Raw pork chops sprinkled with salt, ready for seasoning or cooking, illustrating a step in how to make salt pork.

What is Salt Pork (How to Make it & Use it) – with Pictures

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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.

Salt pork is a form of cured meat, initially used for long-term preservation before refrigeration.

Key Points:

  • Historically used for long-term preservation, salt pork is a simple cured meat made with sea salt and sometimes sugar.
  • Its versatility makes it ideal for outdoor activities like fishing and hunting, adding intense flavor to various dishes.
  • Salt pork is made by covering pork belly with a sea salt (possibly sugar), leaving it in the fridge for 2-3 days, then rinsing and drying it.
  • The meat can last 6 to 12 months in the fridge or a cold area if cured longer.
  • Salt pork enhances stews, casseroles, fried greens, baked beans, and seafood chowders.
  • It’s a budget-friendly option with intense porky and salty flavors, perfect for slow cooking.
  • Adding pink curing salt No. 1 gives it a hammy/bacon flavor.
  • Substitutes like pancetta, speck, and bacon offer more refined alternatives.

Salt pork was very popular in the sailor and prairie days. I love to make and use it because it’s easy and tasty. It’s a simple recipe that you can do at home with just sea salt. You can definitely give it some spice, of course!

I love this type of cured meat because it is the back-to-basics in the form of cured meat. Great for outdoor adventures, fishing, and hunting, and it can be used for that meaty, intense flavor in meals.

What is Salt Pork?

Once you take enough of the moisture from meat it is preserved, through using salt (& sugar if you want). It can’t spoil very easily.

This is why they used it on boats sailing around the world hundreds of years ago. I have also read that it was common in many military campaigns because of its long shelf life.

Container with salt pork inside of it, looking straight down into the container.
My homemade salt pork, actually lasted about 2 years!

Uses for Salt Pork

  • Stews
  • Casseroles
  • Fried with Greens
  • Baked Beans with Salt Pork
  • Seafood Chowder with Salt Pork
  • Clam Chowder with Salt Pork

How to Make Salt Pork

  1. Acquire pork belly, chop or keep whole muscle (fat is important)
  2. Cover salt pork completely with sea salt & brown sugar (ratio 5:1)
  3. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 days or longer
  4. For larger pork bellies, drain and repeat step 2 & 3
  5. Rinse pork & dry
  6. Store wrapped in fridge or cool area
  7. To use soak or simmer in water before use

As you can see from the above quick guide, salt pork is really easy to make and can actually last for 6 to 12 months in the fridge. Or salt cure longer to store outside the fridge.

Slow Cooking & Cheap

Whether you buy it or make it, the best thing about salt pork is that it is relatively inexpensive.

So, if you’re on a budget, you can add heaps of flavor and throw in a few extra spices if you wish, which I’ll list below.

You don’t need to use a lot when you add it to your cooking to get some flavor, because it has an intense porky and saltiness.

I always have some pink curing salt No. 1; this can give the pork another level of flavor. Pink Curing Salt No. 1 is for less than 30-day projects or meat that you are going to cook.

I always use if for making bacon and other cured good. When I add pink curing salt to the salt pork, it adds that hammy/bacon flavor. Here is a page about pink curing salt I wrote.

If you haven’t tried it, here is a complete guide to bacon making (hot or cold) and the various techniques I know of.

Salt Pork -Step by Step

1. Acquire Pork Belly, Chop or Keep Whole

You have a couple of options here: either keep the belly whole or cut it into 1-2 inch chunks. I find that if you chop it up, the curing will happen a bit faster because more surface area is exposed to the salt.

Keeping the pork belly whole means storing it, which makes it a little easier.

2. Cover Pork Completely with Sea Salt & Brown Sugar (ratio 5:1)

Lay down some of your cure mixture on a tray, and put the pork on top. Then put more of the cure mixture on top. I like to use a pretty decent thick layer.

If you decide to cube up the pork, you can sprinkle salt, put pork pieces in, sprinkle more salt, add more pork, etc. – keep doing layers.

Lots of options to give the pork some flavor angles, these are some of the most common I like to throw in.

Optional Spices

  • Bay leaves – fresh or dry
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Pepper

3. Leave in Mixture for 2-3 days

If you are going to be using more salt pork in the short term over the next few weeks or months, you probably can just use a two-day cure for 1/2 pound

But if you’re looking for something to store for 6 to 12 months, then you should use step 4 below and re-salt the pork.

4. For larger Pork Bellies Drain and Repeat Steps 2 & 3

Sometimes, depending on how old the pig is (and how fat it was), you get 3-inch or thicker pork bellies, so you can repeat the process to ensure that you have fully cured it so it’s preserved.

5. Rinse Pork & Dry

After the curing process give the pork a good rinse under the tap, then I use a few paper towels to pat off the excess.

Muslin cloth is good for wrapping the salt pork a few times so that it holds in a bit of moisture.

It will dry out a bit more in time, once you put it in the fridge, but I find that’s all good.

6. Store Wrapped in a Fridge or Cool Area

If it’s winter, you can hang it somewhere on a hook, but I like to use a fridge since I have one. I generally cook the salt pork for a few months and eat it in a few months, just by cutting off chunks as I need them.

7. To Use Soak or Simmer in Water Before Use

Generally, all I need is about 30-60 minutes soaking in water for the amount of pork I am going to cook with.

When cutting a chunk of salt pork to use, testing with a bit of a fry-up helps work out out if you need to draw more salt out with soaking. Soak in water for 20-30 minutes and test it again.

Another method I have heard is similar, where you blanch the pork you want to cook with for 5 minutes, which also extracts a lot of the salt.

I’ve done this with salt fish in Italy, but not with pork – same same but different.

A Base Flavor for Many Dishes

As I mentioned I love to use this when I’m camping because it can be kept in a cool environment for a few weeks easily. Adding it to wild game stews for an extra porky flavor.

Of course, just remember that you don’t need to add any salt to the recipe if you using salt pork. You can always add the salt at the end to finish it off.

Salt pork is also a great ingredient to have if you do a bit of slow cooking/crockpot style, it can boost the flavors of the dish and again, you only need to use a small amount.

Boston Baked Beans

This is a Boston classic, and it can be made in the slow cooker or not. The salt bacon really gives it that angle, combined with all the other spices.

This awesome recipe fro Pioneer Woman doesn’t soak the salt pork, it depends on how salty it is though!

New England Fish Chowder

I don’t know what it is about the flavor of pork with chowder but it just goes together incredibly well. Using clams, scallops, mussels or other seafood can produce unique flavors.

Substitutes & Alternatives for Salt Pork

Similar but different being more refined, fancy substitutes for basic salt pork:

  • Pancetta
  • Speck
  • Bacon
Pancetta rolled large
Pancetta is a more refined type of cured meat, more of a delicacy.

If you want to learn more about dry-cured meat, here is the category of all the blogs I have written about.

If you want to try a slightly more sophisticated thing than salt pork, here is a page I wrote about dry-curing meat in your regular kitchen fridge.


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Comments

      1. Tom, thanks for sharing your expertise. I have just begun to appreciate the art of curing meat and im sure your writings will prove to be invaluable. Thanks again! Valda

        1. Author

          Thank you for your kind words! Later this year the courses page at the top of the page will include the in-depth course I am making 🙂 Check it out.

  1. Hey Tom:

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful way to cure pork. I would like to ask “if I wanted to cure pork belly for a year or more, would that be the same procedure, just a few more times?” Thanks ahead of time and I hope that I can find your site again so I can get the answer since I just stumbled upon it today 🙂

  2. Thank you very much Tom for your expertise on salt pork. Here’s something I would like your opinion on: My mother used to buy salt pork, chop it up, and stuff it under a chicken’s skin, then barbecue it. It was outstanding! Have you ever done this or heard about it? Would appreciate your reply. Many thanks

    1. Author

      Sounds nice! I imagine the salt seasons and the pork renders down the fat keeping the chicken moist. Kind of like how people drape bacon over chicken then roast it!

      1. Could I use pork loin? Pork belly is outrageous here! $6.99/lbs! I made it yesterday with the edge of a pork loin i just wanted to make sure if be ok. I figure it’s all the same product, you just don’t have the skin side.

        1. Author

          I reckon you can, but since th loin may have less fat it will shrink alot, remembering pork is 70% water in the meaty area. The fat has less water, so when it dries it doens’t shrink as much. Apart from that – good to go. Cheers Tom

  3. Hi Tom. Thanks for the useful info on salt pork. I have a question though. If I salt cure pork belly twice, and the storage temp is around 15degrees Celsius, would it be ok stored in a salt box for a couple of months?

    1. Author

      If it was me, I would ok with that as long as the piece of pork isn’t massive and it has had a decent amount of time in the salt 2-3 weeks for up to 5 inches maybe? the idea is after salting curing, you dry it for preservation. If you left it in a saltbox, I am not sure – but possible blood/fuid leeching from the meat could create undesirable outcomes. trust you nose, fat also takes longer to have salt bind and diffuse. All the best, Tom

  4. Hi Tom,
    ONce the salt pork is cured for the length of time mentioned, can you vacuum seal it if you have access to a vacuum sealer and will that lengthen the shelf life? Thanks!

    1. Author

      yeah definitely, if you dry it out, then vac pac it only last for a long time. I have had cured bits of meat for over 1 year in the fridge vac paccked!

  5. Tom,
    Have you ever used venison/wild game (deer, elk, etc)? If so, are there any differences in preparation?

    Regards,
    Matt in Colorado

    1. Author

      Not yet, haven’t needed it for survival! Though, because the dear around here has very little fat, I would say a lot of the venison would shrink big time.
      Cheers, Tom in New Zealand

  6. Great page – just making salt pork today for the first time. Using a very fatty pork shoulder. Looking forward to the results! (I was kind of blown away by how much salt is used – I wonder is people re-used the salt in the old days?

    1. Author

      Heya, I’ve never come across any literature about reusing salt, guess there is too much risk with possible unwanted bacteria…
      Cheers
      Tom

  7. Hi. Does it have to be sea salt? Can’t get that where I am. Only regular ol’ salt.

  8. Hello,
    My mother made a dish called “Salt Beef Rundown”. She would break open a salt crusted five gallon pail of beef, cut a chunk of meat, rinse, then boil it for about 15-30 minutes, then roughly chop it to simmer with cassava, white yam, potatoes, coconut milk, etc. Was this meat that she used “salt cured meat”? If so, can I buy regular beef at the grocery store and cure it in brine as you have mentioned above? Or should I simply aim to do a “dry salt rub” for 24 to 48 hours, then use it in my Rundown recipe? I would greatly appreciate any assistance that you can give!

    1. Author

      sounds yum, I would be doing 2x salt excess saturation cured and change the salt once. 1 weeks per salt covering. Sounds like fully salt preservation. Use fresh beef for curing I reckon, ideally you’ll know the source…..
      Salt beef, fish, pork etc.. is basically just saturated with salt. I’ve only heard of drying it after, but when you say pail i guess you mean bucket.

  9. Hey Tom, You have been so helpfull to me when I was facing cold smoking problems. I really thank you very much.

  10. Tom, can I apply the same processes for pork and beef , if the beef has a similar fat content 🤔

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