Tenderization Timer: Q & A

Kjell Hedstrom, 2017

 

What happens to the meat during the tenderization process?
Tenderization of meat is a chemical process where connective tissues and other meat proteins are broken down by natural enzymes. The breakdown process makes the meat easier to chew and the flavor develops (compare to wine or whiskey, which also is better with aging). Meat which has not hung long enough will be tough, chewy and bland.

 

How does the Tenderization Timer work? 
Simply put, the Tenderization Timer consists of a micro computer with a sensor which measures the ambient temperature every 21 seconds.  There is also a wall model which also measures the humidity level.

 The computer continually calculates the tenderization and the estimated number of remaining aging days, and displays the information in the windows of the timer.

The tenderization formula is based primarily on the concept of degree days. Degree days are calculated by multiplying the average temperature by the number of aging days. If the meat has aged for 40 ° C degree days, the tenderization would be at 100%. For temperatures below 4 ° C or 39.2 ° F, the tenderization process is calculated according to how meat tenderizes at lower temperatures. The graph below shows how many days the meat needs to hang in order to reach 100% tenderization at various temperatures.

If the temperature is too low, i.e. consistently below 0 ° C i.e. 32 ° F, no tenderization will take place. The Tenderization Timer displays a warning in the shape of a snowflake in the window for remaining aging days. The number of remaining days cannot be calculated and two horizontal lines are shown in the display. In this case, the space where the carcass is hanging, or the vacuum packed meat is stored, needs to be warmed up, or alternatively, the carcass or meat needs to be moved to a warmer place.


On what types of animals can I use the Tenderization Timer? 
The Tenderization Timer can be used on both hunted game and slaughtered livestock. It can be used for any type of animal, which needs to age, both mammals and birds.


Dry Aging: How is the number of remaining hanging days calculated? 
The calculation of the number of remaining days is based on the average daily temperature since the Tenderization Timer was started. The calculation of the remaining time makes it easier to plan for when the butchering should take place. Keep in mind that the number of remaining days could change if the temperature in the hanging space changes.


Vacuum Aging: How is the number of remaining days calculated for the vacuum packed meat? 
The calculation of the number of remaining days is based on the average daily temperature since the Tenderization Timer was started. The calculation of the remaining time makes it easier to plan for when the final storage in the freezer should take place. Keep in mind that the number of remaining days could change if the temperature in the aging space changes.


Can the tenderization time be extended to allow for extra tender meat?
Yes, if you have been extra careful with hygiene while handling the meat you could let the timer reach 150%, equaling 60 ° C degree days. How tender you prefer the meat is of course up to you. With a Tenderization Timer it is easy to find your preferred level of tenderization and meat consistency. The Tenderization Timer continues to calculate the tenderization until it reaches 200%, where it automatically switches off. The timer is then ready to be used again.


Can I continue the tenderization even after the meat has been butchered? 
Yes, this is best done in vacuum sealed bags. It is commonly referred to as Vacuum Aging or Wet Aging (due to the meat's internal moisture).
Keep the timer with the butchered and vacuum sealed and packed meat in a cool place. The meat will continue to tenderize until it is put in the freezer, and the timer will continue its calculations up to full tenderization. This way the meat can completely tenderized before you freeze the meat. 

This method can be used when you are forced to butcher the meat before it is fully tenderized, which is not unusual with large animals. It is also a common aging method when dry aging and carcass hanging facilities are not accessible.

It is also suitable for fowl which is normally cleaned right away. 


Can the Tenderization Timer be used for more than one animal at a time?
One Tenderization Timer can be used to measure the tenderization of several animals as long as the animals were harvested at the same time and are aging in the same space with the same ambient temperature. If another animal is harvested one or several days after the first one(s), the percentage of tenderization must be noted the moment that animal is hung in the same space. The tenderization would need to be extended for the noted amount of time. For example, if the tenderization of the first animal(s) is at 18% when the next animal is hung, the total percentage of tenderization for the second animal should reach 118%. Alternatively, several Tenderization Timers could be used to control the process for animals harvested on different days.

 

What type of battery does the Tenderization Timer use? 
Both the handheld and wall mounted models use regular 1.5V AAA batteries. With normal use the batteries last for many years.

 

What should I keep in mind when handling meat? 
After an animal has been shot or slaughtered it needs to be dressed, i.e. emptied of its' internal organs. Another method is the so called gutless method, in which case the animal is quartered and the whole carcass is not kept.  

Proper dressing or quartering assists in lowering the animal's body temperature and prevents bacteria and parasites from the intestines to spread to the meat. Proper hygiene is very important to prevent contamination of the meat. Hands, knives, and other equipment need to be cleaned thoroughly. Use of clean disposable gloves will decrease the risk of contamination further.

The carcass can be hung either with or without its' hide. If the animal was shot in such a manner that the meat has been contaminated by intestinal bacteria, it would be best to skin the animal and remove the contaminated meat section before hanging or vacuum aging it.

Improper hygiene or failure to keep the meat from being contaminated is likely to ruin the meat.

It's important to avoid cooling down the carcass too quickly after the harvest, since the meat can be affected by cold contractions. Meat affected by cold contractions becomes hard, tough, and impossible to tenderize. During the first twelve hours the meat's temperature should not fall below 10 ° C, i.e. 50 ° F. If it's very cold when the animal is harvested, it could be better to skin the animal later, especially smaller game, in order to maintain the body temperature above 10 ° C, i.e. 50 ° F

The meat storage space must also maintain a temperature which is neither too high nor too low. The temperature must be above 0 ° C, or 32 ° F, for the tenderization to take place. On the other hand if the temperature is too high, the risk of harmful bacteria spoiling the meat is higher.


For Dry Aging: 
Hanging of the animal should take place in a space which meets a number of requirements. No animals or insects should come in contact with the meat. This is easiest accomplished by hanging the meat in a game bag.

An important factor is the air moisture levels. High humidity levels, above 85%, increase the risk of bacterial and fungal contaminations. Low humidity levels have no serious negative effects, except that the meat may lose a lot of water.
 

Am I guaranteed good results if I use the Tenderization Timer? 
Even though the Tenderization Timer provides very useful information on how far the tenderization has progressed, it's still advisable to use smell and sight to assess the meat quality when dry aging the meat. Smell and sight, experience and knowledge, and the Tenderization Timer which calculates the tenderization, together provide the best possible outcome for tender and flavourful meat.