Drying Meats and Sausages
Drying meats and sausages is mainly affected by:
- Humidity - higher humidity, slower drying
- Temperature - higher temperature, faster drying
- Air flow - faster air speed, faster removal of moisture
Understanding drying is crucial when making slow fermented, cold smoked or air dried products as the technology of making these products depends in most part on drying.
Well balanced drying. The equilibrium state: diffusion rate = evaporation rate
The sausages are drying from inside out and the moisture removed from the surface is replaced by the moisture coming from the inside of the sausage.
Too fast moisture removal. It is like a faster car pulling away from a slow one. Inside moisture travelling towards the surface can not keep up with the moisture removed from the surface. The sausage becomes dry on the outside and moist inside.
The pronounced effect of fast drying. The surface is dry and there is a visible grayish ring on a sliced sausage. If the surface hardening occurs in the first stages of drying the inside moisture may be permanently trapped and bacteria will multiply spoiling the sausage.
In a course grind meat the moisture has more free room and shorter distance to the surface. In a fine grind the particles are very small and moisture has to overcome more surface area on its way to the surface. Its path is longer. This problem is magnified in a large diameter salami where moisture has a much longer distance to travel to the surface and a large diameter salami should be dried at a slower pace and much longer than a small diameter one.
More on drying can be found in the Fermented Sausages section.
Conditioning is a short drying process which is employed during manufacture of smoked sausages. This is the drying/setting step which at the first look seems to be insignificant but in reality it is very important. Stuffed sausages may contain meat that was not cured at all or only partially cured. Leaving sausages for 12 hours at 2-6°C (35-42°F) or for 2-3 hours at temperatures below 30°C (86°F) will provide extra time to fully cure the meat. The products can be placed in a drafty area and moderate use of a fan will definitely be of some help. Air-fan drying should not be used for an extended period of time as it may harden the surface of the smaller meat pieces/sausages.
This is a short, hardly noticeable process and when making a lot of sausages, before the last casings are stuffed, the first ones are ready for smoking. It is recommended to follow this setting process with smoking as we don’t have to worry about refrigeration of the sausages after they are stuffed. Stuffed sausages that are subject to smoking follow a drying procedure which can last from 0.5-2 hrs at 68-86° F (20-30° C). The time depends on the diameter of the sausage and the amount of moisture it contains. This simple process dries out the surface of the casing so it can acquire smoke better and develop the proper smoking color. This drying process is often performed inside the smoker and lasts about 1 hr (no smoke applied) at 40-54°C (104-130°F) until the casings feel dry. Leave draft controls or the top of your smoker fully open. If natural wood is used for fuel, enough wood must be burned to produce sufficient amounts of hot embers that would be releasing heat without creating smoke to dry out the casings. Preheating a smoker to eliminate the humidity inside is a must step for the smoking process that follows.