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Keeping Red Colour in Raw Steaks with Nitrite Sprays

17 October 2014

The redness of raw steaks increases with increasing nitrite level in spray solutions a joint US Chinese study has found.

And the optimum for raw steak surface redness is between 250–350 ppm nitrite in spray.

The cured colour of cooked steak surfaces was also found to be more intense at higher nitrite levels.

The research team of Xiao Song, Daren Cornforth, Dick Whittier and Xin Luo found that 100–350 ppm nitrite in spray was acceptable for cooked surface colour as it was not too pink.

The team also found that the nitrite-sprayed steaks had low residual nitrite values of less than 1 ppm.

The nitrite spray treatment to promote red colour stability in vacuum packaged beef was carried out by a team of researchers from the Beef Processing and Quality Control Laboratory at the College of Food Science and Engineering at Shandong Agricultural University in Tai'an, Shandong and the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

In the research, sodium nitrite solutions were sprayed on select grade boneless rib (M. longissimus thoracis) and bottom round (mainly M. biceps femoris) steaks individually, to form bright red nitric oxide myoglobin (NO-Mb) in vacuum packages.


The objective of the experiment was to determine the optimum level of nitrite in spray for stable raw steak redness with low or no residual nitrite and low surface pinking – a ham-like cured colour - after cooking.

The results showed that steaks sprayed with 100–350 ppm nitrite solutions had 3.0–3.6 g weight gain and a calculated level of 1.3–5.3 mg nitrite added/kg steak, but very low less than 1 ppm residual nitrite.

Nitrite sprays of 250–350 ppm were the optimum for raw steak colour during 21 days of storage at 1°C (a* > 10; chroma C* > 16).

The raw steak redness was less stable in round than rib.

Visual scores for pinkness after cooking were low, indicating that cooked colour at even the highest nitrite treatment of 350 ppm was acceptable.

The research is published in the January 2015 issue of Meat Science.

Further Reading

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October 2014

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