Does Salt Pork Need to be Refrigerated? (and Other Tips)

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Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

Refrigerating salt pork depends on your salt pork; it’s sometimes hard to figure out how it was made, so I will dive into what I have learned about that, too.

The safest bet you can have for whether or not you should keep it in the fridge, of course, is to look at the expiry or best-before date.

Ideally, it should be kept in the fridge. It can be hung in a cool, moderate temperature for months. Depending on how saturated it is with salt, this will greatly affect how long it lasts. Some commercial salt porks aren’t designed to be hung.

But a lot of salt pork (post on it going bad) is sold, and it doesn’t have any instructions on storage; if in doubt, just keep it in the fridge.

Homemade Salt Pork

A lot of guys asked the question about whether it’s going to last without refrigeration. Mine does, but I make it myself!

Whether it has been salted or brined may also affect its shelf life.

Whenever I get pork belly, I either make dry-cured pancetta Italian style or cold-smoke it and make my dry-cured bacon.

And if it doesn’t go down those routes, it might be some low & slow barbecue smoked ribs.

Since this website is all about meat curing, it has got me very interested in salt pork.

Does Salt Pork Need to be Refrigerated

Now, if you want a little more info, being a curing meat website, I will go through some of the ins and outs I know about salt pork to give you a better understanding – there is a severe lack of info out there!

Salt Pork and Refrigeration

Here is why it depends on the method of production.

Different Ways Salt Pork is Made – Brine vs Dry Cure

Many of the commercially made salt pork’s use what’s called a brining method

(here are some recipe ideas for salt pork I wrote). This involves heavily salted water with the pork submerged for a long time.

This is opposed to dry-cured salt pork, which encases or layers the pork in salt to draw the moisture out. Whenever I have done brining vs. dry curing projects, I find dry curing has a more intense flavor, especially when foods and spices are added. This happens when I make salt pork, too.

But generally speaking, there aren’t many spices and herbs added to salt pork unless you make your own.

Different Ingredients in Salt Pork

Many commercially made salt pork may have additions like extra preservatives and what have you.

Whole muscle meat curing is basically very similar to salt pork creation.

I like to use salt pork with a few spices (like Juniper berries, cracked pepper, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder).

This is different when I’m making things with a slightly higher risk of exposure to bacteria, like salami. For instance, when making dry-cured salami, I like to use nitrates/nitrites to ensure there is less chance of something growing inside it and add color and flavor.

But I’m not a big fan of cooking nitrates for salt pork since all the research I’ve read suggests this isn’t good. You have to do your googling about that and make your mind up.

Dry Cured Meat vs Salted Meat

So, really, the only difference between, say, pancetta or dry-cured bacon and salt pork, salt beef, or even salt fish. It’s the level of salt used, to give you an idea, for making bacon I would use 2.5% salt to the weight of the meat.

Salt pork that uses at least 10% more, like 12% plus, uses what’s called an equilibrium method of curing. But often with salt pork, it’s called the saturation or salt box method, which covers it completely with salt. TO max out the salt penetration.

The salt inhibits the meat and shuts water activity; bacteria that spoil meat need that moisture, so it is starved.

If you want to read more about the basics of curing meat at home, check out this post here I wrote.

Salt Pork is Fatty

Pork back fat, belly, or side of the pig with a lot of fat. That’s what is generally used for salt pork.

When you dry out the meat, more specifically with the dry curing side of it, I have done a lot of. I always notice that the fat doesn’t shrink as much as the meat.

I got a theory that salt pork was used because of the beneficial instant energy that saturated fat has. I’ve read some great old stories about the world being explored and conquered fueled by salt pork.

Whenn I do hunting in the wild, , II have a friend who’s a little bit obsessed with having some incredibly fatty food for that instant energy (Big Pork Chops on the first night).

Discovering the uncharted world needed a lot of energy, so fat/energy was such an important component. It’s a lot harder to discover the world on a salad or another form of rabbit food (I do like salad, FYI).

Non Refrigerated Cured Meats

Pemmican, Jerky, or Biltong

These are the ones that I’m familiar with; the native American Indian style pemmican is mainly a mixture of dried fat and fruit—kIt was a kindof meat candy bar wthatwas used as a ration survival food for the indigenous people.

Jerky is a thoroughly dried meat snack many of you are familiar with. It has a dryness, but the trick is to dry out with enough salt that it’s palatable to taste.

Biltong can be very similar to the “dry” version of it jerky, but the South African style biltong also is done in a quite similar to dry-cured meats like bresaola or Lonza, which has some moisture still in it.

The acid like vinegar is ‘breaking down’ the protein cells type effect.

Like Ceviche – People think it’s ‘cooking’ with acid, the same as cooking, technically known as ‘de-naturing’.

Using the acidity of vinegar, typically malt vinegar, and the power of salt, traditional biltong is made up of these two ingredients, and toasted crushed coriander seeds.

I look forward to making venison biltong!

Salted Heavily and Dried Salt Pork

Salt pork can be dried in the fridge or in a more relaxed kind of wintry climate that is near fridge-type temperature. Cellars are often used with some guys in the community.

This means you can use the pork belly when you want to; of course, you must prepare it by soaking or boiling it.

Firstly, this old-school video has one method.

Homemade Salt Pork Recipe

I wrote a post on making salt pork here.

Soaking Salt Pork Before Use

There are a few different methods and approaches when it comes to this. I’ve found a minimum of two hours of soaking and freshwater just left on the kitchen bench. But you may need to change that water once, twice, or thrice.

You can always just check by slicing off a little bit and frying it to check the saltiness and the flavor. For some really heavily salted bits of pork, you may need to change the water up for up to 24 hours to leach out the salt.

The other option is to do parboiling, basically just simmering the pork, but it depends on the recipe that you are using. I found this to be faster, but then I’d be using the salt pork for a stew or another long slow cooking (here are some easy ideas I put together) dish.

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  1. I don’t have a comment but I do have a question that I hope you will be able to answer. I lie to use salt pork to start my spaghetti sauce, I have some and it is a little rancid can I still use it in my sauce? Thanks for any information you can send me.

    1. Author

      hey there, way too many variables – rancid for me = no way! Cheers Tom

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