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Frequently Asked Questions About Meat Curing

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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.

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There are a lot of questions that are frequently asked about meat curing that I have to answer from this site.

So I thought I would put all of these common FAQs in one article.

I love to cure meat and have been doing so for many many years, I’ve been to places in Italy or America specifically just to check out the charcuterie and dry-cured meats. Sometimes also been lucky enough to have toured the facilities.

Based on my own experiences making charcuterie and dry-cured meats I’m drawing on the commercial places I’ve been in and volunteered in.

Hopefully, I can demystify in the area which there are many different answers.

The focus here will be short concise information that summarizes the answers to these questions, I’ve been responding to for many years!

Frequently Asked Questions About Meat Curing

Here are the most common questions.

What is Meat Curing?

Curing meat is adding salt to either season, hold moisture, or cure for flavor and preservation. The amount of salt used in the time it is in contact with the meat will affect the meat differently.

How is Meat Cured?

By adding salt to meat the process of curing begins, the salt inhibits the meat to either hold moisture on the surface curing cooking or hot smoking. Or the salt binds and defuses inside the meat to create an inhospitable environment for unwanted bacteria and spoilage.

What Meat Can be Cured?

Any meat can be cured, however lean meat without animal fat will shrink, the salt is applied and the meat is dried. Since fat has less water and is denser than meat. This is in the context of dry curing and preserving meat, not seasonings or holding moisture in the meat before cooking.

Red meats and pork are preferable because they have a lesser chance of unwanted bacteria than certain poultry for instance for dry curing.

Why do People Cure Eat?

You can cure meat to either hold moisture on the surface during cooking and hot smoking such as smoked turkey. Or you can use salt curing to preserve and increase the complexity of the flavor.

Is Meat Curing Safe at Home?

If you follow well-proven processes and cover all the basics of meat hygiene and storage. Meat curing is completely safe at home.

If you do not understand or learn how to cure meat properly, of course, you may make meat curing unsafe.

This would apply to any food preparation if not done properly.

What are Common Examples of Cured Meat

In terms of the preserved unflavored cured meats – cold smoked dry cured bacon, prosciutto, speck, felino salami, and other dry cured salami.

Examples of cured meat for holding moisture during cooking – are pastrami, smoked turkey, all types of hot smoked fish, and most types of hot smoked ham.

What is the White Stuff on Salami?

This is a type of beneficial penicillin that regulates the moisture loss of the dry-cured salami. It also helps protect the meat during the drying. The commercial variety is called – Penicillium nalgiovense.

Where Did Meat Curing Originate?

Most research points to China as the origin of curing pork legs in a salt brine bath many thousands of years ago before the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire refined the process and now showcase some of the finest styles of cured meats.

Is Meat Curing a Good Hobby?

If you want to learn patience, food science and create complex flavors and preserved meat. Meat curing teaches these factors and many others.

What Equipment is Needed for Meat Curing?

The key ingredient is salt and a fridge-type temperature of between 35 to 40°F or 2 to 5°C. This is specifically for whole-muscle meat curing.

For making dry cured salami ideally, other equipment is needed such as a meat grinder, meat stuffer, sausage casings, knife, chopping board, and a suitable area for drying that’s conducive to the temperature and humidity that’s needed.

Some DIY home shortcuts can be made such as using a funnel and a knife for the grinding and stuffing of salami.

How Long Does Meat Curing Take to Make?

Depending on what meat is being cured and the desired outcome of moisture retention or long-term preserving and flavor.

Meat curing can take several hours or several weeks.

After the curing phase for longer-term preserving the drying phase can take one to 24 months depending on the meat curing recipe and project.

Official Parma prosciutto from Italy, by law has to be a minimum of 8 to 12 months of drying.

What are the Optimal Conditions for Meat Curing?

Depending on what meat is being cured and the desired outcome of moisture retention or long-term preserving and flavor.

Meat curing can take several hours or several weeks.

After the curing phase for longer-term preserving the drying phase can take one to 24 months depending on the meat curing recipe and project.

Official Parma prosciutto from Italy, by law has to be a minimum of 8 to 12 months of drying.

Is Meat Curing and Smoking Meat the Same?

Some meat-curing recipes require a hot or cold smoking step as part of the process.

Not all meat-curing recipes and processes involve smoking the meat.

For cold smoked meat, it is often cured.

Hot smoked meat is often cured either with a wet or dry cure.

In the survival context, smoke can be used for antibacterial and antifungal properties whilst drying small pieces of meat over an open fire.

Primary Methods of Meat Curing

Salting for moisture retention either with a dry or wet brine cure.

The saturated or salt box method to inhibit the meat fully was a traditional approach used for salt pork or salt beef for a long preserving effect.

In between these two methods, there is dry curing which uses enough salt to preserve flavor but not to the point of salt saturation.

This type of dry-cured salting, is to make things like prosciutto or pancetta.

Nitrates and Nitrites in Curing Meat

Meat cure is to not use nitrates and nitrites which is an additional substance used to safeguard against botulism.

There is some labeling confusion in America where some cured meats are labeled as uncured because they have a natural derivative of night traits nitrites such as beetroot powder.

This is just a natural form of nitrates nitrites.

Our bodies create their own nitrites and we also obtain a lot of nitrites from dark green vegetables.

Dry Aging vs. Curing Meat

Dry aging involves a refrigerated temperature with high humidity, meat in this environment can have a lactic acid processor cure which changes the flavor. Often whole muscle meat is hung in a specific environment for several days or weeks depending on the meat.

Curing meat always involves adding salt to either hold moisture or preserve for a longer-term effect and enhance flavor.

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.


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  1. I have a question. I am purchasing a hog. I am going to have it ground up for whole hog sausage. I am going to freeze it in 2# packages. Just ground pork. Flavor it after thawing a package. Do I have it cured at the meat market, when they are grinding it? Or can I do prior to eating? I know you have to refrigerate after adding curing salts for 24 hours. Or does the meat require curing at all. My father did his own butchering. He froze it immediately. Never cured it.

    1. Author

      Depends on what you want to make, dry curing, hot smoking, raw sausage.. etc. I wouldnt grind and freeze, I would free in chunks or whole muscles, less exposure to the meat the better. I dont know what meat market it.
      For me, I cut into grindable chunks and freeze. Then when I want to use it for say dry cured salami, I take it out grind it, add recipe, etc…

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