Starch is added to meat, even low-fat ones, to retain moisture, improve texture, and reduce shrinkage.
Using a stabilized waxy maize or tapioca starch helps improve moisture retention, while a modified corn starch usually results in a firmer bite.
Meats can have starch added through injection, tumbling, or adding to formed meats. The choice of base starch can impact the texture. If starches break down, it can negatively affect the taste.
Smokehouse meats are cooked at a temperature below 70 °C, so starches that can swell at low temperature and low water activity are preferred. Highly-stabilized, moderately crosslinked waxy and tapioca starches are commonly used.
Modified food starch can be used in standardized frankfurters and bologna at 3.5% usage to increase water-holding capacity and reduce purge during storage. Cook-up starches are preferred to avoid increasing batter viscosity and to withstand shear on high-speed emulsion mixers. They must still swell under smokehouse conditions.
The starch is added with the seasonings, sometimes as part of a seasoning blend. It’s approved for use in ‘Ham Water Added’ and ‘Ham and Water – X%’ at 2.0% to reduce purge. It’s added to the brine tank and requires agitation. The starch gelatinizes in the smokehouse after the ham is added.
The USDA allowed the use of modified food starch in poultry loaf as one of the earliest applications. It helps to firm texture, increase juiciness and sliceability, and control purge. Modified food starch can be added to poultry meats up to 3.0%, while poultry franks can contain up to 3.5%.