Transglutaminase is an enzyme that has the property to bind protein rich food like meat, poultry, fish and seafood, or food mixed with gelatin. It is thus possible to bind small or irregular cuts of meat into larger pieces in order to allow for even cooking, or for a different presentation style.
Many types of transglutaminases are naturally part of animal, plant and microbe organisms. A certain amount of transglutaminase is therefore already present in the meats, poulty, fish, seafoods and even vegetables that we eat.
Transglutaminase can also be industrially produced throught a fermentation process. It is sold as powdery mixes.
Transglutaminase is an enzyme, which is to say it is a protein that has the property to catalyse some chemical reactions. In this case, transglutaminase quickens the formation of covalent bonds between two amino acids : lycine and glutamine. Amino acids are a basic component of proteins.
Transglutaminase therefore helps « glue » protein rich foods like meat, poultry, fish and seafood, or gelatin. Binding will be especially strong with proteins rich in lycine and glutamine.
Transglutaminase has been used for many years by the food industry in the making of transformed meats and fish like saussages, patties and imitation crabmeat. It is also sometimes added to cheeses in order to obtain a better texture, or to yogurts to avoid liquid leeking (syneresis).
Maltodextrine is also a frequent excipient (non active agent) in pharmacology : it is used in the making of many drugs to which it provides desired properties such as taste, shape or solubility.
Creative cooking applications
Transglutaminase has multiple uses in creative cooking. It allows for the confection of original sausages without membranes that nonetheless hold very well even when cut. It enables a chef to serve as medallions meats and fish that couldn’t otherwise be cut that way. It can permit original, and appetizing shapes.
By binding thin cuts of meat together, one can obtain bigger pieces that can consequentely be more easily cooked rare, for example. In the same way, irregular cuts can be « glued » together into a more regular shape and permit an even cooking.
Transglutaminase is sometimes used to glue bacon or chicken or fish skin unto other types of meat and fish.
It is also used to make pasta out of protein foods such as puréed shrimp. These pasta’s texture, pliability and resistance to heat is very similar to that of flour based pasta.
In conjonction with the use of gelatin (which is a protein), transglutaminase can bind other foods like fruit, vegetables, cooked cereal and grains which can then be served as cold or hot chunks.
Tips and tricks
Transglutaminase can be sprinkled over meat or mixed with water into a slurry, to be applied evenly with a brush. Foods then need to be hermetically wrapped in plastic and left aside for a few hours. The process can be quickened to about 15 to 20 minutes when the food binded with transglutaminase is heated to around 55°C (131°F).