Among all queries a cooking enthusiast may encounter, blanching of meat definitely is one of the most asked questions.
There are many who highlight the importance of blanching, so much so that the meat may be harmful to our health if one does not blanch it before cooked, in the name of “toxic”(有毒).
We may have been “warned” by some people who are so swore by it, they testify their opinions by showing us how “murky” or “foamy” is the water after blanching. Some may even claim that their machines can blanch meat at certain temperature in order to lift the hygiene and taste to the next level.
Being a professional chef and cooking enthusiast, I am very keen to seek the truth about blanching.
What Is Blanching?
Blanching meat (or bones) is a process whereby the meat is heat for a short period of time and then introduced into cold water or cool air to terminate the heating process. We may begin blanching with cold water or boiling hot water. During the process, some of the proteins coagulated on the surface of the meat may be removed. In short, this serves as a pre-treatment of meat before the cooking process.
Does Washing “Cleans” The Meat?
I would like to share some information about meat cleaning before cooking. Contrary to common believe that meat should be washed before cooking, it is not recommended to be washed in fact. While washing fruits, grains or other ingredients may promote food safety, washing meat may not do the same trick.
As explained in one of the articles on United States Department of Agriculture - Food Safety and Inspection Service, washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is NOT recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces, which in return, may cause cross-contamination.
Dirt, dust or other tiny particles that soil the surface of meat during portioning by sellers in wet market, may be removed through rinsing of running water. However, some of the bacteria are so tightly attached, it is impossible to be removed regardless the times you wash the meat. In fact, there are other types of bacteria that can be easily washed off and splashed on the surfaces of your kitchen, utensils or other food. As a result, it may lead to foodborne illness in the event any of these contaminated areas are not cleaned off come in contact with cooked food or food that does not need to be heated.
In conclusion, if you want to wash the meat, please be extra mindful to prevent the happening of cross-contamination.
Meat sold at some supermarkets or modern butcheries, does not come in contact with bare hands during portioning. They normally are handled by trained butchers wearing appropriate attires included disposal gloves. On top of that, some of these operations have very tedious working protocols include portioning the meat right from the freezer using machines, wrapping the meats in a timely manner and to maintain the working environment to a specific temperature that minimises growth of bacteria.
As mentioned in the article, the most efficient way to kill bacteria is cooking to the right temperature, at minimum internal temperature of 62.78°C or higher before removing from the heat source. Using a food thermometer by inserting it to the meat is a promising way to be certain that foodborne bacteria is destroyed during the cooking process.
Is Blanched Meat Cleaner?
Understanding information answered to previous query helps us to answer this question. Blanching is NOT a method to cleanse meat.
This brings us to visit the earlier query about meat, and whether it is toxic? In the event animal ate or injected with toxic substance, their meat will become toxic. Pure meat from a healthy animal is not toxic.
Government body like SFA (restructured from AVA, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) is empowered to manage food related issues, foodborne disease outbreaks and food safety policies. One aspect of their wide range of services include testing on meat to ensure hygiene and healthy standards are met.
In conclusion, if you have a piece of meat and suspect that is toxic, throw it away, do not attempt to consume at all.
Why Blanch A Meat?
1. Removing the strong smell
When I was attending university in Adelaide, I always blanched pork before cooking in order to remove the strong pork smell that was found on the surface of the pork (the pork was fresh but smell was kinda strong and not to my liking). I usually bring to boil a pot of water along with some star anise, cloves, white portions of spring onion and Shao Xing cooking wine, put in the meat, blanch until the meat colour turned lighter. Then I rinsed the meat it with some cold water before attempted to cook it.
So far, pork that I buy from wet markets or supermarkets nowadays, being Malaysia, Indonesia or Australia origins, does not carry strong smell. In this instance, there is no need to undergo the blanching process.
2. Clear broth
For some dishes that called for clear broth like chicken consommé in French cuisine or buddha jump over the wall (佛跳墙) in Chinese cuisine, chefs may begin the cooking by blanching the meat or bones. During the blanching process, proteins from the meat surface coagulate to form the murky liquid and foam. Chefs will drain the pot and rinse the meat to remove these unwanted proteins, before they begin to make soup stock, which will turn out to be clear.
3. Moderating flavour
Some meats are naturally strong and bold in flavours. As a result, when chefs intend to moderate the flavours, they may go through the blanching process to bring down the distinctive flavours significantly. This process is commonly used when chefs are cooking for a big crowd and they need to cater to the tastebuds of wide range of diners. Besides blanching, using lemon is another effective way to moderate meat flavour too.
4. Change texture
Some meats (or proteins) include but not limited to liver, kidney, brains, fish eggs, are too delicate to be handled. By blanching them first, will enable these proteins to firm up. Chefs may also simmer them in court-bouillon which may flavour them at the same time.
Blanched Meat Tastes Better, True?
Out of the many possible ways to make meat taste better, freshness and cooking technique are the two crucial factors. Blanching does not make a meat taste better, in fact, if you do not do it right, you may end up with firmer piece of meat to cook.
Following are two other articles that I would love to recommend to you, should you be interested to know more.