Ribs: Natural vs. Enhanced - BBQ Central

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Old 07-19-2007, 09:29 PM   #1
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Ribs: Natural vs. Enhanced

I was rib shopping the other day and noticed two different kinds of pork ribs. Natural and Enhanced. The enhanced were almost half the price of the natural. I imagine the natural are better, but what exactly do they do the the enhanced ones?

Which do you use? Is the extra money worth getting the natural?
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Old 07-19-2007, 10:37 PM   #2
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They are injected with a salt solution. Some say it gives pork a hammy taste.
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Old 07-19-2007, 11:10 PM   #3
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The meat packers add the salt solution to help the people who cook the hell out of their meat not have such dry meat and to add weight to a smaller cut of meat (they are selling you less for the price of more)
That being said I use non enhanced. I think the meat has a more natural flavor. I also want to control what goes into my meat. I don't want a meat packer doing it for me.
This does not mean that everything you cook that is enhanced is going to turn out like crap. I actually did a butt a few weeks ago that was not to bad. What I did was just cut out all salt in my recipe and rinse off the butt before I started to prep it to get off some of the salt solution. Like I said it was not bad but I would have cooked non ehanced if I had the choice.

Chris
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Old 07-19-2007, 11:20 PM   #4
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Always choose the enhanced models. Thats why they enhance em so they taste mo betta. Hormel is the best. Kroger store brand is second. Tyson and John Morrell come in dead last. Only slightly ahead of the unenhanced models...Swift..IBP from Sams etc. BBQ judges dont like the unenhanced models. Now if you cooking them to eat yourself do it as you choose. Dont bother me none. I'm a backslid raw vegan at heart.

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Old 07-19-2007, 11:26 PM   #5
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I was in Jasper Tx. on vacation a few weeks ago. No one in town had butts or ribs that were not enhanced. I guess it is a regional thing Nick. Every 7-11 in Texas sells briskets. ( kidding )

When I startered paying attention to things like that I noticed that my local Kroger only sells enhanced meat Different things give it away like the phrase Moist and Tender or Self Basting for turkey. If the salt content is only 2-3% that is one thing but pork lables here say " Injected with a solution of up to 12% sodium."

Larry knows a lot about this subject.
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Old 07-20-2007, 05:17 PM   #6
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Old 07-21-2007, 11:43 AM   #7
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With enhancing, it ain't the salt but the phosphates. Well, okay, both. The combination (plus massaging) gets the meat to absorb and hold fluid -- which allows the wholesaler and retailer to sell you water at meat prices. The actual enhancing formulas tend to run pretty close to FAB but with fewer flavor ingredients.

The upside for you is that enhanced meat holds moisture better than natural meat during the cooking process as well.

Personally, I like to control what goes into my meat and I never buy enhanced. If it's gonna be enhanced, than I'm gonna do it. I almost always brine poultry and fish, sometimes brine pork ribs, and usually inject pork butt.

If you want to taste the difference between enhanced and brined without going to any trouble at all, buy a "Butterball" turkey (enhanced) and a kosher turkey (brined) and smoke them both. Kosher poultry is an exception to my "do it myself" rule. That I'll buy.

Hamminess is as hamminess does, I suppose. I associate ham flavor more with overcooking, nitrite/nitrate cure, and over salting more than with proper brining. OTOH, it's not brining unless it's got plenty of salt to "power" the solution. So, there's a concentration and time in brine balance which has to be respected.

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Old 07-21-2007, 03:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze
... The combination (plus massaging) gets the meat to absorb and hold fluid
How does that happen?
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Old 07-21-2007, 11:48 PM   #9
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Scotty,

Good question. The answer isn't completely clear yet.

Without getting too technical, "diffusion" is the process by which several liquids (or gasses or fields or whatnot) mix themselves into a single, fairly homogeneous liquid. When the process occurs across a permeable or semi-permeable barrier it's called "osmosis."

Anyway when you have a salt and/or phosphate differential between meat juices and a brining solution, the fluids "try" to equalize that differential. In that process, as the salt and metallic molecules move from the brining liquid they penetrate the meat. However many of the compounds (solutes) -- including denaturing (as a result of the salt) proteins -- in the meat are too large to pass through whatever barrier(s) hold(s) them in the meat. So the diffusive and/or osmotic pressure builds up and "attempts" to dilute the disparity of solutes by transferring liquid into the meat.

The lack of clarity comes from the lack of any real understanding of the relative importance of osmosis versus simple diffusion. Engineers seem to be enamored with osmosis and insist that most of the action is intracellular. People with actual, strong micro-biology backgrounds are unwilling to commit themselves and tend to advance hypotheses with more taking place between cells than inside them. That is, at least until the heat hits the meat. You can tell from my snide attitude which side I favor, but let's not forget that I'm not qualified to hold an opinion. It's just raw prejudice.

Make sense so far?

Let's backtrack a little. What the hell is a denatured protein? And why should we care? Protein molecules are typically long strands, and in a hunk of muscle, connective tissue, collagen, et alia they're usually wound around one another. When they're exposed to heat the strands shrink and the winding becomes a tight tangle. This is why meat firms when you cook it. If you cook it long enough at a low enough temperature (or cook it to a high enough internal temperature and give it a sufficiently long and gentle rest period) the proteins stretch out and unwind -- that's "denaturing." And it's why barbecued meat can "go past well done and into tender." During the denaturing process the protein knots release moisture whether fat molecules, or plain old "juices" which moisturizes the meat.

So properly cooked barbecue is tender and moist, and we've got to work our asses off to get our techniques "proper." Brining is just another tool in our baterie de cuisine.

I wish I was better at explaining this stuff, but I'm not a science teacher I'm a lawyer. Sorry if I made it more confusing, but that's my gift.

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Old 07-22-2007, 01:19 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sausageman
Actually it turns to gelatin.
Sausageman,

There are a variety of different proteins in meat. "Gelatin" comes from the degradation and reformation of collagen only. Hydrogenation is required to make actual and in fact gelatin from collagen, consequently not all that many actual gelatin molecules are created during normal cooking of pork ribs. Like gelatin, other colloids liquify at temp, and "gel" when cool. During and after cooking, while the meat is still hot these colloids flow through the meat along the muscle strands and lubricate (not moisturize) them. You can recognize their presence in food by the sheen it forms on your lips, and the following desire to "smack" them. I'm glad you brought it up.

Other proteins do not denature as gelatin but remain what they were or form a variety of other secondary compounds.

The released moisture to which I referred was not from protein at all, but from lipids and other fluids bound to protein molecules and released as the molecular surface of the protein molecules changed and became unable to continue "fixing" these liquids.

We're pushing the limits of my expertise pretty hard now. I'll try and stay up with you guys but if we hit the point where I've got to start looking at Wikipedia to write answers... I'll just say so.
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Old 07-22-2007, 07:59 AM   #11
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I love all this denaturing talk.

Makes me smile.

This is the stuff I research constantly for my Q

Have to back it up with science or else it doesn't make sense to do it to your food and while I do believe a lot of Q is touch and feeling science has certainly helped us get better results.
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Old 07-22-2007, 10:57 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burnt Food Dude
Hey Boar! Are you really Alton Brown? All that tech talk.
no, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.
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Old 07-22-2007, 11:11 AM   #13
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Cooking, ideally is a balance between intellectuality, sensuality, and craft; each of the three, plus the balance between them make cooking fun and challenging.

I'm no Alton. I think I'm actually a better and less mechanical cook than Alton. He's very recipe and measurement driven, while I'm more creative. Also, my cooking is more informed by techniques which move easily from dish to dish. A tool-set approach, if you will. OTOH He's a much better teacher than I ever dreamed of being. Plus producer, star, etc. Plus he's managed to make a living out of it. Plus he's younger. Game -- Alton.

I'm glad collagen and gelatin ended up getting so many words. What colloids do is an important part of the barbecue process. Now, everyone following this discussion knows what that feeling on their lips come from when eating brisket, or a good stew. In theory, the more we understand the better able we are to manipulate processes to achieve desired results. If we can make the step to "don't smoke tri-tip to well done because there's no collagen in there" it's worth it

Rich
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Old 07-22-2007, 02:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze
In theory, the more we understand the better able we are to manipulate processes to achieve desired results. If we can make the step to "don't smoke tri-tip to well done because there's no collagen in there" it's worth it

Rich
I really believe in this. Controling as many variables as you can - it can produce better reults.

However I do believe BBQ is also best served with as much love as possible. that isn't a joke to me. Love of the food, the environment, the techniques and an appreciation of the comaraderie and friendship is just as important
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Old 07-22-2007, 02:24 PM   #15
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Diva -- Well said. Thank you. The best moment in cooking comes when your loved one or friend takes that first bite and for a second their faces just dissolve. It's all about giving pleasure.

Rich
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Old 07-24-2007, 06:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris1237
The meat packers add the salt solution to help the people who cook the hell out of their meat not have such dry meat and to add weight to a smaller cut of meat (they are selling you less for the price of more)
That being said I use non enhanced. I think the meat has a more natural flavor. I also want to control what goes into my meat. I don't want a meat packer doing it for me.
This does not mean that everything you cook that is enhanced is going to turn out like crap. I actually did a butt a few weeks ago that was not to bad. What I did was just cut out all salt in my recipe and rinse off the butt before I started to prep it to get off some of the salt solution. Like I said it was not bad but I would have cooked non ehanced if I had the choice.

Chris
Down with "enhanced" pork!!!
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