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May 2, 2012 12:53 PM

Meat glue, turning scraps into filets

Yuck. What crappy thing will they think of next?

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  1. In his Momofuku book, David Chang spends a few pages on meat glue. Actually, he hands over the narrative to Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 for a few pages.

    4 Replies
      1. re: TrishUntrapped

        It is widely used by the 'molecular gastronomy' people. It lets them create new combinations of meats, and new shapes.
        meat glue turns sliced tongue into the best cubes of 'corned beef'

        By analogy think of the use of glue in wood working. You can carve whole chunks of wood into useful products. They also glue wood chips and scraps into particle board and make cheap furniture from it. But glue is also essential in making fine furniture, and in making the finest quality plywood.

        1. re: TrishUntrapped

          They love it because it lets them do things like puree shrimp and turn that into noodles. The meat glue recipe in the book involves deboning a chicken and shaping it into a brick. I would never do that in my kitchen, but I would enjoy the presentation in a restaurant.

          Chang also gives the example of what he calls Frankensteak, in which meat glue is used to adhere fat trimmed from an aged ribeye to a cheaper steak (such as hanger steak) in order to infuse cuts that aren't good for long aging with the flavor of a nicely aged steak.

          1. re: FoodPopulist

            Thanks for that insight FP. I guess I see moo glue as more of a toy for chefs to play with rather than something useful. And a product rife for misuse, potentially masking spoiled meat and selling inferior product to unsuspecting consumers at high prices.

      2. As a means of using every part of the cow, I have no problem with this. It actually might be a really good way to prepare "steak" for those that prefer well done meat. I'm not OK with restaurants deceptively selling composite "steaks" as finer cuts.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mpjmph

          Scraps can be turned into stew and other dishes and don't have to be wasted or assembled with moo glue in order to be eaten and enjoyed.

          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            It's funny to see these "objection" posts as if the first thought for using an innovative product is to somehow swindle or trick you. These are very telling about the writers' paranoia. The same thought chain would lead to us thinking that pastry chefs are cheating us out of perfectly fine flour by binding it with egg.

        2. This has come up before. It's just shoddy, lazy, irresponsible journalism (and a year late, to boot - all of the other tabloid nonsense about meat glue came out in early 2011). There has NEVER been any evidence of anyone anywhere using it to glue scraps together and passing it off as a whole steak. It's blatant and baseless fear-mongering.

          Transglutaminase is very expensive and has a short shelf life, making it problematic as a treatment for scraps (letting a few ounces of meat glue go to waste is significantly more costly for a restaurant than letting a few pounds of meat scraps go to waste). And as you've pointed out, there are other things a restaurant can do with its scraps. As for meat packers, in the US scrapped-together cuts of meat must be labelled as 'formed' or the producers would be committing fraud and subject to criminal charges.

          Transglutaminase has been used exclusively by molecular-style cooks who use it to make dishes that would otherwise be impossible. By and large, they are well aware of the risk of bacteria on the interior of the meat, and take steps to minimize this risk. No one is forcing or tricking anyone into eating it. There is potential for abuse (though there are other, much older ways to cobble together pieces of meat, and no one seems concerned about them), but at this time there is absolutely zero evidence that meat glue has ever been abused.

          Here is a link to an article on the matter that cuts through the BS:

          9 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            Thanks for that link cb. Here is another response to the ABC report. In the end, if folks want to eat it fine. I don't and expect it to be labeled so I can avoid it.

            1. re: TrishUntrapped

              So where do you fear buying such a product?

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                That article isn't much better than the original tabloid style news stories. In an attempt to appear unbiased and show 'both sides' of the story, it gives basically equal credence to the central claim of the attackers - that TG is widely used in a deceptive way - and Arnold's simple and reasonable retort that this claim is wholly unsubstantiated and apparently completely made up. Fact checking is a lost art in mainstream journalism. If anyone can find even one documented case of TG being abused (and there have been plenty of attack articles, all of which failed to do so), then I'll change my tune. But until then, let's call it what it is - a witch hunt.

                If you want to avoid it, it's not hard. Just don't go to places that specialize in MG or are heavily influenced by MG style cooking. I wouldn't expect TG to be labelled on a menu any more than I would expect baking soda or curing salt to be labelled, but I would expect that you could ask your waiter and get a straightforward answer as to whether it has been used. in a dish. On top of that, 9 times out of 10 it's easy to spot out - if you're eating noodles made entirely of squid or chicken breast that has skin attached to it on both sides, chances are good that TG has been used. It is usually used in such a way that draws attention to itself, pretty much the opposite of the tabloid claims. The biggest potential to eat it unknowingly would probably be in a sausage made from meat that's not typically found in sausages. But like I said, I don't think any place that uses the stuff would hesitate to tell you so if asked.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  "chicken breast that has skin attached to it on both sides"

                  I was completely disinterested up until this comment. I want some of that.

                  1. re: kengk

                    Ditto here. That sounds pretty good to me.

                    I've heard of this stuff (as well as the scaremongering about it). Near as I can tell, it's a natural enzyme product. Salt does the same thing given enough time and some agitation.

                    There is a brand of prepackaged "filet" steaks I've seen in the supermarket where upon looking closely (through the form-fitting plastic packaging), it is pretty obvious that the "filets" are composed of multiple pieces of beef rather than a single cut off of a larger piece.
                    Still not as bad as pink slime.

                2. re: TrishUntrapped

                  You do realize that this is a naturally-occuring enzyme that is involved in wound repair, right?

                  Anyway, cowboyardee's suggestions on how to avoid are spot on, but you can also exclude commercial hot dogs, surimi and most processed foods.

                  1. re: wattacetti

                    Ahh, I'd forgotten about surimi. Didn't know it was used in hotdogs though. Makes sense since it has some advantages over other binders.

                  2. re: cowboyardee

                    Thank you, cowboyardee, for that link. I can see the subject coming up among my conspiracy-theorist coworkers and am very glad to have that article to use as a bullshit-deflector.

                  3. <3 meat glue.
                    The uses are infinite and most certainly arent always diabolical. Just last night I removed the skin from a duck breast, removed some skin from the duck carcass then cooked the duck breast sous vide. While the duck was cooking I took the two pieces of duck skin and got them RIDICULOUSLY crispy, then glued them back onto the duck breast when they were done cooking. Result was a perfectly cooked duck breast with super crispy skin...on both sides of the duck breast!

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: twyst

                        Oh My God- you didn't try to pass them off as the Real Thing after they'd been disassembled and reformed, did you? ;-)

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          Real thing? Duck breast with two skins on?

                      2. I'm wondering how they grill stew meat, which is generally cuts like chuck roast and need long braises to break down and tenderize, and have it taste like a filet. You can't just grill chunks of stew meat like that and have it turn out tender. If that were the case, they could skip the meat glue altogether and sell it as "filet" tips.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: chowser

                          Might have something to do with the particular quality of the meat - every once in a while you can find a piece of, say, pork shoulder that's tender enough to eat grilled, at least when it's cut right. I believe Momofuku does this occasionally with Bev Eggleston's pork shoulder cut into steaks, for example.

                          Another possible factor - cooking sous vide makes it easy to bring stewing cuts to desired tenderness and then chill and grill for smokiness - some of my favorite sous vide effects involve tenderizing flavorful braising cuts for a long time in a low temp bath and then finishing on a charcoal grill. Instead of the classic sous vide ultra-tender effect, you can opt to leave a lot of stewing meats similarly tender to a good beef steak, an effect I like a lot and feel is under-utilized. In any case, transglutaminase doesn't have anything to do with it.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            But he didn't use the sous vide technique in the video so I don't think that was the case here. He made the round, sliced and grilled like a filet. I realize the transglutaminase has nothing to do with it but wondered how stew meat could be transformed just by refrigerating and grilling, essentially,to be indistinguishable in taste to filet. If that's the case, why does anyone bother paying for filet?

                            I thought the original video was very sensationalized. Basically, they decide to call the enzyme "glue" or "gloo" and then complain that it sounds unappetizing. Let's call that dry aged steak a "rotten mammal flesh..."

                            1. re: chowser

                              The "stew meat" in question was probably the scraps of tenderloin left after portioning the loin the way it is usually bought by restaurants. Restaurants usually buy their filets in a cut known as a pismo, and there are scraps left after butchering that are usually too small to do anything with other than stew it (or feed it to the staff for family meal).

                              Also, Id pretty much take just about everything in that video with a grain of salt, it was rife with innacuracy. Most restaurants using it arent using it to make frankenteaks out of scraps, they are using it to make things that arent possible to create without it. They also say its made from animal blood etc, which was true at one time, but now its made as a byproduct of bacterial fermentation.

                              1. re: twyst

                                Thanks--that would make more sense. It didn't look like chuck roast or anything like that in the video.

                              2. re: chowser

                                Sorry, I hadn't realized you were talking about the video in the OP. I think you're safe disregarding pretty much anything you saw in that video. It was a bunch of silliness and wild speculation.