One of my passions is dry curing meat it an old craft that can create amazing results, I get asked a lot about what is dry curing meat, many people think it has something to do with smoked meat. Sometimes it does get smoked, most of the times it doesn’t, depends on the recipe and outcomes one desires.
Traditionally, dry-curing meat was used for preserving long-term. So when you harvested a pig, you would cut it up into major muscle groups and rub salt into it. leaving it for a set amount of days. There wasn’t any refrigeration or freezing back then. The salt removes the moisture, making the environment not so friendly to bacteria that spoil the meat.
The pig was then enjoyed months later.
There have been some modern methods introduced which have now meant if you’re dry curing to make Italian salumi or other types of cured meat, you can make sure it doesn’t get too salty. Salumi is all about dry curing the meat in a traditional Italian way, I wrote a post about the difference between salumi and salami, check it out here.
2 main methods for dry curing – modern method is used when preserving/drying is called equilibrium curing. The other method which is still used extensively the artisan
What is Dry Cured Meat? Using a dry salt cure removes the moisture and intensifies the flavor. It also provides a preserving effect. Preserving occurs due to a drier environment that reduces the growth of bacteria that could spoil the meat.
If you want to know more about salumi vs. salami – I explained it quickly here.
All these dry cured meats are in essence ‘dried’ until they are safe
Popular Types of Dry Cured Meat
Dry Cured Prosciutto
Prosciutto is fantastic, it’s a classic dry-cured pork leg ham with origins from Italy. No
The moisture is removed which means bacteria can’t deteriorate the meat as easily, salt helping the battle. Therefore, in a suitable environment (humidity & temperature controlled ideally) Prosciutto can be aged/dried for up to 4 years! That’s the premium stuff in Italy.
A type of Prosciutto from Parma, Parma Ham which is quality pork & salt. Is aged a minimum of 12 months. The king of prosciutto I think, pig are fed the left over whey from the Parma cheese producers.
Dry Cured Bacon
Some folks like to wet brine (salty water), some folks like to dry cured bacon. I prefer dry curing because removing the moisture intensifies the flavor. If adding spices or aromatics to dry cured bacon, it comes through more when devouring it.
You can also make ‘green’ un-smoked bacon, but generally speaking, smoke gives bacon that bacon flavor we all love!
Making Bacon @ Home – If you want a comprehensive guide on wet brine, dry cure or ‘green’ bacon, please find a post I wrote here.
Dry Cured Sausage
Basically, this is a name for dry cured salami. I have met many Central or Eastern Europeans that use ‘sausage’ for what other Western world people call ‘salami’.
Dry curing sausage/salami involves fermenting, drying then smoking the goods, generally speaking. There are thousands of variations across
Methods to Dry Cure Meat
So the two main methods that I have used for dry curing, the first one is a saturation method where you rub in place salt all over the meat. The second method is measuring a percentage of salt in relation to the weight of the meat you are using to cure – equilibrium curing.
Salt Box Method (Classic Dry Curing)
The title of this method gives it away, you put salt in a box and then you put the meat in the box. When using this method, you want to make sure every area of the meat has salt covered so that you get complete penetration into the meat.
Dry Curing for Preserving vs Quick Salt Curing for Moisture Retention
If you were curing to add some seasoning to the meat, so you’re not looking to preserve a dry cure. Then just a sprinkling of salt from both sides can enhance flavor then the above dry cured turkey method is the way to go ie. 1/2 teaspoon fine salt to 1/2 kg/ 1 pound of meat.
<Back to Salt Box Method>
Say as you can imagine it’s used for large pieces of meat. A lot of home curing enthusiasts use this method to make dry cured bacon. Because you end up drawing moisture out of the meat, it seems to intensify the flavor including the aromatics and spices add into the cure.
Saltbox is based on leaving the meat in the cure for 1 day per 2 pounds/1 kg of meat
I would definitely say pork belly would be a very popular salt box method of dry
My favorite way of
What is Dry Curing Used For
So we have gone over Dry Cured Bacon, Ham, Sausage/Salumi & Quick Curing Turkey, what else?
The world of salumi with farmed or wild animals opens up a plethora of options.
Then there is jerky & biltong (salt & vinegar cured, technically wet brine).
I also use dry curing for trout, seafood
Basically, I work out the weight of the fillet of fish, then I work out 1.0%-1.5% of that total weight This is a method that I use instead of wet
Wet brining is also used to hold moisture around the outer part of meat so it doesn’t dry out during low & slow cooking sessions.
After the curing process then I will dry out overnight so that the pellicle form. Once this is done then the fish fillets are ready to be smoked.
If you haven’t tried smoking anything or want to know about various methods, check out my beginner’s guide here.
Check out some easy meat to smoke here, I just picked the simplest and wrote about them
Dry Curing Meat at Home
You can dry cure meat in a regular fridge, I generally like to use smaller lean cuts of meat. Because you will end up drying the meat quicker because the humidity usually is around 30 to 50% in your fridge. For traditional Italian dry curing you want humidity to be around 70%, but that for long-term dry curing.
Then when it comes to a temperature you want this to be around 11°C/52°F, of
I have played around with dry curing in my normal fridge, check it out here. Some great results too!
I also put together a DIY curing chamber. Being a passion, I knew I would be doing a lot of meat curing so I bought a second-hand double door massive drinks fridge. There is a community online of DIYers which have done this, some exciting dry cured meats have been showcased, very inspiring.
Using thermostat control, humidifier, dehumidifier, and an eco-panel heater. I am able to have complete control over humidity and temperature. The only other thing that’s needed is some airflow and some invisible ‘good’ bacteria’ – penicillin, to protect and help all the dry cured meats.
What Meat is Dry Cured?
I think technically you can use any meat and dry cure. I generally am using game meat and
I like meat curing:
- Various fish fillet
How Long will the Dry Cured Meat Last
For dry-cured meats in the right environment with the above temperature and humidity that can be 2 to 4 years. Although, this is the extreme end of it. For dry cured bacon 6-12 months in the right conditions, or it starts to dry out.
When I do a dry cured meat project in my regular fridge, the last one to two weeks after being wrapped up. But it does tend to dry out pretty quickly since the humidity is below the ideal 70% mark.
Dry cured meats from the fridge and jerky/biltong is what I take camping or other longer outdoor pursuit activities. If you want some ideas on meat for outdoor adventures, check out a post I wrote here.
Dry cured meat like hot smoked meat can last 7 to 10 days.
Then cold smoking can be dry cured first to help the drying out, which has months of life generally.
What Does Dry Cured Ham Mean?
Using the dry cured method for ham means no wet brine or pickling has occurred. The ham is rubbed with salt (nitrates and herbs possibly) until the meat has fully been cured and is ready to be dried. Smoking the ham is often done also
Hope all this helps, Savor and Enjoy Cured Meat!
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for around 20 years now. Having been lucky enough to learn inside fine dining kitchens through to backyard smoking sessions. From doing courses, trial & error and reading extensively – finally, I thought it was time to share my passion online.
My insatiable appetite and passion toward classic Italian dry-cured salumi and all forms of curing and smoking are what drives this website engine. All the best, Tom