Wash your mouth out?
February 12, 2008 10:26 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I cook meat, it tastes soapy. Why?

It is definitely not the pan having residual soap on it, as it has happened whether I bake, grill, BBQ or microwave meat. It seems to happen most frequently with chicken and beef, but other meats are sometimes affected. It is not anything to do with the fridge, as I have used a variety of fridges/freezers over the years. I am not the only person who can taste it, my housemate has also had this experience with meals she or her friends have cooked.

Is there anything I can do to stop this? It doesn't make it inedible, just less enjoyable.
posted by indienial to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you cooking the meat with anything? Personally I find coriander (cilantro) tastes soapy, which apparently is a genetic thing, and even a small amount can add a lot of soap taste. This probably isn't your culprit given your variety of cooking methods, but knowing if there is anything tyeing these incidents together (such as other things added) could be helpful.
posted by shelleycat at 10:37 PM on February 12, 2008

I have never, ever experienced this. Are you sure there isn't soap being introduced *somehow*...does this happen when you cook meat other than in your house, since you say your housemate has also had this experience...

I suppose it's possible that the meat has residual soap on it (ewwww)... where are you buying this meat? Maybe the store is the problem (although I admit that sounds unlikely).

This just sounds so foreign to me that I can't think of any cause other than the presence of an unusual foreign agent of some kind.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:52 PM on February 12, 2008

Soap is animal fat which is mixed with a strong alkali in solution. Usually they use lye or potash, but I think anything that raises the pH will work at least a little. The point is to form a salt with the fatty acids.

Your meat provides the animal fat. Could you be using something when you cook that's providing the other half of that equation? For instance, is your water particularly hard?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:58 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: It could be that your particular brand of meat is heavy in phosphates. Phosphates are often added to meats to preserve color and texture (and, in the case of chicken, to fight salmonella); but if they're used too liberally, they can upset the natural acidity of the meat and give it an alkaline, "soapy" flavor. Alternately, stress to the original animal can also raise the pH of the meat, with similar results.

In either case, I'd switch to a more organic, less processed brand and see if that made a difference.
posted by Iridic at 11:04 PM on February 12, 2008

Pure Speculation, but:

Closest thing I've found is an article about food preservatives / commercial brining solutions (here), that mentions:

Higher pH levels enhance the protein extraction and produce higher yields but have a detrimental effect on the color. "Alkaline phosphates can cause grayish color and a 'soapy' flavor in meat,"

As to how or why it is getting on / in / around your meat I haven't the foggiest idea, it could by from hardwater, but that doesn't explain the issue when you BBQ.

It could be that some of the meat your are buying has been treated excessively with these brining solutions. Maybe try purchasing from a different grocer or meat market, where they will cut the pieces for you (or getting a full chicken and carving it up yourself).

Or it could be your body has raised alkaline levels (or maybe just your mouth, after you have a nice drink from a glass of hardwater).
posted by mrzarquon at 11:21 PM on February 12, 2008

Key question is: what are all the possible consistent factors? Common ingredient (oil, water, salt, pepper, ...). Flavor transfer from something you occasionally store in your fridge/freezer. Place where you're shopping. Who knows. Does this at least only happen at your own place?
posted by madmethods at 11:24 PM on February 12, 2008

Buying your meat someplace else certainly sounds like the first thing to try. Maybe going cross town once or twice, just to make sure you're getting your meat from a different second-level wholesaler. (Markets near each other could be getting their meat from the same place.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:55 PM on February 12, 2008

maybe it's your cutlery
posted by matteo at 12:56 AM on February 13, 2008

Seconding matteo. Could the problem be that your dishes aren't being rinsed off well enough? (weak dishwasher? lazy roomate?) If the silverware or plates had residual soap on them, you'd probably taste it in the meat.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:08 AM on February 13, 2008

Doubt it's to do with residual soap on plates, etc. In the UK, people often do not give their dishes a final rinse after they've been scrubbed & sloshed through a pan of soapy (clean) dishwater. I do, but I'm a transplanted Yank. Sometimes its left to dry like that, sometimes it's wiped dry with a dishtowel.

All the same, never noticed a soapy taste on any food here - despite being sure some residual soap is on the plates, cutlery, cooking pans, etc.

I have noticed soapiness in tea in areas with very hard water, though. Tea is alkaline. My vote is that it's a combo of the water you're using & whatever additives are in your meat. Not beating the Buy Organic drum, but it might be worth thinking about.

Regardless, you may want to buy your meat from another shop. They may not be storing it correctly. If the meat is soapy when you're using dry preparations (roast or grill), the additional water to kick off the Soap Taste Reaction has to be coming from somewhere...
posted by Grrlscout at 1:53 AM on February 13, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions... I think maybe I am more sensitive to the phosphates in meat than others. I've experienced this soapy taste in meat I've eaten everywhere from Melbourne to Perth to Brisbane. The only constant factor is me, I guess! Though other people have noticed it once I've pointed it out, so I'm definitely not imagining it. Also, I don't remember ever having that taste to meat in England, so maybe they use different preservatives in meat over there.

Now that Iridic has mentioned it, I don't think I've ever had the soapy taste with organic meat, so I will make the switch. I can't believe I'm the only person on MeFi to taste soapy meat!
posted by indienial at 2:58 PM on February 13, 2008

Could it be some rancidity in an oil you are using?
posted by gjc at 3:37 PM on February 13, 2008

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