IDDSI Webinar – Myths and Truths about Modifying Foods for IDDSI Levels

The Challenge

It has been an honour and a great responsibility to be asked to be involved with such a project and at times it has fully challenged our understanding of modifying foods for the IDDSI levels. We hope this first webinar ‘Myths and Truths about Modifying Foods for the IDDSI Levels’, will start the process of linking the ‘what’ and ‘why’ to the ‘how’.

The webinar is split into four distinct sections covering the IDDSI food levels: 4 – Pureed; 5 – Minced and Moist; and 6 – Soft and Bite Sized. The final section will be a Signature dish of Chicken Fricassee with Fennel and Lemon Risotto –  bringing all of the IDDSI food levels to life.

The challenge set by Peter Lam (Co-chair of IDDSI) was to look at some of the more problematic foods that people have found it difficult to modify to the IDDSI levels. In our experience we have found many different foodstuffs problematic, however with a bit of practice and perseverance there is a natural process of refinement in thinking and technique which can bring solutions.

This first blog entry looks at meat – specifically at IDDSI level 5.


The first challenge we were set was to look at the how best to choose and cook meat or fish for IDDSI level 5 – Minced and Moist.

The big challenge here is to ensure that the meat becomes soft enough to pass the pressure test required for this level. The various different cuts of meat available will react differently to different cooking methods. We find some cuts that are tender with barely any cooking become tough as they cook longer. The opposite occurs too as some cuts are tough until they have been exposed to heat for a number of hours!

The IDDSI level 5 requirement that the lumps squash down with minimal pressure applied by the back of a fork bring us to the conclusion that the long, slow cooking of tougher cuts will provide this characteristic. The leaner cuts are soft but when depressed with a fork spring back to their original shape. Therefore these are inappropriate at IDDSI level 5. (We will be looking at techniques around marinading in a future article – various ingredients have the properties to break down muscle fibres before the cooking process. This could make the cooking duration shorter and make new cuts available for this level.)

In principle the best cuts to choose are the muscle groups that are well worked. A good example here is to look at the chicken. The breast (white meat) is lean and requires a shorter cooking duration to the tougher legs and thighs (brown meat). This can be explained by the fact that the legs and thighs are in constant use as the chickens walk around all day every day. In comparison the breasts are used to flap the wings for a short duration and only when getting out of danger.


So well used muscles should be your first choice when modifying meats for IDDSI levels. Here are some examples of the cuts you could choose:

Chicken – Thigh and leg

Beef – Blade (flat-iron), shin (shank), cheek, tail and brisket

Lamb – Shank, belly, neck, shoulder

Pork – Knuckle, hock, blade, cheek, belly (rib and side)

Most fish are suitable provided bones and skin are removed. Their meat has a soft texture and requires far less cooking time.

Cooking Techniques

As these cuts (muscles) are well used they naturally contain more collagen, the tough muscle protein that makes up the muscles and connective tissue. This collagen takes a long time at low temperatures to break down to gelatin. Once broken down the meat fibres are free to fall apart and the gelatin gives the texture lubrication making it soft and unctuous. It will now pass the checks required for IDDSI levels 5 Minced and Moist and level 6 Soft and Bite Sized (provided the size restrictions are met).

Techniques that are perfectly suited are braising, pot-roasting, casseroling, stewing and poaching. These techniques require the meat to be cooked in liquid, covered to prevent moisture loss, for long periods at a low temperature. An example might be 1 kg of beef blade cooked at 160 C for 3 hours. Times for cooking can be reduced considerably if you use a pressure cooker.

In order to give modified food the best possible flavour roasting and browning techniques can be used provided the meat is then cooked as we have looked at above.

Once cooked the meat can be cut to the right size and bound with a sauce that is cohesive enough to hold the bits of meat without separating.

If the meat you have chosen doesn’t pass the checks for IDDSI level you require then it can be blended to make the binding sauce or thick non-pourable sauce that is appropriate. For example some minced meat can be very hard and won’t pass the fork pressure test. For IDDSI level 5 it is best to blend this down to a smooth sauce and bind soft vegetables (or other component of the dish that does pass the checks) so that the meal is balanced and tastes delicious.

Click HERE for our in-depth online catering training used in hospitals, care homes and at home.

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