Meat glue is probably not the first thing on your grocery list. But food science whizzes Dave Arnold and Nils Norén—both teachers at the French Culinary Institute, where they focused on nouveau cooking techniques for the New York Culinary Experience on Saturday—think it deserves a chance.
While other classes at the two-day event were using spatulas, this one had medical laboratory equipment ("kitchen tools" that could infuse vodka with habanero peppers and regulate water temperatures to cook multi-course meals) and meat glue.
Though the name might suggest "glue made of meat," that's (fortunately) not the case. It's a powdery enzyme called "transglutaminase," and the two recommend one by Japanese company Ajinomoto. "You can even get a free sample if you go on their website!" Norén encouraged, as if everyone should immediately rush home and snag the freaky adhesive. All I could think about: could there be meat gluesticks?
The dry powder allows meats like bacon to wrap around meat brethren like flank steak, or meats hugged with prosciutto and herbs, minus the mess of twine or toothpicks. "None of that other stuff," Arnold emphasized, as if a little string or wooden sliver has been such a pain for so long.
Just sprinkle the enzyme like powdered sugar over donuts, but be careful of it sticking to itself—meat glue can have a double-stick tape effect. Laminating meat with a mostly tasteless adhesive ("it doesn't taste good, but the point is not use too much," Arnold noted), the technique also works great with chicken-fried steak.
"This way, chicken fat can literally stick to the steak, so you really get a chicken-fried steak," Norén emphasized, as if a chicken-fried steak any other way wasn't legit.
Developed in Japan about two decades ago, the Ajinomoto transglutaminase was approved as a U.S. food ingredient around 1998. Originally, it was a means of creating solid meat products (as with the bits in Chicken McNuggets) and improve the sometimes unappetizing sausagey texture of sausage.
At one point, Noren was using more meat glue than any other chef in New York, and he was pretty darn proud of that. Because the only thing better than meat, is meat on more meat.