Salum cured meat in normal fridge

Methods of Curing Meat

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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.

The different methods for curing meat date back thousands of years. Although the methods have been refined over the years, the essence of curing meat still remains the same.

Dry curing and smoking meat is all about the preservation effect of salt. I researched its history and have used these methods for several decades.

This site offers many articles based on all these methods.

List of Methods:

  • Saturation Salt Method – long preservation
  • Dry Salt Curing – balanced drying -cured meats & salumi
  • Salt Wet Brine Curing – For Drying, Preservation or Cooking
  • Immersion Salt Brine Injection – Injected Wet Cure – Rapid Curing or to Maintain Moisture During Cooking
Method for curing meat with salt
Braesola-style homemade dry-cured meat

All these different methods of curing meat (for equilibrium curing I made a calculator) with salt depending on the outcome you’re trying to achieve. I personally have focused on flavor.

Before making just about any salami or salumi, you primarily use dry salt curing. The goal is weight loss to intensify the flavor and preserve the meat. When all the factors align, and the good bacteria is kind to you, you end up having some true artisan delights to savor.

Gravlax beetroot cured & citrus
Gravlax – Citrus Cured & Beetroot Cured

Curing is either to hold moisture in for cooking or smoking. Or to reduce unwanted bacteria, fully cure for long-term preservation goals. Then, the methods just depend on the concentration of salt and how dry the meat is for the finished product.

So, I just want to explore these methods I’ve used, hopefully showing how useful they are for creating flavor.

Methods of Curing Meat

Sea salt, non-iodized salt, is always the way, I think, pure without any additives. Caking agents and other table salt additives can affect the curing of meat.

Saturation Salt Method

Commonly salt pork is a method of saturation curing, a lot of salt penetrates the meat to ward off unwanted bacterial

Salt pork has a long history, dating back to the 17th century. During the Napoleonic Wars and the Civil War, pork salt was part of standard military rations.

Heavily salted pork is left to cure for at least a week. The cuts of meat used were primarily pork belly. The belly was boiled often to remove the excess saltiness before it was eaten.

What is Salt Pork & Fish used for?

There wasn’t really any refrigeration back in the day, so this was a way of providing routine on long voyages or during all military campaigns. It seems that the homesteader was also able to use this quite easily.

Dry Salt Curing

There are quite a few ways that dry salt curing is used.

Fully Surrounding Meat with Salt

When it all started with using salt to preserve things like prosciutto ham, the whole pork leg would be packed in salt for many days. This method is still used nowadays; however, some people seem to always get a meat product that is too salty. I guess back in the day, as long as the prize pool was preserved you weren’t too worried about this.

I use salt for curing quite often, making a Scandinavian dish called gravlax. It’s traditionally used to cure a salmon fillet. The fillet is salted for 24 hours with only the addition of dill in the basic recipe.

You then rinse the salmon under fresh water to remove some saltiness. If it is still too salty, I soak it for 30 minutes and then try again. Finely slice and eat, a fantastic simple cure which produces a mighty fine produce.

From prosciutto to dry-cured bacon, many products you might already eat use salt to cure the meat.

Dry Rubs

For low & slow barbecue smoking, dry rubs are often used. Rubbed on and immediately smoked, or you can leave the dry rub, a mix of salt and spices overnight to penetrate. For the salt to penetrate into the meat, depending on the size and density of the meat the curing may only happen near the surface.

Since this is smoking and cooking simultaneously, the curing is not for complete preservation. It’s about getting it soft, cooked with good smoke flavor attached. When it takes 4 to 12 hours, the smoke will end up flavoring the food nicely.

Equilibrium Curing

This is a method I am very familiar with, it is used widely and dry cured products. Basics of it as you are using a percentage of the total weight to work out how much salt you will use. By doing this you might under or over insult the meat. So you can cure the meat and a bag that in the fridge for a longer period of time.

Minimal Dry Salt Sprinkling

When I use a portable smoker for fresh salmon or trout fillets, it’ll be primarily for hot smoking. So, I use a light cure, sprinkling salt and sugar to help hold the moisture and season the fish.

I just leave it overnight in the fridge and uncover it in the morning. It takes a bit of drying to form the pellicle, and then it’s ready to smoke.

Cold Smoking & Salt Curing

Kettle cold smoking medium
Apple Wood Cold Smoking wild duck, eggplant & salt.

It is an essential step in cold smoking. Having the meat completely salt-cured means that the harmful bacteria have no chance of multiplying. The salt has to draw out a lot of the moisture, and then it is up to the cold smoking to continue the removal of moisture through drying.

The humidity level significantly impacts drying and cold smoking. Cold smoking is a craft.

Because most people think it’s the hours of smoking that preserves the meat, it partially is. But now I know that it is the drying and the moisture humidity which are the significant factors.

Weighing meat before curing or brining will help you determine the exact final weight and when the meat is fully preserved if you want to do it the commercially accurate way. This is for certain styles/processes of curing, like dry-cured whole muscles or salami.

Salt Wet Brine Curing

Wet Curing is salt, water, and often other spices.

The concentration of salt dictates what method and outcome will happen

Wet Brine Curing can hold moisture on the surface of the meat whilst cooking and/or smoking.

Or Curing fully meat to hang and dry. Leading to preservation for longer-term storage

Immersion Salt Brine Injection

I’ve used this method effectively for wet brine curing an entire leg of pork.

With a type of injection system, you can needle inject the salt brine in many areas of the meat.

Commercially, this is often done to speed up the production process.

After visiting a commercial meat curing operator in Indianapolis, I saw how they injected the pork belly. After this, they were put in tumble spinning machines to rapidly disperse the salt wet cure into the meat.

They were hung and cold-smoked.

This was to create applewood cold smoked bacon (yes cold smoking bacon is safe, I wrote an article about that here)

Hot Smoking & Salt Curing

Curing through dry salt and wet brining is essential in the hot smoking process, this is cured hot smoking not dry rub hot smoking such as low and slow smoking.

Many low- and slow-smoking recipes are based on dry rub, which does not involve curing the meat before cooking/smoking. Instead, it involves seasoning and slight moisture holding on the surface.

The difference is that the meat has enough time to absorb the smoke flavor over the long hours of low and slow smoking. Fat rendering to moisten the meat is the other key.

When I am making smoked trout and salmon, it makes a huge difference using the curing for the smoking/cooking process.

Long-Term Meat Storage

salt is the key ingredient in long-term meat storage. Although there are other techniques for storing meat, this is one of the oldest and most traditional ways.

Pickling, canning, and dehydrating are other methods used, which typically revolve around salt.

Easy & Quick Meat Curing

One technique I use for creating a lasting protein snack is to preserve it with salt and vinegar. Jerky or Biltong are easy and last for some time in the wild.

Biltong reservation is based on denaturing the meat (like cooking), using vinegar. Salt is also used, this is a strong combination for preservation, its why pickling in jars uses the same combination.

I even heard of the traditional South African Way many years ago. By putting the meat between the saddle and the horse, the salt from the horse sweat acted as a preserving agent. I don’t think I will try that one or whether it holds truth to a good story.

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