Meat Glue: What Is It?

Yeah, you know -- meat glue. Transglutaminase. No?

Let's start at the beginning. Ever picked up the wrong thing at the store by accident? Like, thinking you'd grabbed linguine but you come home with cupcake tins? 

Or you think it's salt, but it was really ajinomoto?

It sure looks like salt, but this Central American-made ajinomoto is straight-up, 100% pure, uncut MSG.

Sounds like 100 headaches in a jar.

Turns out a Japanese company called Ajinomoto specializing in monosodium glutumate found a new way to make transglutaminase -- from bacteria in the soil.

The old way? Guinea pig livers.

So, who cares? What's great about meat glue, anyway? What can you do with it? Glue two pieces of meat together?

Well, actually, yeah. And chefs are using the binding agent in awfully inventive ways.

This is the Super Glue of foods, my friends. It doesn't say so, but you could probably glue a hotdog to a bowl of Raisin Bran.

According to the story on cookingissues.com, you can form sausage without casings, and, um, "make novel meat combinations like lamb and scallops." Not sure how that would work, as later we're cautioned against sticking chicken and salmon together: "The salmon will be dead before the chicken is cooked."

It's safe to use and won't glue your hands together. But how to tell it's fresh? Sounds like fun:

"There is a way to test if your meat glue is still working. Get a small scrap of raw meat (we use chicken). Apply a liberal amount of meat glue to the meat and massage it in. Sniff the meat (don't inhale the powder). If the meat smells like a wet dog or a wet wool sweater, your glue is good. If it doesn't, your glue is bad. The next time you get a fresh shipment of TG, run the "wet dog" again and get a sense for how strong the smell is. After a while you will be able to tell how good your glue is (how high the enzymatic activity is) by how strong the wet dog smell is. Don't wait too long to sniff after you massage in the glue because the smell dissipates after a couple of minutes. The wet dog smell is, I believe, caused by the small amount of ammonia released in the TG reaction. The ammonia dissipates before you eat the product."

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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