You want a brine mixer that is best suited for the kind of brine you'll be using.
If you have simple brines consisting of water, salt and other functional ingredients like phosphates, sugars and spices, you’ll want to choose a brine mixer that uses a venturi cone feeder so that these flowable ingredients can be added in an efficient manner. A brine mixer that employs a venturi mixer allows the water to flow through a restriction plate or restriction cone to create suction so that material can be slowly but effectively drawn into solution. You will have to determine exactly how much time is needed for this process, as different pump motors will create different flow speeds, suction and, therefore, affect the performance of the mixer. The nature of the ingredients being put into play is also important to consider. Salt, phosphates and some sugars are flowable and, therefore, can be drawn in quite easily. On the other hand, some heavier carbohydrates such as starches, brown sugars and protein isolates are hydroscopic and tend to stick and bind, so they are not easily dispersed and drawn into solution.
If your brines are heavier, with added ingredients like large amounts of honey or dry ingredients like protein isolates or starches, heavier pump motors are desired and you may want to consider additional in-tank agitators. These agitators must be adequately placed so they do not affect the flow of brine/water as it’s pumped through the mixer, and so they can provide sufficient sheer to force these heavier ingredients into suspension.
When dealing with super thick brines, it’s essential to maximize not only the suction pressure of the venturi cone feeder by maximizing the pump and the pressure in which the water/brine is being pumped, but also the volume or actual dimension of the venturi. A larger pump and a larger venturi will deliver greater suction pressures and a greater volume of brine at the feeder cone. Maximizing both of these will control variables and will render better, but not necessarily faster, mixing. Some brine formulas are so thick that faster processing is seldom possible if we are to ensure a homogenous mixture.
With thick brines, the function of the added high sheer stick mixer is also paramount. Most of the ingredients in thick brines are heavy and sticky, so only time and high sheer will force them into solution or suspension. Only a fixed high sheer stick blender can do this and only with time.
Finally, you need to consider temperature and temperature control. Most people prefer brines at the lowest possible temperatures. Depending on salt concentrations, brines can be chilled by the addition of ice, only once the ingredients are forced into solution. A more efficient process would incorporate a heat exchanger or double walled (jacketed) tank to assist with temperature reduction/maintenance.
Generally, most functional ingredients should be put into solution in processing water at ambient processing temperatures (40˚ to 60˚F), and chilling should occur only after most of the functional ingredients are in solution. Once the temperature is down to your target level, these temperatures can be maintained through the use of temperature controlled or jacketed holding tanks.
In addition to temperature maintenance, the holding tanks should employ continuous agitation to adequately maintain all of the brine ingredients in solution and to ensure that the brine being returned is adequately mixed with the rest of the aliquots being held. Again, a stick mixer of less sheer capacity can be used.
In conclusion, when deciding on the right brine mixer, you want to make sure the mixer is appropriate for your specific brine and that it’s big enough for the job. When it comes to brine mixers, size does matter!
–Jose L. Prego, Director of Food Science