Does salt dry out the meat?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does salt dry out the meat” with an in-depth analysis of the reason why salt dries out the meat. Moreover, we are going to discuss what curing is and the difference between curing and brining.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Does salt dry out the meat?

So the salt does dry out the meat and this is the very reason behind the preservation of meat using the process of curing. So the process that drives the water out of the meat while curing is “osmosis” or more preferably “plasmolysis”. 

So in the case of meat, when it is salted, the solute (salt) concentration is more on the surface of the meat as compared to the inside (cells) of meat. Thus the outside is hypertonic as compared to the cells of the meat. Thereby the cells lose their water content and the meat dries out. 

What is osmosis?

Osmosis is the process in which the solvent moves from a point of lower solute concentration to a point of higher solute concentration. The process of osmosis maintains the solute-solvent balance throughout the semi-permeable membranes and this process also plays an important role in the body of living organisms.

What is curing?

Curing is the process that is used to preserve meat like chicken, turkey, beef, etc. This process is carried out by using salt which helps in driving the water out of the meat, thereby decreasing the moisture content of the meat.

As we all know that bacteria and microbes need moisture and a particular temperature to grow on the meat. So the meat that is devoid of its moisture won’t provide a suitable environment for the microbes to grow onto. Therefore the bacterial growth will be halted and the meat that has been cured lasts for a very long time.

What are the different types of curing?

There are two main types of curing

  1. Salting
  2. Nitrate / Nitrite curing

Does curing change the taste of the meat?

Yes, the process of curing not only dries the meat out but also changes the overall taste profile of the meat. The cured meat has a more intense flavor than regular meat. 

Does curing change the texture of the meat?

Yes, curing does change the texture of the meat and makes it drier and firmer as the cured meat has lost its moisture content to a great extent.

What is the difference between curing and brining?

Curing is essentially the process that is used to preserve meat for a very long time while on the other hand bringing is the process that is used to make the meat juicier and to add some extra flavor to it.

In curing, we coat the meat with a large amount of salt and afterward, keep it aside for approximately 24 hours or more so that the water comes out of the meat, thereby drying it. While bringing we immerse the meat in the water with a little salt, and some herbs added to it.

In curing the process of plasmolysis sets in. Plasmolysis is the process in which the cells lose their water content in a hypertonic solution. So when you add a lot of salt to your meat, what happens is that the cells of meat lose their water content and thereby the meat dries out. Plasmolysis is a special type of osmosis.

While in the case of brining, again the process of osmosis sets in, but as the outer environment is hypotonic in case of brining (salt is added in a lot of water) so instead of losing water, the cells of meat soak in the water and therefore the meat becomes juicier and tender after brining. 

You can read about different food preservation techniques here.

When is the best time to salt your food?

So when it comes to cooked dishes like those gravies, soups, or other slow-cooked dishes, it is better if you add the salt during the cooking process. This way salt will have enough time to interact with the whole of the food uniformly. If you add the salt to the food at the time of eating it, it will give you that sudden saltish taste but you will not have an even salty taste throughout your whole dish.

Moreover what is the best time to add salt to the food depends mainly on the type of food that you are cooking or eating. For instance, in the case of the cooked meats, it is recommended to add salt at the beginning of the cooking process while for the saute vegetables, it is better if you add the salt at the end if you want that crunch to be present in your saute vegetables. Adding salt, in the beginning, can result in soggy vegetables as the salt drains out the water from the vegetables.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “does salt dry out the meat” with an in-depth analysis of the reason why salt dries out the meat. Moreover, we discussed what curing is and the difference between curing and brining.

Citations

https://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/25/dining/chefs-who-salt-early-if-not-often

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Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.

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