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VIDEO- Dr. Greg Blonder: "The Magic Of Salt: So Vital, And So Misunderstood" (53 mins)

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    Mhalbrook honestly I'm not sure. I'll pass this question along. If you do find an answer in the meantime please post so we can all benefit from it.


      I finally got around to watching this, great information. In regards to the meatloaf, this explains why my meatloaf has been so dense, I thought it was because i was over working the meat which I may be doing as well. However you mentioned a bit about using bread crumbs or not using them. Would you care to elaborate on the meatloaf recipe or method? I have been using a 2lbs to 1 lb ground spicy pork recipe where I spread my beef out on a baking sheet, salting AND putting herbs/spices in there in order to get flavor throughout, then mixing up with 1 cup bread crumbs, 2 eggs and then forming the loaf. Sometimes I split into two loaves but last time I made a large 3 lb loaf but it was very very dense.


      • Jerod Broussard
        Jerod Broussard commented
        Editing a comment
        I forwarded this to Doc Blonder....

        Working ground meat releases a protein called Myosin that makes it super sticky. We encounter this when making sausage and preparing a patty to taste test our recipe.
        Last edited by Jerod Broussard; April 3, 2015, 06:55 PM.

      • docblonder
        docblonder commented
        Editing a comment
        Three mistakes will cause meatloaf to become as dense as a brick: too much salt, overworking, and overcooking. The last factor is pretty common- think of meatloaf as one big hamburger, which is done around 160F. Don't use time, use a thermometer!

        You can help meatloaf remain tender by breaking up the meat curds with another moist ingredient. For example ground veggies, or a panade, which is milk-moistened breadcrumbs.

        My favorite ground veggie recipe is courtesy of The Silver Palate:

        I know, I know....not another meatloaf recipe. I thought the same thing until I made this one. OMG, it was so delicious and well worth the extra work.

        And there are many panade recipes on the web-- try this:

      • TheeMikeB
        TheeMikeB commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, I think mine is a combo if the salt and overworking. I have a thermapen and always use temp not time. THanks for the recipe links, i'll try those.

      Concerning the amount of salt to use per pound of meat ...how much, if any, compensation is taken into account for shrinkage and bone weight in a cut like Beef Short Ribs?


      • docblonder
        docblonder commented
        Editing a comment
        Turns out salt penetrates bone. Chicken bone is very porous, so it absorbs salt about as fast as chicken meat. Big thick beef bones absorb salt more slowly. But, the deep flavor of short rib can benefit from more salt, and more liquid oozes out, removing salt. So I would start with 1/2 tsp kosher salt/ lb including bone, and see if you prefer more or less.
        Last edited by docblonder; April 30, 2015, 12:12 PM.

      • TheCountofQ
        TheCountofQ commented
        Editing a comment

      TCQ I had typed up the following response a week ago but for whatever reason my reply did not post. It was still in this reply box when I navigated to the page. Dr B and I are in agreement.

      "Shrinkage is taken into consideration so no need to worry about that. Bone actually absorbs salt, but not as readily as meat, so I would give a little consideration to the bone and reduce the salt a bit. Trial and error is your friend!"


      • docblonder
        docblonder commented
        Editing a comment
        Yup, kosher. Also fixed in original post-- thanks.

      • TheCountofQ
        TheCountofQ commented
        Editing a comment
        Oh ya, I love experimenting with methods I've never tried before. Especially when it turns out well.

        My above comment stopped short of saying "so it's more like a wife than friend", and adding a smiley face.

        I had cut back to 1/4tsp Kosher on my last Short Rib experiment, and definitely think it needed more. My first run, I didn't actually measure the salt, but put it on pretty heavy and dry brined about 16 hours. Those were much better than the second run, just a little bit salty, but exploding with beefy flavor also. I'll step it up on the next run and see how it turns out. Getting the probes calibrated today is gonna help too, as they were all showing lower than actual and vaying temps, which helps to explain why the first batch, which I pulled 190ish+ were so much better than the ones I pushed to 203 in a very long 2nd stall (or so I thought at the time).
        Last edited by TheCountofQ; April 30, 2015, 06:09 PM. Reason: grammar, etc

      • David Parrish
        David Parrish commented
        Editing a comment
        Keep us posted TCQ

      -Magic of Salt(video)
      • MSG=flavor enhancer, but does not have an inherent flavor.
      • Salt=flavor enhancer, but salt also has an inherent flavor.
      -Wet vs Dry brining *genuineideas.com
      • Unsalted chicken breast more fibrous but tasted more chickeny.
      • Salted chicken breasts, best if soaked in bbq sauce or served next day.
      • If immediately sliced on a salad, flavor is too bland for my taste.
      Ideally a chicken breast would have the following characteristics
      • Moisture retention benefits of salt-bound.
      • Yet, still convey a chickeny flavor.
      In order to achieve the ideal chicken breast above,
      Is there a salt/MSG ratio you would recommend?
      Is an MSG only brine minus salt possible?
      I have read that going above 0.5%(MSG) might impart a metallic flavor.
      Last edited by amateur.cook; November 6, 2015, 10:36 AM.


        Dr. Blonder:

        Thanks for the valuable information!

        I have two questions about dry brining:

        1) At what temperature should dry brining be attempted? I have heard that some meats, like steaks, should be brought to room temperature before being salted. For one thing, it helps to have the meat at a more uniform temperature (no temp gradient, outside to inside) so that there is a more uniform cooking. Does a room temp brining significantly increase the diffusion rate of the salt? . . . and is this a good trade-off with food safety?

        2) Should the dry brining be done in bag to prevent the drying out of the surface of the meat, which I assume would inhibit the disolving of the salt and therefore its penetration? Or is the effect of surface drying insignificant?

        BTW, after retiring from a high tech career, I took up commercial craft beer brewing. I am struck with the similarities that there are with the pusuit of a perfectly BBQ'd meat. In the craft brewing industry, the emphasis has been on the art of brewing but recently the science of brewing has become increasingy important as brewing myths are dispelled. The art of brewing is invaluable when it comes to developing new flavor profiles, but the science is making it possible to produce the beer with consistent quality. As a technologist, I can really appreciate this . . . and I can really appreciate what you are doing to dispell myths and augment the art of BBQing with good science. Thanks again.


          Hi Wooly

          I'm just a student of the arts but I've garnered much from this resource. Therefore, I'd like to contribute where possible. The late Judy Rodgers was a proponent of salting. You're not far from San Francisco, the roast chicken is testament to her belief in dry brining. While her cookbook is not expressive in Dr.Blonders technical terms, it's a good read.

          However, genuineideas.com is the only way to objectively take your research to the next level. I would strongly advise a thorough analytical interpretation from your given perspective. It's only through comparative reading of all articles, will you truly begin to appreciate the depth of information available.

          Diffusion is molecular movement over time, a higher temperature results in an increase in molecular movement. For example, ice cold water may inhibit diffusion altogether, such water should be cool. I emailed Dr.Blonder with regard to manipulating the rate of diffusion. Dr.Blonder "One could gently heat to 100°F in high humidity to speed up diffusion, without drying out the meat. Then cook at high heat to finish. Might go in 5-10x faster. Tenderizing enzymes will also speed up their activity"

          As your question is specific to beef, the above mentioned enzymes are worth noting. Calpains and cathepsins begin to lose activity at 105°F and 120°F respectively. Below this temperature range, the enzymes are most active at higher temperatures. At 100°F, you would increase the rate of diffusion, while the hyperactive enzymes would impart the simultaneous benefits of accelerated aging.


          • Wooly
            Wooly commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for the input. I assumed that the salt diffusion rate would increase at an elevated temperature (elevated above frig temp). However, I also assumed that this elevated temp would accelerate surface bacterial growth . . . but then, I didn't know if the salt would simultaneously discourage the growth of bacteria. I was hoping for a net positive. It is probably wise to play it safe and brine longer at frig temps.


          If bacterial growth was not an issue, you would dry brine around 100F to speed up the process (maybe by 3x). That temperature also activates enzymes which help tenderize meat. But its square in the danger zone for microbial contamination, so we are stuck at fridge temps. However, for thinner cuts, you can dry brine in a sous vide bag around 135F for an hour or two, then finish on the grill.

          For a steak, I usually dry brine uncovered, because the dry surface browns more completely on the grill. The salt will penetrate before the surface dries out. But for chicken or brisket and ribs I rub on the salt and then wrap the tray with saran. Especially for the smoker, where you want a moist surface to help attract and adhere smoke flavor.

          Many people are brewing with grain that has been lightly smoked....


          • Wooly
            Wooly commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks Dr. Blonder.

            Since bacterial growth is a concern, I think I'll just brine longer at refrigerator temperatures . . . enzyme activation be damned!

            Your advice on when to brine covered and uncovered makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

            Yes, we brew a smoked porter using malted and smoked grains. It is fantastic. I have at least a dozen colleauges at the brewery who are avid BBQers. We all believe that craft beer is the most perfect complement to great BBQ . . . or is it the other way around?

            I put together the following cheat sheet from the info that you shared . . . and I am putting it out there for others. If I got anything wrong, please correct me.


            WHY BRINE:
            - salt flavors the meat
            - salt helps the meat to retain moisture
            - salt enhances other flavors (e.g., salted caramels taste sweeter)

            - use a sprinkle of kosher salt just before serving the meat as a flavor enhancer
            - use either Kosher salt or regular table salt when dry brining since the grain size will not make a significant difference in how quickly the salt dissolves and penetrates

            DO NOT:
            - brine with anything other than salt since sugar and spices will not penetrate (diffuse) into the meat given their relatively large molecular/particle size
            - use salt in the dry rub that will be applied 1-2 hours before you start your grilling/BBQing
            - don't mix salt into your ground meat since it will make the meat dense

            WHAT to DRY-BRINE:
            - meats that benefit from low and slow cooking (e.g., BBQ)
            - thick cuts of steak and roasts that are cooked relatively fast and hot

            HOW to DRY-BRINE:
            - the target salinity is about 1/2% salt by weight
            - this salinity translates to:
            - 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt per pound of meat
            - 1/4 tsp of table salt (fine granules) per pound of meat
            - no need to exclude the weight of bones since they absorb their share of salt
            - distribute salt evenly on all surfaces
            - if dry brining a steak, there is no need to cover the meat to avoid evaporation
            - any meat that will be smoked should be covered during dry brining to keep the surface moist so that smoke flavors are attracted

            WHEN to DRY-BRINE:
            - up to 24 hrs ahead when doing a very thick steak, brisket or roast
            - 1 inch thick steak: 4-8 hours
            - 1/2 inch thick steak: 2-4 hours

            WHY WET-BRINE:
            - to more evenly distribute salt over the meat and into interior cavities, like poultry
            - to add water/moisture to the meat . . . but beware, this moisture will be lost unless you are quickly cooking the meat at a relatively high temp and then reaching a relatively low meat temp (e.g., chicken breast at 160F)
            - the downside of wet-brining is that you will cause a longer stall period that will then cause a less developed bark/crust

            WHAT TO WET-BRINE:
            - thin cuts of chicken and fish where the cooking is hot and fast
            - do not over salt . . . 30 minutes of brine time should be sufficient.
            - with shellfish, you can brine with more than salt because some of the non-salt flavors will penetrate the flesh

            HOW to WET-BRINE:
            - 6% salt (by weight)
            - use only salt since sugar and spices will not penetrate the meat

            WHY INJECT-BRINE:
            - when you want to quickly brine a meat to save time (e.g., a shortcut)
            - do not inject-brine any meat that you will not cook to a temp above 160F because injection will push surface bacteria into the meat's interior where it will not be killed (e.g., do not inject brine into a streak that will be cooked to less than well-done)

            HOW to INJECT-BRINE:
            - measure out the 1/2 tsp of salt per pound of meat and dissolve that into water
            - do not you use a 6% brine solution, you else you will over salt the meat!
            - use a small needle and inject whilst withdrawing the needle

          Wooly, you would save a lot of time if you were to learn from my mistakes, I've made enough. I think you're taking the wrong approach.

          Serious eats, chef steps and various online resources create recipes and guidelines. There are so many variables, it's impossible for the home cook to replicate the same process to a tee. If one variable is missing, the outcome is ruined and the amateur cook doesn't know what went wrong.

          Genuine ideas is not advocating any particular guideline or recipe. It's just empirical evidence aligned to fundamental concepts. Besides, everybody has their own version of perfection. Such knowledge will empower you to achieve your idea of perfection on your terms. It takes a lot more work than following recipes but it's worth it.


            Wonderful video -- many thanks Doc and Meathead. I have a question about salting that may be on the site, but haven't seen, so here goes. What is the impact of applying a light coating of oil (veggie or olive) on a hunk o' meat and then applying salt vs. no oil?


            • ecully
              ecully commented
              Editing a comment
              ​I've been doing it so long, I don't really remember. I think I thought it would help with juiciness (hangs head in shame...). I have stopped that practice and thank y'all for the great info. This website has truly changed my life... Thanks

            • David Parrish
              David Parrish commented
              Editing a comment
              Keep on smokin ecully. Being a great outdoor cook is a journey, not a destination.

            • ecully
              ecully commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks Pit Boss. I am enjoying the journey immensely.

            100°F brine: chicken breasts
            During the 100°F brine, the cook could dunk the protein in iced water. The thermal conductivity of water would ensure a quick exit from the danger zone (40°F-140°F).

            I'd imagine foodborne microorganisms would grow much faster at increasing temperatures within the danger zone, so the 2/4 hour rule may not apply.

            Given the above, what approximate time period would be deemed safe at 100°F?


              Fantastic video! Thank you MH and Dr.Blonder!

              The Warren Buffet joke flew right over my head!


                I noticed that you mention 1/2 tsp. per lb. However we all know that a rack of ribs is going to have a much higher bone to meat ratio then a brisket. I would think bone is either more or less dense than meat....my guess is more. So wouldn't that throw a wrench in the standard 1/2 tsp per lb. or maybe modify it a little for ribs or meat with a lot of bones. Different salt for chicken breast vs thighs or drums.


                  Check out Meathead's Last Meal Ribs recipe and you'll see he's adjusted the salt in consideration of the ribs. With anything else cooking, a little trial and discovery is in order. Find the salt level that suits your palate.


                    I am only in about 15 min on this video but am blown away by how much useful information is on here. Doc Blonder and Meathead, Thank you very much!!!



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