Tumbling is a process by which a mechanical action is applied to the muscle tissue over a period of time. The idea is to apply enough energy to the muscle to cause the salt soluble protein to swell and to be pulled to the surface without extensively damaging the meat.
What products are typically tumbled?
Hams, bacons, ribs, hocks, whole chickens, boneless chicken breasts, boneless turkey breasts, whole turkey, seasoned beef, round roast, seasoned ribeye, and jerky, to name a few.
Selecting Your Equipment
There are several options available that can enhance the tumbling process. A variable speed drive system allows the processor to tailor the rotational speed of the drum to the production. Faster speeds will give a more aggressive tumbling action and shorter cycle times. This is well suited to firm-textured meats. Slower speeds are much gentler to the product and are used on soft textured mats. Slower speeds would require a longer cycle time.
Tumbling with intermittent timers provides a means by which the processor can break the tumbling process into tumble and rest periods. This can be useful in minimizing physical damage to soft textured products by giving it time to firm up before resuming tumbling. Periodic rest times also provide extra time for more even distribution.
Should I use a vacuum?
The use of vacuum in tumbling enhance the process in several ways. Tumbling in vacuum prevents foaming by removing the small air bubbles from the protein extracted to the surface. It provides a more intense cured color by reducing exposure of the tissue to air. Vacuuming increases the water-holding capability of the protein while reducing the length of time it takes to get a good bind and protein extraction.
What if I already marinade my protein by soaking it?
Vacuum tumbling combines the marinading and tumbling process. It will allow your brine, spices, etc. to penetrate more evenly throughout the protein as well as tenderize it using the mechanical motion of the machine. Tumbling also takes a fraction of the time compared to soak marinading.