What is the single most important rule in most meat processing environments that utilize a brine solution? The order that ingredients are added into the brine solution.

Given the opportunity, I would review and change the way most brine formulas are mixed in today's working plant. Don’t get me wrong, at times, the smoothness of process flow is paramount. But achieving this seamless brine flow might be less functional in its impact on our product. The best way to get the most out of your functional ingredients is through the brine; and the way the ingredients are worked into solution determines its efficacy.

When mixing most simple brines or clear brines, the phosphate is always added first. In some, if not most circumstances, the phosphate will be challenging to get into solution. Adding other ingredients at the same time as the phosphate will only result in making the process that much more difficult. Ideally, you start with room temperature water and only after both the phosphates and salt are dissolved can the chilling process begin. Because circumstances aren't always ideal, it's perfectly acceptable to dissolve these first two ingredients in chilled water. If this is the case, a high sheer mixer and a good amount of time is critical. If you see "crystalline stuff" at the bottom of your brine mixer or brine holding tank at any time, you're most likely flushing undissolved phosphates down your drains.

Only after both your phosphates and salt are fully dissolved should you begin adding additional ingredients.

With product formulas stretched to the limit and continuously lowered sodium levels, you want to extract every bit of functionality and efficacy out of all of your ingredients. Again, the first on this list should be the phosphate. Getting it fully dissolved should be the first goal and all other ingredients will fall in line after this. Add them in order of solubility, choosing the most soluble first. Of course, there are some functional ingredients that require a specific order or addition. For these, it is always wise to check with the supplier.

– Jose L. Prego, Director of Food Science