Transglutaminase

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by wurzel, May 3, 2013.

  1. wurzel

    wurzel

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    I've been getting more and more into the modernist techniques and I've been working on a couple of dishes that require transglutaminase.

    I bought a packet of Activa EB, I think that's Activa RM in the States, the calcium independent version.

    I've tried it on various products with no luck, I've tried it dry and in a paste form to no avail. I've used lots and a little bit with no difference. The last try I got some pork chops, used dry on 1 batch and paste on the other, vac packed them to get maximum pressure, chilled them for 24 hours and pulled them apart with no more difficulty than if I used corn flour.

    I've spoken to the chef at the company I bought it from and he says it sounds like I'm doing everything right but they've sold plenty of it from that batch they received with no other complaints. He says to send some back to them and he'll try it and see.

    I was just wondering if anyone else has had a problem like this and if I'm doing something really stupid.

    I've got another tester in the fridge now that I'm going to cook before unwrapping to see if that helps, not the solution I want though to have to cook it before I can do anything else to it.

    Any help would be much appreciated.
     
  2. michaelga

    michaelga

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    Wurzel from the best of my knowledge - I've never seen / used Activa EB just read about it.   It is a cure-cook type used in the processing of sausages and surimi etc.

    It must sit in contact (usually a ground mixture) and then be cooked for it to bind the ingredients.

    It is not the same as Activa RM - other than they can both be sprinkled dry onto a protein.

    ---- Edit to add. Test your meat-glue. It might simply be bad, as it has a very short shelf life compared to other powders.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  3. siduri

    siduri

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    Oh my wet dog, you guys,  Let me know what restaurant you're cooking at and I'll avoid it!   What are you making, meat sculptures??? 

    Maybe you should keep this kind of stuff in the professional chef forums where we mortals don't dare to tread. 

    And remember, just because something so far has not been shown to be dangerous, that doesn't mean it won't be discovered later.   When i was a kid it was considered perfectly safe to have xray machines in kids' shoe stores.  Until they discovered it wasn't. 
     
  4. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    There are 2 or 3 different kinds. I have used all powders. I have found it good on fish. I really have no use for it on anything else.
     
  5. wurzel

    wurzel

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    @siduri - Transglutaminase is a natural enzyme found in all meats, all we're doing is adding a bit more than is naturally there to achieve our goals. It has a bit of bad reputation thanks to the excessively negativemedia portrayal, nefarious uses by big food companies and, to my mind at least, the abhorrent use by some restaurants to make 'steak' out of trimmings and cheaper cuts. I truly believe that anyone doing that should be prosecuted for endangering life if they are making fake steak and selling it anything but well done. I'm using it for reshaping of a product that will always be cooked well done so there is no problem with the outside of the meat being on the inside and the enzyme itself is completely broken down at temperatures above ~60°C.

    @MichaelGA, thanks a lot for that, I'll pull it out of the freezer and try the chicken test, very helpful.
     
  6. siduri

    siduri

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    That's reassuring, wurzel.  The trans sounded like some transgenetic experiment, and long chemical words are offputting.  I still think it's weird to be gluing meat - with something that produces ammonia and smells like wet dog, albeit for a little time.  I had never heard of the stuff from media or anywhere else, i just like food to be made of food.  I'm put off by the fake meat made with soy protein, "soy milk" and other stuff that's "natural" but the result of some elaborate process.
     
  7. wurzel

    wurzel

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    I agree Siduri, as chefs it makes us feel all sciency and clever but I think in general we'd be much better off using normal sounding names instead of chemical names, it just scares people. One of my favourites is calcium hydroxide, sounds like it would kill you in 3 seconds flat doesn't it? My nan called it pickling lime...

    Personally I will ensure my waiting staff understand these ingredients I use and are capable of explaining what it does and why I use it. Also, I'd never use any of them on more than a couple of dishes so as not to limit anyone who chooses not to eat it, I don't want to lose customers over my own cleverness /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

    I think food is going through a transitional period right now where the industry has been given a license to experiment and do crazy things. I'm sure 90% of the oddities that arise from this will disappear in a few years tops but the remaining 10% will be accepted and incorporated into the mainstream. I'd say sous vide cooking is the best example of the latter, there really is no better way to cook tougher cuts of meat. Foams and airs may well be an example of the former, I don't see them being around for too long myself.
     
  8. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Ahh, another chance for the friendly neighbourhood biochemist to come for the rescue... 

    Ok, glutamine is a natural amino acid - every protein has some. Most will know it in form of its salt, glutamate. That's why glutamate actually carries the savoury umami flavor- it is a mechanism of our body to tell us "look, there, protein rich food, I need that right now". Incidentally, the reason why I do not like to flavor with MSG - it is cheating exactly this system, and such things never go too well.

    Anyway, glutamine has a free carboxy-amide group, looking like this Glu-(CO)-NH2. Now, there are other amino acids with free amino groups, such as lysine. It's terminal amino group looks like this: H2N-Lys

    Transglutaminase does the following, hence the "trans" part of the name which has nothing to do with transgenics:

    It takes the glutamine and for example the lysin:   Glu-(CO)-NH2. +  H2N-Lys and exchanges the NHgroups between the both, so we end up with Glu-(CO)-NH-Lys. The two are now cross-linked, as we call it. Essentially, if the both amino acids were on different proteins, those proteins are now glued together. Of course, that leaves us with one amino group NHand a proton H, which recombine to make NH- which would be ammonia, hence the wet dog smell.

    This is a perfectly natural thing, happening in your body all the time, tightly regulated, of course. However, if you drop huge amounts of it on meats, it'll efficiently glue them together.

    I have no problem with applying that in the kitchen - as long as you do not use it to make crappy ingredients appear better - such as industrial pseudo-ham...

    Now, to the application. Enzymes like transglutaminase are fickle things. They do not like too much heat, they do not like too much cold, they do not like to few or to much salts or acids in their environment. In the lab, we control these parameters very finely - I am seriously surprised that it works in the kitchen at all. Even under lab conditions, I do not expect a certain enzyme to work 100% consistently. So if it doesn't work, just write it off. Probably not even your fault - the little princesses of proteins have a temper ;)
     
  9. wurzel

    wurzel

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    Nice explanation GeneMachine, I understood at least half of it /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif

    So, would you not expect the cross linking to work efficiently in a meat fridge at around 1°C? That could be my problem if so.

    I had another crack at it yesterday before I send it back to the supplier. I cut the meat up smaller than before to maximise contact and had it in the fridge overnight. Today I cooked it before unwrapping it and it was stuck. Not perfectly, I could pull it apart but it would serve my purpose at least. That would make sense if it's a temperature problem right? As every part of the meat has slowly gone from 1°C to 74°C it's all passed through the optimum binding temperature. Am I making sense or talking out of proverbial?
     
  10. genemachine

    genemachine

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    I'd expect the crosslinking to work very, very slow at 1°C - I'd have to look up the specifics, but generally, you would want to keep it at room temperature for as long as food safety allows. Those enzymes are generally optimized to work fastest at body temperature. That's their natural environment, after all.

    In the lab, if want to stop an enzymatic reaction, we usually slam it into an ice bath. Similar to your meat fridge. Not much going on there. When you cooked it before unwrapping, you definitely got some activity going on before heat deactivating it at probably around 42-47°C. Insofar, yes, your guess makes sense!
     
  11. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Ok, I read up some more. Now, I do not know exactly what kind of transglutaminase you are using - it is not a single specific enzyme, it is a huge class of molecules. However, most should indeed work best at temperatures between room and body temperature. So, this is the biochemical point of view - I would suggest adding it to your meat, wrapping it, then dropping it into a water bath at probably 32-35°C for 20 minutes or so. If that works with the food safety angle, that is.

    If you got any more information on the specific type of transglutaminase you have, I could probably give you the optimum temperature for the fastest reaction.
     
  12. michaelga

    michaelga

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    With most preparations ie; Activa RM or Biobond WM etc. the particular TG enzyme is 'selected' to work in conjuction with a particular protein that makes up the bulk of the mixture.   

    For activia RM it is Sodium caseinate with a maltodextrin carrier and a small amount of TG designed to rapidly bind sodium caseinate.  

    The majority of them are designed to work quickly and in the lower food safety range of temperatures.

    The only downfall of this 'fast-acting' is that the enzymes bond to the proteins that they are packaged with.

    It makes for a very reliable bond though - if your mixture is still viable.

    Thus the wet-dog test!

    :)
     
  13. wurzel

    wurzel

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    Thanks for all the help, I am loving this forum.

    Done the wet dog test, definitely stinky but not very strong, maybe my batch is not the freshest. I guess with the TG reacting with the sodium caseinate, if it hasn't been kept well temperature wise all the way here it could be half dead right?

    I shall persevere as I've found a way to make it work more or less, hopefully the next batch I get will be better.
     
  14. michaelga

    michaelga

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    absolutely - it needs to be sealed in oxy / moisture barrier packaging with an a desicant and moisture absorber in the pack. 
     
  15. michaelga

    michaelga

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    Many apologies Wurzel - I hadn't actually looked up anything in Modernist Cusine...I  was just going from memory of services past.

    Here is a paraphrased quote from MC'
    I typed that out - not copy-pasted, so if something seems odd please check again ... it's damn late... yet again.

    ----------

    btw - what are you working on?  I'd love to know - PM me if you don't want to share publicly! 

    /cheers
     
  16. siduri

    siduri

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    Interesting to follow all these chemistry explanations, and particularly since nobody is going to grade me on them!  

    I would still like to know, Wurzel, what are you making with this stuff?  meat sculpture?  a meat fort?  a meat basket to fill with sauce?  the mind wanders...
     
  17. wurzel

    wurzel

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    I don't mind sharing at all, I'm working on a smoked python 'carpaccio' dish. I'm sure in the states you can get nice big pieces of python but here in the UK it's quite small. If it were bigger I'd cook whole and slice like smoked salmon but the small size makes it pretty unusable so my solution is to glue the pieces together into a sausage and slice nice round pieces of it.

    Thanks for the quote Michael, I don't remember reading that at all, I think the amount of info that book blasts into your brain I'd have to read it all a few times to remember half of it. I'll definitly give warming it up a try.
     
  18. siduri

    siduri

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    Smoked python carpaccio with (organic enzyme) glue - wow, wurzel.  I think i'll pass.  I didn;t know python was eaten at all, but i guess as snakes go, it must be plenty meaty/img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif.    Sorry if my questions divert your thread from your question.  I understand that much of professional cooking has to do with stretching the imagination to new experiences.  Good luck with it. 
     
  19. michaelga

    michaelga

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    Some of the other less exotic things that i've seen done include;

    - shrimp carpaccio wrapped around slivered sous-vide vegetables with a ground peanut and chili dipping salt

    - reverse two fillets of fish and attach together to even out cooking and presentation

    - attaching chicken skin to various fish loins to get a really crispy crunchy outter layer (think battered fish with no fish just crusty chicken skin)

    - bacon enveloped haloumi that gets crispy on the outside and very creamy on the inside (think mozza stick without batter or crumbs just bacon holding it together)

    - shrimp and various other fish noodles (no binders to mask flavours)

    - seafood cakes without eggs / flour / potatoe... just bound crab / lobster / shrimp etc.

    - bacon wrapped pork loin or anyother food 

    - creamy creamy zero-fat yougurt with out added milk proteins or thickeners

    There are a very large number of uses - almost as endless as the imagination.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  20. wurzel

    wurzel

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    I bet even Blumenthal's fervid imagination didn't grasp what he was introducing to the restaurant world when he started using it. I think right now I'm most interested in it's used for non-meat proteins, I can see some interesting applications there if I can get the damned stuff to work properly. And sticking bacon to anything of course...

    @siduri, no worries there, we're all here to learn. I can but hope our conversation here has at least shown you not to write off new techniques and ingredients automatically, even if you don't want to come to my restaurant and try my creations /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crying.gif

    Another interesting aspect of this product and other 'modernist' binders and gelling agents is gluten free food. With more and more people finding out how destructive gluten can be I think it's only going to get more important to chefs to be able to cook without it where possible.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013