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If you take a package of deli meat and remove the slab, place it on bread and add your condiments in never tastes as good as when you take the slab and "fluff" up each piece as you lay it on your sandwich.

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Maybe it has to do with air reaching the meat. Fluffing would increase the exposed surface area. –  uncle brad Feb 2 '11 at 17:24
    
Whatever it is it really does make a difference. –  MVCylon Feb 2 '11 at 17:26
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If this is true and not just psychological then it can't have anything to do the bread/sandwich, it would affect the flavour of the meat itself. –  Aaronut Feb 2 '11 at 17:47
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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This deli meat you speak of is generally made of small scraps of mechanically-separated meat that are essentially "glued" together into a solid mass by enzymes that partially break down the tissue. This processed "meat brick" doesn't really have the same texture as an intact muscle tissue, which has individual muscle fibers aligned along a "grain" that makes it pleasantly chewy. Folding/layering/rolling slices of processed meat gives it more of a texture and chew, and tricks you into thinking you're eating an actual piece of animal muscle instead of meat-flavored jelly.

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I know this is a bit subjective, but I'm sure the answer has to be related to the texture, as that's the only thing that's really changing here. By the way, I'm having slices of meat-flavored jelly for lunch. Mmmmm... –  Bob Feb 2 '11 at 17:48
    
Oooo... Good call on texture. –  Stuart Pegg Feb 2 '11 at 17:53
    
Also, having boar's head mustard helps. That makes sense though. I can't eat deli meat by itself, that may explain why. –  MVCylon Feb 2 '11 at 18:02
    
But it's also true for shaved meats, where there's little cohesion left in the meat, and it's true for roast beef, where it is coming from one large muscle, and not an "amalgameat". –  Joe Feb 2 '11 at 18:06
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@Bob: It's not the only thing that's changing. The exposed surface area changes. And I'm totally with Joe: this happens not just for real meat, but even thinly sliced vegetables. –  Jefromi Feb 3 '11 at 0:38
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Similar to @uncle brad's comment, I would consider that it's related to the air:

A larger amount of air is trapped close to the ham, and hence is scented by it. This means that the ham-scented air is released into your mouth as you bite, which then escapes through your nose, increasing your perception of the ham (as taste is largely composed of smell).

I'm now actually quite hungry.

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I suspect that this is a more likely contributor, and not just texture. You might be able to test this one by comparing two otherwise identical sandwiches, but eat them with your nose plugged; if this is a contributing factor, the two should taste similar. You could also compare plugged vs. unplugged nose for the two sandwiches. –  Joe Feb 2 '11 at 18:20
    
@Joe: Science! Hurrah! –  Stuart Pegg Feb 2 '11 at 19:43
    
one problem...I hate ham. The product in question is Buddig Sliced chicken meat. –  MVCylon Feb 2 '11 at 21:36
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I'm not sure why you assume the air has to be trapped. Why does finely shaved zest work better than a big hunk of peel? There's more surface area for the good stuff to get out! Same goes for deli meat, I'm sure. When you eat it, there's air (and perhaps saliva) moving over the exposed surface area, carrying the flavor to your senses, whether or not there was trapped air. –  Jefromi Feb 3 '11 at 0:28
    
@Jefromi: Actually, I quite like the idea of marinaded air. :) I would suggest that your Comment Question should be turned into a Question Answer, and hence allow the two options to be considered side-by-side, rather than debated in comments. –  Stuart Pegg Feb 3 '11 at 9:06
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I think that Stuart has almost the right idea. Rather than trapping air close to the ham, and letting aromas diffuse through that, though, I think that it's simply a matter of surface area.

When you smell something, air flows over the surface area, and picks up the volatile compounds that form the aroma - those are what you smell, and clearly they don't have to have been trapped next to it to get a strong scent. When you eat something, you've got the smelling part going on, plus the food on your tongue - and surface area could easily help there too, letting more of the food come into contact with your taste buds as it's moved around in your mouth.

The best analogy, I think, is citrus zest. Clearly you can smell a whole lot more from finely shaved zest than you can from a hunk of peel, and this is true even without any air being trapped next to it. If you need convincing, just give some zest repeated sniffs, or carefully blow on it to remove trapped air, then smell it.

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The increased surface area and air also allow the fat to warm up a little and give more flavor, so you're not eating stacked meat with still 'jellied' fat in the middle.

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To fold ingredients to expose them to more air is a well known technique in cooking to ENHANCE flavoring.

The more air that infuses each bite, the better. Oxidation to food is essential to good flavour. So yes! When you make a sandwich, fold the meat to create air channels, if you have or can slice your cheese very thinly, then do the same as well.

If you make a sandwich with three pieces of meat, do not just stack them one upon the other; this is "truck driver" mentality. instead, layer them to enhance the flavour value. This is a well known technique among chefs and gastronomes alike.

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I've edited the insults out of your answer (rudeness is not welcome here). I've still downvoted it, however, because while you're right that folding to expose more does enhance flavor (as the question says), I don't think it's anything to do with oxidation. Flavor comes from volatile molecules, which don't oxidize when exposed to air - the key is that those molecules have to make it to your nose and palate to be tasted, and so simply exposing food's surface area lets more of them come off the food and be smelled/tasted. –  Jefromi Aug 8 '13 at 4:05
    
The Wright brothers where not certified pilots either :p –  TFD Aug 8 '13 at 7:12
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