Lean meats and how to puree them for dysphagia

Puree Meat & The Best Way to Prepare It

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Dysphagia Tips for How-To Puree Meat

Have you tried to puree meat to meet your dysphagia diet needs and they never quite turn out the way you expect? Do you need your food perfectly, consistently smooth with no grittiness? If you don’t, I am incredibly happy to hear that. However, too many people that struggle with swallowing cannot handle the additional gritty or dry texture.

At Dysphagia Duo, we have been testing how to properly puree meat and other foods to meet your needs. We have discovered that every type of meat purees differently, and how it purees depends on the equipment you are using.

Equipment Needed for Pureeing

In order to puree meat, veggies, and other foods properly, regardless of what type of food it is, you will need the correct tool for the job. You will want to invest in a great blender or food processor in order to get food to be perfectly smooth.

Blenders To Puree Meat

The Vitamix is the most expensive but is going to last a long time. It is the gold standard of blenders, especially when it comes to a perfect puree. It is commercial quality, which means they use and abuse them in restaurants. There are multiple options, and you can often find them on sale at Costco and other retail stores. Even on sale you are going to spend upwards of $300. If you are needing to blend a lot of food (or multiple servings), this is a great option and will not disappoint.

The Blend Jet is a recent discovery here at Dysphagia Dietitian and Dysphagia Duo. It is portable and charges with a USB cord, it is extremely powerful, and you can get away with only blending one serving of food at a time. It is also easy to clean and my new favorite tool. I can take it anywhere, plus I can get almost any food to an extremely smooth consistency. You can buy it at Walmart, Target, or online through the manufacturer’s website. The cost starts at $49.99.

Another type of blender may work well for you and I understand that cost is often an issue when looking for the right way to keep yourself nourished. If you have a question about a specific blender or food processor and cant seem to find a solution, please click on the “Dysphagia Dietitian” link above and send me a message including the type of equipment you use.

Food Processors

The Ninja is a great option for a food processor. You can find the Ninja at most retail stores and multiple sizes are available, from single serve/smoothie makers to larger sizes that hold more than 1/2 a gallon. It is important to remember that the larger the machine, the more food you have to prepare at one time.

The RoboCoupe is the most expensive food processor you can buy. They are typically found in restaurants and other commercial kitchens. The price starts at around $1500. This machine is used by most skilled nursing facilities to prepare the pureed foods for dysphagia puree diets. This is done in bulk as these machines are not helpful for making single servings.

Your typical food processor, found at any local store (or Amazon.com) should work well for you.

Immersion/Stick Blender

These machines are helpful for soup and other foods like applesauce. They do not work well for solid food like meats. However, many stick blenders are including attachments that include a small food processor which can be useful for soups, sauces, vegetables, and many other foods. I highly recommend adding this tool to your toolbox, especially if it has the attachments with it.

Types Of Meat to Puree

Lean Meats

The word “lean” means there is very little fat in the meat. Lean meats include:

  • Poultry (no skin)- turkey breast, chicken,
  • Pork – loin and tenderloin
  • Beef – tenderloin, sirloin, flank steak, round – lean, 97/3 ground beef
  • White fish – cod, halibut, bass, haddock, pollock

These meats will require added fat to improve their smoothness, and extra liquid. You will likely need to puree for several minutes in order to get as smooth as possible.

Poultry

Chicken is high in protein, low in fat, and is widely used in cultures around the world. The bad news: it is very easy to overcook. If you roast or bake it and do not get it perfectly at 160F, you run the risk of the chicken always being dry, no matter how much liquid or fat you add to it after the fact.

If you braise it (cook at a low temperature, mostly covered in liquid for a long period of time) the meat will be very tender and have more moisture. A pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), will give a similar outcome in significantly less time but may not be as moist as you want.

We did an experiment with both roasted chicken breast and canned chicken, hoping it would puree smoothly and have a consistent texture. We heated the canned chicken in broth to a simmer but did not boil it. Then we added it to the blender with some of the broth and pureed it until it visibly looked smooth. It tasted gritty. How disappointing!

Next, we tried adding some olive oil but determined that the fat (oil, butter, lard, etc.) needed to be added at the beginning of the cooking process, so we attempted to heat the chicken in a little bit of oil by sautéing it. We added it to the blender and it was much smoother.

The result was the same with both experiments: canned and roasted chicken. Lean chicken (and other types of poultry) must be cooked with some type of fat in order to add the needed moisture for the pureeing process.

Beef

Beef is (usually) tougher than other meats. In order to puree it well you will want to cut it up into small pieces (this makes the blender not have to work as hard which can prolong it’s life) and add liquid. I prefer to add beef stock because it contributes to the flavor.

Braising beef (braising discussed above) helps break it down so that it is very tender. You may still want to cut it up a bit before adding it to the blender.

Pork

Lean pork, like pork loin and tenderloin should be treated like chicken. Pork butt (or pork shoulder, depending on what you call it, are the same thing) should be braised. It is very tough if cooked quickly and will not puree well. After you have braised it, chop it up into smaller pieces, add sauce and puree well. Serve it like you would serve pulled pork.

Fish

All the puree recipes I have found for white fish are specifically for baby food. If you have tried one of these recipes please let me know how they turn out. I will add this to my list of foods to develop recipes for.

Fatty Meats

  • Fish – Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Herring
  • Beef – 80/20 ground,
  • Pork –
  • Chicken – anything with skin, ground

Fish is much more delicate than land animal proteins. Just like other meats, it will not puree well without the addition of liquid and some type of fat. Click here to view a traditional Salmon Mousse recipe, typically served on cucumber slices or crackers (and served at fancy parties). This recipe uses cream cheese as the fat and lemon juice as additional liquid. In order to get it extra smooth you will need to blend multiple times and potentially add extra liquid.

Ground meat

Using ground meats can be very tricky for pureed recipes. The success of your recipe will depend on the quality of meat that you buy, higher quality will turn out better. Using the Blend Jet, the only food I have not successfully pureed smooth was bratwurst. The grind was too large and had a significant amount of gristle in it that would not break down. I also had to remove the casing, or skin, from the sausage in order to get a smoother puree.

Conclusion Of How To Puree Meat

In order to successfully puree meat you need to know these three things:

  1. Use the correct tool for pureeing. This may require an investment of money but will give you a tool you can use for years, which will save you time in the long run.
  2. Cook your meat in a small amount of fat and be prepared to add additional fat while blending if needed.
  3. You will need extra liquid anytime you blend anything. This can be water, broth, sauce (bbq, ketchup, vinegar, lemon juice, milk, juice, etc), or any liquid you prefer. Your fat may double as a liquid and will likely thin out your food also while increasing your calories.

If you are struggling with Dysphagia and don’t know where to turn, the Dietitian & Speech Therapist team at Dysphagia Duo would love for you to include us on your journey. We offer nutrition and swallowing therapy services to improve your nutrition and quality of life. Please contact us so we can help you with your dysphagia journey.

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