Ultimate guide to curing salts

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Curing salts may seem to be a very specialist topic. However, once you’ve developed a taste for smoking, curing your own bacon or prosciutto is a logical development. Making your own delectable pastrami, country style ham, or corned beef from scratch is unquestionably a next level talent.

Curing is also a vital aspect of cold smoking safely.

When employing curing salts, considerable knowledge is necessary, and doing it wrong might have catastrophic implications. Let us not mince words: improper curing may be lethal.

Getting it correctly, on the other hand, is not difficult. This tutorial will teach you how to cure, what supplies to use, and how to keep everything secure.

The history of curing meats

Ultimate guide to curing salts

If all you want to know is how to utilize curing salts, you may go ahead. But we believe this history is fascinating.

Curing meat is a centuries-old process. We don’t know when our forefathers realized that soaking meat in particular salts preserved it. It may have been a fortunate accident, for all we know!

This discovery, however it occurred, was very beneficial to individuals who lived at a period when there was no refrigeration and no local butcher shop.

Curing the meat after butchering a huge beast provided a means for keeping it if fresh meat was not readily accessible at a later period.This method was employed to preserve meat by the Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Romans.

Saltpeter was found in the Middle Ages. Saltpeter, which is found in rocky outcrops, is now more frequently recognized by its chemical name potassium nitrate.

When added to meat, Saltpeter not only preserves it, as past kinds of curing salts did, but it also keeps the flesh an appetizing pink hue.

While curing salts are sometimes referred to as pink salt, they should not be confused with Himalayan pink salt, which is pure salt with trace components that give it its pink hue.

German scientists established the link between the usage of these salts and the suppression of food-borne diseases such as botulism at the turn of the twentieth century.

Finally, in the 1920s, curing salts became commercially available.

Unfortunately, several unlucky persons died while the curing process was being refined, particularly when the mechanisms at work were not completely understood and the curing approach was not effectively conducted.

Because of its usefulness, curing meat has been used extensively throughout history. However, the practice has survived until the present day because, apart from their usefulness, cured meats are just delicious.

What is in Curing Salts?

Ultimate guide to curing salts

Curing salts are now a combination of salt, sodium nitrite, and sodium nitrate. Here’s a quick rundown of the ingredients:

  • Salt (NaCl) Commonly known as table salt.
  • NaNO2 (Sodium Nitrite) Sodium nitrite is the component in charge of the majority of the curing process. Sodium nitrate is also converted to sodium nitrite by bacteria in meat.
  • For extended cure times, sodium nitrate (NaNO3) is added to salt cure mixtures. As the cure develops over time, the addition of sodium nitrate allows for the continuous degradation of sodium nitrate into sodium nitrite.

If you want to learn more about the many forms of curing salt, this video explains the differences between sodium nitrite, nitrate, and pink curing salt.

Difference Between Sodium Nitrite, Nitrate & Pink Curing Salt

Watch this video on YouTube

Curing Salts – What are the Dangers?

Before we address the elephant in the room (the oft-quoted nitrates cause cancer statement), let us address a more pressing matter. When not utilized in the prescribed amounts, nitrates and nitrites are hazardous.

A regular recipe’s quantity of table salt, for example, might include a deadly dosage of curing salts. Curing salts are often coloured pink to prevent confusion with table salt.

Keep your curing salts out of the reach of youngsters and strictly adhere to the dosage instructions.

Also, don’t mistake pink Himalayan salt, which is commonly accessible, with curing salts.

Curing salts and risk of cancer

It doesn’t take long for someone to bring up the possibility of cancer while discussing curing salts. This has been a generally believed belief since the 1970s, when a report revealed that this was the fact.

The link between nitrites and cancer is not as strong as previously assumed.More research has been conducted on the subject since then. As is customary, the outcomes differ. Surprisingly, several research show a relationship between nitrates and cancer.

This is fantastic news for those of us who like curing our own meat and do not wish to die from cancer!

In fact, according to one 2015 research, nitrate consumption may potentially lessen the risk of stomach cancer. However, the same research suggests that there may be a relationship between nitrite intake and stomach cancer. The study also finds that additional research on the subject is required to produce definite conclusions.

Another intriguing issue to ponder is that cured meat is not our major source of nitrites in our diet. The American Meat Institute states:

Cured meats account for less than 5% of daily nitrite consumption. Nitrite is produced from green vegetables, tubers, and our own saliva in over 93 percent of cases.

The FDA has determined that processed meats are safe to eat. They do, however, caution that these goods should be used in moderation. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, the equivalent of around five 3 ounce portions of cooked red or processed meat per week is safe (3 ounces is the size of a deck of cards).

WHO categorized red and processed meats as carcinogenic in 2016. While this made news throughout the world, the results were not as shocking upon closer study. According to the WHO:

Meat consumption has been linked to several health advantages. Many national health guidelines urge individuals to reduce their consumption of processed meat and red meat, both of which have been associated to an increased risk of mortality from heart disease, diabetes, and other disorders.

Clearly, this is not an open and shut case.

One thing is certain: if you try to cure meat without utilizing nitrates and nitrites, you run the risk of dying from botulism.

You should be safe as long as you follow the specified instructions.

Commercially Available Curing Salts, and When to Use Them

You may purchase curing salts that have already been combined in the proper amounts and are safe to use as long as you follow the directions. Here are several examples:

Prague Powder #1

Insta Cure #1, Pink curing salt #1, sel rose, rapid cure, tinted curing mixture (TCM), Modern cure, DC cure, or DQ cure are all names for this curing salt.

Prague Powder #1 is intended for short-term cures and may be used to preserve and cure semi-dry and cooked meats such as sausage, fish, jerky, bacon, ham, pastrami, hard salami, and corned beef.

Points to remember:

  • Use amounts as outlined by the manufacturer.
  • You may be surprised at how little you need to use, thus a jar of this product will most likely last a long time.
  • Prague Powder #1 and #2 are incompatible.They are specially designed items for various curing procedures.

Prague Powder #2

Pink curing salt #2, Insta Cure #2, Slow Cure are all names for this product.

Prague Powder #2 is used for long-term treatments that last many weeks or months. Use this curing salt on meats that you want to dry cure, such as hams, salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto.

This product includes sodium nitrate as well as sodium nitrite. The presence of sodium nitrate allows this curing salt to function over time since nitrate is converted to nitrite when it is consumed by bacteria naturally present in the meat.

Points to remember:

  • In Canada, this sort of curing salt is not accessible.As with Prague Powder #1, carefully adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Morton® Tender Quick®

This curing salt has less salt than other brands. It is intended for use in quick cures. Tender Quick may be used on meats, game, poultry, and fish. Tender Quick may also be used as a pickling or dry cure.

Points to remember:

  • Because this product is not pink like other curing salts, it must be properly stored and labeled.Amazon will not ship the Morton items described in this tutorial outside of the United States.

Morton® Sugar Cure® (Plain)

This curing salt is identical to Tender Quick, except sugar replaces part of the salt. It is typically used to dry cure hams and bacon, but it may also be used to dry or sweet pickle meat, poultry, game, salmon, shad, and sablefish.

Points to remember:

  • Some customers have complained that this product comes damaged, particularly when bought online. It seems that the container does not effectively keep the goods dry, and sugar hardens when exposed to moisture. whether you wish to prevent this problem, you should see whether you have a local source.

Morton® Sugar Cure® (Smoke Flavor)

Sugar Cure Smoke Flavor is designed specifically for dry curing big chunks of meat such as hams and bacon; this product will cure the meat more slowly than Sugar Cure Plain. In addition, this product includes hickory smoke flavour, spices, and dextrose.

Points to remember:

  • This product is exclusively for dry cures. It should not be used to produce brine.

How to Use Curing Salts – Safely!

Now that we’ve covered the history, the controversies, and the advantages of utilizing curing salts, let’s talk about how to utilize them.

Before we begin, there are a few broad concepts to keep in mind.

  • This nitrate calculator is a good resource for calculating how much nitrate to use and how long to let your meat to cure.
  • Curing is a time-consuming procedure. The manufacturer’s specified amounts must be strictly followed. Curing is possibly the one aspect of barbecue where experimentation is strictly prohibited.
  • All equipment and surfaces must be kept clean, and all goods and pieces of meat must be correctly labeled. Make a note of any particular instructions for each piece of meat, as well as the dates when each piece will need further care. It’s a good idea to write these dates down in your calendar, in a journal, or on your phone. This is a procedure in which you cannot take risks or rely on memory.
  • Unless you are air drying your meat, keep it between 36F and 40F.
  • If you want to prevent an overly salty flavor in your meat, bathe it in cold water and then air dry it before smoking or grilling.
  • If in doubt, toss it. This is often easier said than done when you’ve invested time, money, and pride in your remedy. But if anything about your meat makes you nervous about its safety, whether it’s its look, scent, or a hitch in the manufacturing process, the stakes are too high to cross your fingers and hope for the best.
  • Dont reuse your curing solution.

Common curing methods

There are three typical cure procedures. Let’s take a look at each strategy, as well as its benefits and drawbacks.


The curing salt is produced into a solution using this procedure. The curing solution is then injected into the meat. In a business context, this is accomplished by utilizing a large number of fine needles. This procedure is often used to cure inexpensive hams, bacon, and corned beef.

Advantages: This approach has the potential to accelerate the curing process.

Disadvantages: An even distribution of curing solution may be difficult to obtain for someone employing this approach at home without commercial scale equipment. As a consequence, pockets of meat either have a lot of curing solution or none at all.

Another disadvantage of this procedure is that it might leave your meat flavorless, plumped up, and watery.

Dry Curing

When you think about cured meats, the first thing that comes to mind is generally a massive slab of meat hanging in a deli or basement. While dry curing is one of the oldest ways of curing meat, it is also one of the most difficult.

Weigh everything before you start dry curing it. Dry cured beef is only safe to eat until it has lost 35% of its original weight. You may wait for it to lose more of its initial weight, although this is more of a personal taste in terms of the ultimate product’s texture.

The spice mixture and curing salt are combined first, then applied to the meat or fish. The meat is then kept in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

The optimal temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity should be between 65% and 80%. You’ll need to think about whether you have a suitable space to spend to this procedure, since the meat will take weeks, if not months, to cure.

The place where you dry cure your meat must also be free of rodents, insects, and pets.

Advantages: Because of the many molds and bacteria that grow on the meat, dry curing may yield the most varied tastes of any curing procedure. For others, the process itself may be a true passion.

Disadvantages: This is a time-consuming procedure that needs a great deal of devotion and knowledge. The error margin is rather large. As a result, dry curing may be best left to specialists or individuals with extensive knowledge.

Equipment required:

To monitor the temperature and humidity of the area where you are curing your meat, you will need specialist equipment, such as a temperature and humidity sensor.

If you don’t have a proper curing space in your home, you may make one using an old fridge, a temperature controller to regulate the temperature inside the fridge, and a hygrostat and humidifier to keep the humidity under control. Mattikaarts.com has a full essay on how to put up this kind of drying room.

It is entirely up to you how much of a setup you want to spend in, but keep in mind that if you do not regulate the humidity and temperature, undesired mold and bacteria will thrive.

Dealing with problems

If mold and bacteria do form on your meat, it is critical that you understand these organisms and can correctly identify them. Some molds and bacteria are harmful, while others are harmless. To detect what is growing in and on your flesh, you will need instruments such as a microscope and analytical tools. A visit to your local lab may be necessary at times.

If you are dry curing your beef in the refrigerator, turn it once a day.

You should also keep an eye out for any liquids that may build on the meat while it cures. This is due to the salt sucking moisture out of the meat’s protein. This liquid should be emptied.

If you’re curing numerous cuts of meat at once, split them into portions and re-salt them every three days or so. This is referred to as overhauling.

Case hardening is a condition in which the exterior of your meat dries out too rapidly owing to low humidity or excessive airflow, preventing the interior of your meat from drying out correctly.

Wet curing or Brining

This is the procedure of immersing the meat completely in a cooled solution of salt cure and seasonings.

You must choose containers or bags that will not react with the salt cure solution. Also, if you want to leave your meat in the solution for more than 7 days, the solution should be replenished. You will also need to agitate the solution on a regular basis to ensure that the salts are uniformly distributed.

If you’re having difficulties keeping the meat completely immersed, use a dinner plate or something similar to weigh it down.

Advantages: This procedure is much faster than dry curing. It also results in a more equal distribution of curing solution throughout your meat than injection.

Humidity is simpler to manage when wet curing, and the absence of oxygen in the process prevents unpleasant germs from growing.

Disadvantages: This procedure is best suited for smaller chunks of meat. Otherwise, finding a large enough tub may be difficult!

Curing Salt Substitutes

Perhaps you’ve heard of cure-alls that are devoid of nitrates and other cancer-causing agents. Are they efficient? Meathead Goldwyn says no way.

Meathead Goldwyn, The Science of Safely Curing Meats

People often question whether they can cure meats without nitrites by just increasing the salt. Salt slows bot growth but does not kill it. Vinegar, on the other hand, will not.

Without a curing salt, you should not try to cure meat at home.

There are some natural or no nitrite cured meats on the market, but if you look carefully at the label, you’ll see that they often include celery extract, which contains nitrate, which may convert to nitrite.

There are curing recipes that do not involve nitrites, thus they are not technically cures, and they cannot kill bots, therefore they should never be soaked in wet cures. They are hazardous in my opinion.

There are products on the market that claim to be nitrite-free. It’s worth mentioning that they’re made using celery or beetroot juice. These juices include nitrates, which degrade into nitrites, so you are still consuming nitrites when you consume these items.

Nitrite substitute. Because the quantity of nitrate in these powders varies, you may wind up consuming considerably more nitrites than you need to.You should also use caution while using celery powder as a nitrate.

The truth is that nitrite-free treatments cannot kill botulism and are thus unsafe to use. Professional treatments include the necessary components, and when the directions are followed, your meat will be safe to eat.

Wrapping it up

The appeal of the fragrance of bacon cooking or the sight of a dish decorated with finely cured prosciutto is difficult to resist. While considerable skill is required to accomplish a perfectly cured meat, the outcome is well worth it.

Do you make your own cured meats? Or do you intend to give it a shot? Leave your opinions in the comments section below. Please share this post if you liked it and found it useful.


What is the best curing salt to use?

1 Wishful Curing Salt – Overall winner.
2 Hoosier Hill Farm Curing Salt — Excellent for Corned Beef and Brisket.
3 Anthony’s Curing Salt – The Best Gluten-free Blend.
4 Curing salt from The Spice Lab is ideal for hunters.
Curing Salt 5 SPQR Seasonings – Space Saver.

What is the difference between #1 and #2 curing salt?

The main distinction between the two curing salts is that prague powder #2 contains sodium nitrate in addition to the sodium nitrite present in prague powder #1. This additive is beneficial for long-term curing of meats. Products such as salami and air-dried hams like prosciutto and serrano ham.

What is the difference between pink curing salt #1 and #2?

According to federal regulations, Prague powder #1 comprises 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% table salt or sodium chloride. To put it simply, it is composed of 1 part sodium nitrite and 15 parts salt. The composition of Prague powder #2 is 6.25% sodium nitrite, 4% sodium nitrate, and 89.75% salt.

Can you add too much curing salt?

Curing requires a precise curing-salt-to-meat ratio. Excess sodium nitrite is bad for you, and too little might result in rotting meat, which is plain disgusting. One teaspoon of Prague Powder #1 for five pounds of beef, ground or otherwise, is the norm.

What is #1 curing salt?

Pink Curing Salt #1, also known as Prague Powder #1 or InstaCure #1, is often used to wet-cure any form of meat that will need to be cooked before eating. To preserve and wet-cure cooked meats such as ham, salami, sausage, jerky, fish, and bacon, use Anthony’s Pink Curing Salt.

Is curing salt #1 or #2 for jerky?

Curing Salt #1 (containing sodium nitrite) is designed for use in products that need fewer than 30 days to cure, such as jerky, sausage, and corned beef. Curing Salt #2 (containing sodium nitrate) is used for any product that requires more than 30 days to cure, such as salami and prosciutto.

How much curing salt do I use per pound of meat?

This remedy comprises 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% salt. It is advised that consumers use one ounce of cure for every 25 pounds of beef or one level teaspoon of cure for every 5 pounds of meat.

What is the safest curing salt?

Pink curing salt, also known as Prague powder, is a popular curing salt for a variety of meats, including beef, poultry, and fish. Pink curing salt, in fact, is increasingly becoming the go-to salt for safe and high-quality meat curing.

What happens if you use too much pink curing salt?

As a curing agent, Prague Powder #1 inhibits bacteria development and aids in the preservation of meat taste and appearance. Too much or too little Pink Curing Salt may have a negative impact on your health, taste, and food quality.

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