Cold rooms for the preservation and maturation of meat in the HORECA sectorINTARCON
In this post we will talk about the importance of cold rooms for the preservation and maturation of meat in the HORECA sector.
Meat is a naturally perishable product, leaving it exposed to heat, light, vibrations or fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause any type of meat to deteriorate. When stored properly, meat not only maintains its quality, but for the most exquisite pieces can be considerably improved in tenderness, texture and flavour.
- 1 What is “rigor mortis”?
- 2 What is meat maturation?
- 3 How is meat maturation carried out?
- 4 INTARCON range of equipment for dry meat maturation
- 5 Supervision and control of the installation
What is “rigor mortis”?
Rigor mortis” or “stiffness of death” is a chemical change in the muscles of an animal that usually appears 3-4 hours after death and usually takes full effect after about 12 hours. When rigor mortis occurs, it is a symptom that glucose has stopped reaching the muscles, generating lactic acid to cover the lack of glucose and resulting in muscle stiffness.
Once the lactic acid has invaded the body and after a few days, it begins to be eliminated slowly. The muscles relax and the tissues begin to relax, resulting in a product for optimal consumption.
If the meat is consumed just after the animal has been slaughtered, it will be rubbery and tough to a greater or lesser extent depending on the stress the animal has undergone during slaughter. On the other hand, if the meat is consumed after an optimal maturation process, it will be much more tender and tasty. For this reason, it is usual in the meat industry for meat to be left to rest for at least 10 days before being marketed.
What is meat maturation?
The meat maturation process aims to obtain a more flavourful and tender meat before being consumed, and basically consists of leaving it to rest for as long as necessary to give rest to the muscles that are stiff (rigor mortis) until this stiffness disappears, thus achieving an ageing of the meat.
How is meat maturation carried out?
There are basically two types of meat maturation processes:
Wet or vacuum maturation
This process consists of vacuum-packing the pieces of meat at least 48 hours after slaughter, removing all the air surrounding them in order to minimise the growth of aerobic bacteria and thus slow down the bacterial degradation process.
Temperature and storage conditions for wet or vacuum maturation
In this way, in addition to preserving, we can also mature meat while minimising weight loss, provided that we guarantee that the temperature is rigorously maintained between 1.5 and 3 °C, and in this case it is not necessary to control the humidity.
In this type of maturation, it is not necessary for the pieces of meat to have evenly distributed fat, and the storage space required is much smaller than in other maturation processes.
Refrigerated pieces are usually left to mature for 7 to 14 days, with a maximum of 20 to 25 days, since after that time the meat can take on undesirable odours and flavours.
In this type of meat maturation, high quality pieces are selected with a high fat content that must be evenly distributed, which will protect the pieces from internal deterioration. The meat is left to rest in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment for a long period of time for ageing. This results in meat of exceptional quality, with a great taste according to the experts.
Likewise, it is important to maintain a low air circulation speed in the cold room. This is achieved with dual airflow evaporators that incorporate fans set at a minimum rotational speed to simulate natural convection air circulation just like a static evaporator.
Temperature and storage conditions for dry maturation
The key to dry meat maturation equipment is humidity control. High relative humidity is recommended as it keeps the product moist and evaporation to a minimum. Refrigeration equipment for meat maturation are configured for cold rooms around 0 °C and relative humidity in the range of 65 % to 85 %. It should also be noted that excessively low humidity can dry out the product.
The minimum time recommended for this type of maturation process will depend on the sex and age of the animal in question, but in any case it is long.
In conclusion, this dry maturation process ensures that, on the one hand, the action of the endogenous enzymes naturally present in the meat disintegrates the connective tissues of the muscle, producing a softening of the meat. On the other hand, the loss of moisture will result in a high concentration of flavour, much greater than that of fresh vacuum-packed meat, as well as a much smoother texture.
This type of maturation favours the proliferation of mould (fungi) on the surface of the meat, which does not imply any loss of quality, and even helps to tenderise and enhance the flavour of the meat. It is simply a matter of being careful to cut off and discard the crust before cooking.
In view of the above, we can deduce that dry-matured meat is a product destined fundamentally for catering establishments where quality is valued, leaving the economic aspect in second place, as it is clear that the value of a piece of dry-matured meat will have a much higher price than an inmature piece. This increase is justified firstly by the weight loss that the meat will suffer, secondly by the complexity of the maturation process itself (precise control of temperature and humidity), and thirdly by the time that the pieces of meat must be matured.
A meat maturation cellar or cabinet is usually integrated into the dining room of a restaurant to improve the quality of the meat product, allowing diners to see and choose the piece they like best.
Vacuum maturation vs. dry maturation
Analysing this comparison, we can see that both methods are perfectly valid and in fact both are currently in common use, although each of them will be focused on a different market and customer. We can see that vacuum maduration processes are fast and efficient, and are therefore suitable when what is valued is speed and price. On the other hand, dry maturation offers us a notable quality plus, but logically at a higher price.
Once the preservation conditions are known, let’s take a look at the INTARCON equipment available, specially designed for these applications, which guarantee optimum conditions for the preservation and maturation of meat:
INTARCON range of equipment for dry meat maturation
The meat maturation equipment is available in semi-compact, silent or centrifugal construction.
The main features are as follows:
- Very low speed double flow quasi-static evaporator, specially designed for meat preservation.
- Active relative humidity control of the cold room, incorporating a steam humidifier of 3 kg/h capacity, with steam lances integrated in the evaporator unit.
- Electronic regulation with remote control and digital condensation control.
- Refrigerant precharge included.
As a result, thanks to meat maturation equipment, meat can be kept in optimum conditions at a temperature of 0 °C and a relative humidity of 65-85 %.
Supervision and control of the installation
Given the importance of maintaining the cold chain in the preservation and maturation of meat, the installation of refrigeration equipment can be equipped with the innovative kiconex system, which provides equipment and facilities with hyperconnectivity to the internet with data storage and cloud computing.
Through its platform, both the installer and the owner of the installation can remotely access the supervision and control of the installation, with real-time data graphs, and allowing the refrigeration parameters of the installation to be modified if desired.