Apart from being written by a total moron, there a couple of things he's getting mixed up with:
Brining and salting serve different purposes; if you want to tenderise your meat then brining is the best solution. The moisture is drawn in and the salt dissolves the myosin in the muscle mechanism, that contracts the muscle fibres (depending on salt content) and the muscle fibres swell. The dissolved mysoin acts as a gel and traps the moisture in the meat.
Therefore the meat breaks apart easier, contains more moisture, and doesn't lose it so easily.
Salting makes the surface cells swell, therefore reduces browning and [therefore] flavour. This instantly makes the surface harder to penetrate and it the absorbtion of the salt is extremely slow.
So despite what this chap says on the website, salting the surface for an hour does little to tenderise the meat. In fact in higher concentrations (and a much longer time period), osmosis will draw out the moisture from the cells and cure it (the opposite effect of what you want).
It would be much more beneficial to NOT SALT AT ALL until AFTER the meat has cooked, as this would prevent surface juices from escaping into the pan, which reduces the pan temperature, therefore browning capability.
The osmosis effect is present in brining situations as well. It starts when the salt concentration of the surrounding solution. is different than that in the cell.
To my understanding, no salt enters the cell in either brining, or koshering/seasoning. Nor does water in the case of brining.
In all of these increased salt cases, the cell wall pumps out water from inside the cell to balance the concentrations. Salting does not swell surface cells. They're not taking in the salt or liquid to cause them to swell.
For the myosin to have the tenderizing activity you're talking about, you need to get the salt in the cell where it's not going. You're only affecting interstitial liquids. You can argue the increased salt concentration in the cell, but you didn't.
Now, I've never read a description of brining that made complete chemical sense to me so I might have missed something.
Brining does increase the weight of the brined item. So the salt water is going somewhere. All I can figure is it's claiming interstitial spaces. As to the web/gel of protein holding back the water, the descriptions I've read are vague. It's not happening in the cells as the water didn't get there. Is there enough free interstitial protein to form the web? I've seen nothing really address this detail.
To Kuan's question. I don't think the guy has a clue what he's talking about. He doesn't understand osmosis at all. and 'denaturized'? it's just denatured.
He doesn't understand what makes steak prime grade. Salt doesn't taste like fat or produce that mouth texture either.
I can see where he considers it an improvement. You get some of the brining side effects from this technique though I think you'd cause other flavor balance problems in the beef compared to a bland chicken. I like to kosher chickens in the way he describes over brining. Much less hassle with good results.
Phatch excuse me if I'm misunderstanding you, but are you saying that osmosis (the diffusion of water through a cell wall) is a part of the brining process, yet then claim that no water enters the cell?
It seems like you have a reasonable understanding of this process, but I'm not sure why you're under the impression that no water enters the cell.
Perhaps what you read was slightly outdated.
For an up to date explanation (with sources) have a quick read of this: Science of Brining
I would never do this with steak, I don't buy "choice" meat for steak and therefore there is no need to experiment.
I recently salted an eye round roast and it did wonders for the meat. This is a tough cut of meat and I had some apprehensions about serving it for a dinner party. But I followed some instructions I saw on America's Test Kitchen and it was fantastic. I very liberally salted the roast (at least 1 cup) and placed it on a sheet pan uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours, turning it a couple of times. When it was time to cook I rinsed it thoroughly, patted dry, and seared it. Then I put it in a very low oven and baked it like a cheesecake (low temp for an hour, then turn off the heat and leave it in the oven for another 40 minutes). It was ridiculously good.
I don't know what this guy is talking about but salting can do wonders.
Koukouvagia, I would imagine that has little to do with the salting and alot to do with the low temperature cooking which makes the meat significantly more tender (as it dissolves the collagen surrounding the myofibrils).
Chris, the linked article makes claims that disagree with osmosis at the cell wall. It contradicts itself and makes the common mistake made with osmosis understanding by too many people.
then it defines osmosis this way:
In brining, water is the solvent and salt (and sugar) is the solute. The solvent, water, moves out of the cell. Nothing moves into the cell. By pumping out water, the cell concentrates the salt (and sugars) already in the cell while simultaneously diluting the outside solution to create equilibrium.
The cook's illustrated link is wrong. I have the book its from. They misunderstood osmosis as a special case in diffusion. Most people do.
Where they quote Mcgee, they talk about larger structures than the cell and osmosis is not part of that. That does give a better description of the holding power of the filaments.
Very interesting Phatch, so when it refers to the cell, its refering to the myobrils (the muscle fibres)?
However in McGees book it does describe the Cell swelling due to expansion of water, as does such science oriented chefs as Heston Blumenthal in most of his publications about the subject. I'm not a scientist; merely a chef trying to gain a deepened understanding on how and why things work; I don't make up what I'm saying; it all has a source.
Are they all wrong?
Everything I've read and learned on osmosis from biologists would refute the claims of cellular expansion from a salt solution. Cells would burst in our tissues all the time if such claims were true. Ocean life would be problematic if not toxic to humans.
Think also of reverse osmosis water purification. For a cell to take on water from a salt solution and leave salt out is equivalent to the results of reverse osmosis though reverse osmosis has some extra physical requirements. To say the cell takes on water and salt from a salt solution is just plain diffusion and ignores the presence and function of the semipermeable membrane of the cell wall.
When we eat, we rarely break up individual cells with the knife or our chewing. Some break up in cooking true, but not so much in our physical ingestion. We wouldn't notice liquid in the cells to say it was juicy or not. I would go so far as to say that hamburger and sausage are prone to being dry because of the damage to their structure the grinding causes. So they need fat or fillers to provide the moisture.
To make a cell expand, you put the cell where it has the high solute inside of it Then to balance the osmostic pressure, the cell would pump water in to dilute the solutes inside.
As we cook, proteins denature and contract to wring out interstitial liquid. It also forces water out of the cells and at some point ruptures the cell. But when we cook a pork shoulder to 195 and it's still moist without brining, and the roasts structure is still intact. the cell is a pretty darn resilient structure and there is plenty of moisture to be had in meat whether it started as water or collagen.
But I'm only an english major with an interest in science.
Would you mind providing a source for your claims? Because your arguments (unless I'm misunderstanding them) are opposing the opinions of such giants in the world of Gastronomy such as This, McGee, Blumenthal...
I'm not saying you're wrong, but that's a lot of muscle for an English major to be fighting.
Perhaps this is a question of semantics, perhaps what they're referring to as the cell is the myofibril (one of the fibres of the that make up the larger muscle fibre). The mysosin and Actin contraction mechanisms are all surrounding these. Perhaps you're referring to something else(?).
In On Food and Cooking, McGee makes no cellular claims for brine penetration. I just checked the section on brining and salt curing for meat in my copy. You would think he would mention it if it were happening. You say he does make that claim in another book, but I've not seen that one to support or refute.
Osmosis is defined as a flow from the low solution concentration to the high concentration. That's why it's important as it's backwards to the general principal of diffusion. And why people get confused about it. It's based in the principles of the semi permeable membrane.
By definition, the claim that water is added to the cell by osmosis is impossible yet it's what many brining descriptions claim. So either the chemistry definition is wrong or the writers of these descriptions are wrong.
You could call that semantics, but as an english major, I know that semantics are essential to real understanding. Brushing something off as mere semantics is a failure to communicate accurately.
Botany online: Membranes and Transport - Osmosis in English thankfully. Discusses the flow of ONLY the solvent. Also supplies a discussion of blood cells in a situation where water dilutes the blood, causing solutes to be higher in the red blood cells and they burst. Discusses cellular life in water and how they have special organs to pump out the water that would otherwise burst them from the osmotic inflow where they have the high solute.
Obviously, osmosis is from low to high.
Now, there are different types of semi permeable membranes and the cell membrane can actively transport other things as well. But we're talking dead cells here and so we're stuck with passive forms of transportation.
I've got to go do some other things so we can discuss more later.
I did a little re-reading more closely. The article you linked makes an osmotic claim in the overview. In the body, they quote McGee's on food and cooking where he cites a cellular gain but provides no mechanism. I find that insufficient of a claim.
This is an appeal to authority and is fallacious. These guys are self taught in these fields, same as you and me. They aren't doing first source peer-reviewed science.
This next quote is from Chris's original link.
No. This requires a solute to transfer across a semi permeable membrane. While I've seen claims of such sorts of membranes, and they may exist in animals, it won't lead to osmosis. Diffusion forms an equal distribution throughout the medium. For osmosis to happen, you'd need a higher concentration of solute inside the cell. Diffusion will not create that situation. Further diffusion is quite time dependent which is why brining tends to go on for hours or days.
Capillary action is into interstitial spaces.
Anyway, this is why claims of osmosis in brining are either false or insufficient. Diffusion and osmosis won't swell the cells without another mechanism for overconcentraion inside the cell.
If salt ions diffused into the cells equal to the concentration in the brine the meat would be too salty. It's not equal to the brine concentration. So if this diffusion claim is true, there is more going on to limit said diffusion that matters and is important than just time. This is an insufficient claim not backed by the evidence.
Further, swelling of cells for a 10% weight gain would require fairly close to a 10% increase in physical size of the item brined. I certainly haven't observed anything of the sort.
This is why semantics matter. So many brining descriptions throw around osmosis and diffusion yet they are used sloppily and inacurrately.
Phatch, I certainly didn't write that article, and I'm not going to defend it, in fact I didn't read it closely enough to identlfy any mistakes, it simply collaborated what I have read from other sources, if you've seen mistakes, then thats great, but please don't assume it as one of my sources.
Yes they are. Check the back of the book and you'll see a clearly labelled 'sources/references' section.
The fact is you're making claims, yet not providing any collaboration, just semantically attacking any hole you can identify in other people's work. Allow me the same priveledge:
Allow us to take at your original statements, and compare directly to what the professionals say:
Harold McGee: "A 3% salt solution dissolves part of the of the protein structure that suppports the contracting filaments, and a 5.5% solution partly dissolves the filaments themselves."
Heston Blumenthal (taken from his book 'The fat duck'.): "Moderate concentrations of salt (from around 3 per cent to about 12 per cent by weight) are good solvents of some of the proteins in meat, especially myosin...some of the myosin molecules actually dissolve in the brine..."
Are they wrong?
McGee: "the interaction of salt and proteins result in a greater water holding capacity in the muscle cells, which then absorb water from the brine."
Heston Blumenthal: "The myofibrils also swell making the meet juicier."
Wikipedia: "Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation."
McGee: "The meat's weight increases by 10% or more. When cooked, the meat still loses around 20% of its weight in moisture, but the loss in counter-balanced by the brine absorbed"
Is that an assumption, or have you weighed your piece of meat, after brining?
You seem to be focusing more on the physics of osmosis, yet its far from the most important process in brining. Allow me to take another quote from Blumenthal's book to explain it in the manner that I attempted to in my original post:
"When meat is brined, salt solution flows into the myofibrils. As the salt concentration rises, links between myosin and actin filaments - the result of rigor mortis - break and the fibres seperate. Some of the myosin molecules actually dissolve in the brine. This is important for two reasons: first, as myosin dissolves into water the between the filaments, they are pushed apart. This makes the meat less dense and increasingly tender. The myofibrils also swell, making the meat juicier. Dissolved myosin does something else when meat is cooked because it forms a gel, just as the proteins in egg whites form a gell when cooked. Gelled myosin traps some of the water that has swollen in the myofibrils and so retains water even after cooking. Thus the better a brine is at dissolving myosin, the juicier and more tender it will be."
I'm sorry to use such aggressive tactics, but I feel pushed in a corner here. You're attacking extremely good sources with allogations that you provide no evidence or references for; you instead are focusing on the semantics of osmosis; which as we can see, isn't as important as it may appear.
So you may be right about the physics of osmosis; and if that means I shouldn't of made (a rather fleeting) allogation as "surface cells swell" then I apologise and, if you're right, I would happily retract that statement; we could instead say that surface protetins denature.
Its a very small point that holds little importance to the process of brining.