Braesola Cured Meat

Can Raw Beef be Preserved by Salt? (Popular Options)

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching the art and craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through his content.

(Last Updated On: October 13, 2020)

You might want to savor your prized cut of beef, but can raw beef be preserved by salt?

Whether you are looking to enrich your diet with a high-protein source of beef, or you are simply looking at how to make your share of beef last for longer on your shelf, you might be curious about how to preserve it. 

Can raw beef be preserved by salt? Yes, raw beef can be preserved with a salt cure that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Cured & Cold smoking can extend the preserving of the beef. Biltong and Braesola are examples of raw beef preserved by salt.

Considering the delight that it can bring to know that your raw beef will last for longer periods on your shelf, it is worth looking into how to preserve it with salt curing and cold smoking.

This site is of course all about curing and preserving, and salt is the cornerstone of all of it!

Continue reading to learn more about preserving raw beef with salt (and more).

Salt Curing and Cold Smoking

Cold Smoking in a old kettle grill (cold smoke comes through the holes underneath)

Salt curing is a process by which salt (and other spices and herbs) are added to the exterior of a piece of raw meat in order to preserve the meat. 

This process reduces the growth of harmful bacteria which, in turn, allows the piece of meat to sit exposed to the elements without as much worry of harm coming to the meat. 

Mainly holding and reducing the water activity inside the meat, bacteria loves moisture.

Without the salt cure, the meat would be rendered unable to be consumed because of the bacteria that would have grown. But, with the salt cure, the meat is preserved, and many types of cured meat can even be eaten without being cooked (although this is not always the case). 

There is an art and craft to dry curing meat.

Salt curing meat is a practice that has been around for centuries as butchers and artisans sought to preserve large cuts of beef and other types of meat. 

It was commonly used to be able to allow prolonged use of the entire animal- something that could not be done if you only had a few days to consume the entire being before the elements rendered it unsafe. 

Today, this practice continues in an effort to preserve the meat of the animal that you wish to consume, and it also adds value to the meat as its shelf life is prolonged in the process. 

Thus, you do not have to consume the meat immediately upon purchasing it, but can store it appropriately and know that it will last for weeks to months depending on the storage requirements and type of meat.

Cold smoking is another practice that enhances the flavor of meat and helps to prolong its shelf life. When cold smoking beef, for example, the beef will be dried out so that it can last for longer periods with the slow down of unwanted bacteria. 

But, since no heat is applied directly to the meat in the cold smoking process, the meat dries and simply absorbs the delicious smoky flavor from the coals, chips of wood, or whatever else is added into the cold smoking process.

By choosing to incorporate particular types of wood chips or flavors in the process, these will be absorbed by the meat and will spill out as you taste and savor the meat upon consumption. 

Both salt curing and cold smoking use the natural elements along with naturally occurring ingredients like salt and other spices to enhance the flavor and preserve the meat, for the finer products like braesola.

Then there is salt beef, salt pork, salt fish – where the goal is purely to preserve, not so much for balanced flavor and texture.

When used with beef (as well as other types of meat), you can expect that these processes will take longer than the commercial process of dehydrating meat by using artificial additives and preservatives. 

Depending on the type and cut of meat, the salt curing process can take several days, and cold smoking generally takes hour or weeks depending.

However, the wait is well worth it for the deliciously preserved meat that these processes produce. 


homemade cured meat biltong
homemade cured meat biltong

Biltong is a great example of a type of beef that is preserved by salt.

Although it is distinctively different from beef jerky in that it is allowed to cure rather than be immediately dried out. 

Both types of raw beef are similar in what they offer- a savory source of protein that lasts for a prolonged period on store shelves as well as yours at home- but Biltong is cured with salt in a way that beef jerky is not.

Biltong originates from South Africa and has risen in popularity throughout the world, particularly in the United States in the past several years. It is cured with salt, vinegar, and other natural spices and often has a bit of acidity to its flavor (stemming from the vinegar that is used in its preservation process). 

Vinegar has a ‘cooking effect which is denaturing the protein, this works in tandem with the salt.

Another unique factor that many people do not realize when they are comparing Biltong to beef jerky is the type of beef cut that is used. 

While beef jerky tends to be leaner, Biltong can include all parts of the beef source meaning it can have a bit more of the delicious fat marbling dried and incorporated throughout. 

This can greatly enhance the flavor and the texture of the Biltong depending on how it is prepared.

However, the fat marbling is not likely to be noticeable in how much of the Biltong it takes over considering how much of the beef will be incorporated and emphasized in this delightful treat.

Nevertheless, Biltong is marinated in the salt, vinegar, and other spices and allowed to air dry for over a week. 

This highly praised treat, that has become a fan favorite of so many people, takes a bit to prepare, but it is well worth the wait. 

Plus, since the process of curing and preserving it uses natural ingredients and natural processes (including naturally drying while being hung out) delights food enthusiasts who look for natural sources and methods of production.

Depending on your location, Biltong can likely be found at your local grocery store or at any other store that sells beef and other related consumable items. 

You might notice a difference in flavor in your Biltong depending on what part of the world you are in, but this is most often related to the cultural spices that are incorporated rather than other parts of the recipe.

Bring this snack along for your next hike to ensure a delicious taste of raw beef that has been preserved by salt.

Here is another post I wrote on the steps to make biltong and jerky.

Dry Cured Meat – Bresaola

Bresaola is another example of dry-cured meat that has been salt-cured and air-dried and transformed into a tasty delicacy. 

This type of raw beef that has been preserved by salt is often incorporated on Charcuterie boards and Antipasto platters in home kitchens as well as fine dining restaurants. 

Depending on the recipe that is used, you might find a few different flavor varieties for this type of beef.

But, most often, the main ingredients of salt (in the salt cure), pepper, juniper berries, and other natural herbs and spices are added to this beef to enhance its natural flavor.

As a type of dry-cured meat, Bresaola is naturally produced and cured. Salt is used to cure the meat as it preserves the beef from the growth of unwanted bacteria. 

Then, various natural spices are added to enhance this meat’s flavor profile, and it is allowed to air dry (hence the dry cure) for up to a few weeks. 

This delicious example of raw beef that has been preserved by salt is often served in thin slices rather than consumed in a slender stick like Biltong. 

When it is served as a delicacy in a beautiful presentation, you will probably find it topped with a drizzle of olive oil or finely grated cheese depending on the presentation that is desired.

Either way, Bresaola has a strong flavor and a rich coloration that makes any place that contains it automatically elevated. 

If you want to look into the craft of making dry cured meat, I have more info on the courses page, depending on what you want to do.

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching the art and craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through his content.



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