flavor levels throughout the product
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