Introduction: Make a Meat Sculpture From a Mold
Meat is not a very traditional medium used in sculpting. While meat sculptures definitely exist, it's not easy to make complicated and intricate structures using meat because pieces of meat don't naturally stick together and because most meats are not rigid enough to form some kind of structure. However, with a mold and a little bit of transglutaminase (AKA "meat glue"), sculpting with raw meat becomes really easy! I recently tried out a simple technique of filling up a mold with raw meat and transglutaminase in order fuse different pieces of meat together into a rigid shape and make a sculpture. The end result -- a "reconstituted foot" made from cow feet, pig feet, and chicken feet -- is shown in the main image. With this technique you can make all sorts of meat sculptures from almost any kind of mold, and some of them might even be edible!
Step 1: Materials
The materials for a molded meat sculpture are simple. You'll need:
- Raw meat
- A (potentially food-safe) mold
- A scale.
Transglutaminase is really the only exotic ingredient, here. Transglutaminase, otherwise known as "meat glue," is an enzyme that causes proteins to bond to each other. Since meat is just hunks of protein, bone, and fat, transglutaminase is commonly used in molecular gastronomy to forge bonds between two pieces of meat. For example, if you sprinkle a little transglutaminase onto a steak and then stick it onto a totally separate piece of steak (or maybe chicken or bacon or whatever you want), you can make them stick together since steak is essentially just a giant wad of protein and connective tissue. In addition to allowing us to glue meats to other meats, transglutaminase also makes critical biological functions such as blood clotting possible. Not bad!
For my sculpture, I decided I would cut up cow, pig, and chicken legs/feet (shown above) into smaller pieces and fill up a vacuum-formed mold of my shoe. I mixed in transglutaminase with ground beef and shredded pork tenderloin to fill in the empty space and to act as a matrix in which the larger pieces of bone and meat would set.
Step 2: Cut Up the Meat
Once you've gathered your ingredients, cut them up into reasonably-sized pieces that you'll use to fill your mold. If your meat has large bones in it, don't even bother using a knife -- go straight for the saw. It will be a little bit blood bath-y, and you'll probably start thinking about terrible things like serial killers, but don't worry about it -- just keep your eyes on the prize and hack away. Expect to break a sweat, and if you've got a friend or significant other who mistakenly followed you into the room, get them to start sawing when you get tired. I tried to convince mikeasaurus to let me use the band saw, but he very reasonably concluded that raw meat would fly up into the belt housing, get trapped, and be left to fester and rot for days.
Step 3: Bind It All Together With Transglutaminase
Once you've got the meat how you want it, it's time to add in transglutaminase. I added ground beef, pork tenderloin, and 1% by weight of transglutaminase to a Vitamix and blended it all together. (E.g., if I had 500g of ground beef, I'd add 5g of transglutaminase to the mixture.) Since I used ground beef and tenderloin as a matrix in which to set the larger pieces of meat, I didn't add any transglutaminase directly to the pieces of meat I cut up. If you aren't using a more fluid medium like ground beef, you can simply sprinkle transglutaminase onto the surface of the meat and put it contact with another piece of meat. Make sure that the transglutaminase coating is both thin and well-distributed everywhere you want the meat to stick together.
Step 4: Arrange and Allow the Meat to Set
Finally, arrange the meat how you want it in your mold and allow it to set in the refrigerator. The Internet suggests allowing it to set for 4-24 hours. I let mine set for more than a day, though that was probably overkill.
Step 5: Remove From the Mold and Enjoy
Once the meat is done setting, remove it from the mold. If you were successful, your sculpture should come out of the mold as one solid piece of fused meat. Enjoy!