Ask a Scientist: Troubleshooting Your In-House Charcuterie

Exposing the nitty gritty mysteries of the dry-cured and cold-smoked, plus a recipe from badass butcher Corey Nead.

July 27, 2017



Q: We use ground and hand-diced pork fat in various salami recipes, added frozen while mixing. We have noticed problems with the fat not binding within the meat on some recipes.


Does adding frozen fat hinder the development of myosin in the mixing process? — Chef Corey Nead, Tymkovich Meats  

A: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s happening without seeing the full recipe, but it sounds like temperature could be playing a role here. Low temperatures will ensure that you are able to get good dispersion of fat throughout the sausage before it melts, and high temperatures help with more aggressive extraction of myosin and other proteins from the meat. If the frozen fat is lowering the temperature of the whole system too much, you may not be getting sufficient protein extraction. I’d try maybe freezing only 50-75% of the fat to see if that works out better.  

Part 2—We cold-smoke chorizo prior to being hung in the drying room. I noticed with the cold smoked salami, that the white mold formation is almost non-existent compared with other dry-cured products that are not cold smoked. What could be the reasoning for it? Does the smoke create a barrier on the casing? Does it work like a repellant? What is it about the smoke that leads to minimal mold production? 

A: It could definitely be the smoke—that was one of our first food preservation methods as a species! In addition to having antimicrobial properties, smoke is also acidic, so it could be lowering the surface pH of the sausage to a range that may not be suited for the mold that you’re using.  

Part 3—Water activity: I am now able to produce a salami with a water activity reading of less than .80 (our HAACP is .85) in about 3-4 weeks. Most salami is typically done within 6-8 weeks. Aside from the current conditions (70-80% humidity), (60 degrees F), is there another factor that I should consider for the increase in water evaporation?  

A: The only thing that comes to mind is the geometry of the salami. If you decrease the diameter of a sausage by half, the drying speed can increase 4x.      


RECIPE | Corey Nead's Black Pepper Juniper Salami


4540g pork
681g pork fat
146g salt
10g dextrose
16g sugar
9g juniper
8g coriander
16g black pepper
8g garlic powder
5g red pepper flake
13.05g #2 pink curing salt 
1.25g culture

Stuff in desired size casing, and ferment for 48 hrs at around 80F with 85% humidity. Once fermented, hang in curing room which is set to 60-65F with at least 75% humidity until it achieves at least 30% weight loss. 



ALI BOUZARI IS A CULINARY SCIENTIST AND THE AUTHOR OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, INGREDIENT. | IMAGE VIA ISTOCK