Since curing meat in a curing chamber is a craft, temperature and humidity do not have to be exact, but more so within a range.
When I started off and built my first meat a curing chamber over 15 years ago, I did a lot of research and read quite a lot of books to make sure I was on the right track. Now I truly appreciate other people are learning from this blog which summarizes what I have learned.
When starting off, I had the right temperature and humidity, but I learned unless I inoculated the curing chamber it may take a little while to build up some good bacteria a.k.a. penicillin a.k.a. white powdery mold (Some folks do like to spray the meat surface in encourage this growth).
But once you have this culture growing inside the curing chamber, the salt cured meat you put in there will be well protected (as long as you follow a good methodology of course).
So here is a table summarizing the temperature and humidity ranges and then I’ll go over a few tips relevant to the curing chamber and its environment.
Humidity and Temperature Ranges for a Curing Chamber
|Dry Cured Meat (Whole Muscle)||50-61°F/10-16°C||60-80%|
|Dry Cured Salami (after fermentation)||50-61°F/10-16°C||60-80%|
|Jerky and Biltong||61-122°F/16-50°C||30-50%|
Now, these are my dry curing conditions, although I have spoken to award-winning biltong makers internationally. So I go for longer slower biltong which takes 2-4 days.
For the most basic type of jerky, you can use your kitchen oven with the door ajar open, and it will take a lot faster since jerky is only a thin cut of meat. Biltong quite often is 1″ thick.
If you don’t have a curing chamber and you’re just looking at hanging out some meat to cure such as simple dry-cured bacon with some cold smoke after or simple red meat braesola recipe. You can always just test the environment like out the back, in the garage or some other place protected from pests with a bit of airflow. It just needs to be somewhere in the range of humidity approximately and temperature above.
It’s just a bit hit or miss and can be frustrating when it’s inconsistent, but it’s done this way in homes all across Italy or other places across the world.
Here is simple cheap sensor pack to check temperatures around the home.
The other option if you’re new to the whole idea of dry curing meat, is to just use your normal kitchen fridge. I did a fair bit of experimentation around this, so I wrote a guide about how to cure meat in your kitchen fridge I got consistent results.
Also, check out my page with an equilibrium curing calculator to make the calc easy!
Environments for Different Curing Chamber Projects
I thought it might be useful to stick in a quick overview of the different projects I am familiar with and the environments.
Ideal Temperature & Humidity for Dry Cured Salumi
This is the most common type of dry curing people do at home apart from jerky. Whole muscle dry curing is also easier then salami, less air is exposed to meat surfaces which could have potentially bad bacteria get into it.
Airflow and how consistent the moisture is in the environment is key to any dry curing project, but it can work in many scenarios.
In the era of Parma where Parma Ham comes from, its next two areas of water which allows the generally higher level of moisture and humidity in the air to stop the outside drying (I just googled Parma, Italy whether. It’s 90% humidity there now that’s 11 AM in the morning with a sunny day with some cloud intervals).
My curing chamber does operate a little bit drier, its a big double door to bar fridge that I converted. So I end up starting most dry curring at around 75 to 80% humidity for the first two or three days and then take it down to about 70% for most of the dry-cured projects I do like pancetta, braesola, Lonza or dry-cured and then cold smoked bacon.
Ideal Temperature & Humidity for Salami
Salami is definitely the advanced category of using a curing chamber.
It basically just follows the procedure but since it is common to have a fermentation stage having that higher temperature and higher humidity allows that pH and acidity to increase to create a hostile environment for bad bacteria.
Now some recipes also don’t have fermentation, so just make sure you are following a decent one. I have compiled a recipe book as we speak, which will be available soon, it will include what I have learned around meat curing across many different countries as well.
The easiest ways to achieve the high humidity and high level of temperature is to have a humidifier and a heater of some sort in the curing chamber.
In the early days, I also used the right conditions in a friend’s shower, not ideal but it did help change the pH acidity which was the goal.
Ideal Temperature & Humidity for Jerky & Biltong
It’s perfectly fine and very common to dry out jerky which has been in a dehydrator. This is definitely one style and very popular.
But before I started doing jerky I was making South African biltong, this is a slower drying process and uses much chunkier bits of meat. The recipes for the classic recipe is dead simple salt, coriander, and malt vinegar. If you’re interested in a simple guide and recipe, please check out the page I wrote on jerky & biltong here.
I like to take 2 to 4 days to dry out biltong at around 28 to 35°C, personal preference.
Different Ways to Control Humidity
Finding the Right Environment
It really does depend on the environment you live in, you could be anywhere in the world wide web so you may have a more suitable environment when it comes to the humidity or you may not.
I got contacted by a man in East Africa, he was keen on dry-curing meat – he definitely needs to build something suitable. He said it never got below 77°F/25°C at any time of the year, day or night! Best for hot smoking, head to do cold smoking at under 86°F/30°C!
In the temperate environments that I’ve lived in, the moisture is always higher at night time and this is also useful since you can want the higher levels of humidity when you cold smoking.
There are some methods I have come across, like having bowls of saltwater inside a small chamber to have some impact on humidity or using some form of disposable cigar environmental control products.
But I haven’t tried it and I can’t say I’ve heard any great outcomes if you’re looking at longer-term dry curing for months.
An ultrasonic humidifier is the best way to go because you end up pumping out a fine mist and hopefully, there is some kind of filtration going on inside the humidifier.
If you want some suggestions on a couple of humidifiers I know do a great job, here is a page with a few recommendations for humidifiers.
Different Ways to Control Temperature
What I’ve seen with temperature control and different curing chamber’s is that the compressor or whatever form of cooling is used may create more or less moisture as well as impacting the humidifier or dehumidifier. This is something that just needs testing to get some balance generally.
Someone much more electrically minded than myself, a friend who is an electrical engineer pointed out that it could be moisture attaching to the condenses.
When the fan was blowing, that moisture got pushed into the chamber. This was specific to my curing chamber since it was designed to have a fan continuously operating even when the compressor wasn’t on (it was a drinks fridge)
So some rewiring was done, which only turned on the fan when the compressor was on.
Nowadays with the plug-and-play controllers for fridges, it makes it super simple, if you use a standard old frost free fridge.
If you want to check out the options and a guide on building a curing chamber, here is a detailed page on all the setup.
Fresh Air Flow Needed
This is something that took me a while to figure out on my first curing chamber. I thought there was enough air being pulled through the compressor but it seems it wasn’t the case.
I actually tried growing some gray oyster mushrooms in the chamber and it didn’t work because they need such a significant amount of oxygen and airflow.
I had some success with dry curing meat because I had the right humidity and the right temperature. But the results and the process improved once I improved the airflow and oxygen going in the chamber.
I offsetting a lid to the compressor, which was just next to the fan in the compressor. I then sealed it and placed a HEPA filter over it.
The fan was drawing in the oxygen and therefore pumping some more additional fresh air. I then drilled through the side and opened up an exit hole of about 3 x 3″. Since there was always a little bit of pressure going through the chamber, it was always coming out the hole.
What I suggest is that if you get a computer fan and have it mounted inside a curing chamber, it will then pulling the air out.
Important Factors for Dry Curing in Curing Chamber
- Quality of the Meat
- Nitrites & Nitrates
- Hygienic Environment
So you’ve looked into the temperature and humidity conditions you need.
But it’s good to just go over the basics, first off the quality of the meat. I’m lucky enough to harvest quality meat from the wild.
Which comes from areas that are pretty much untouched. As long as I handle the meat in a hygienic way, avoiding any cross-contamination and refrigerated it then I use it either fresh or frozen. If I want to do a meat curing project later on.
You can do your own research on pink curing salt otherwise known as sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate mixes with regular salt, I still use it as a form of protection just to make sure the meat is safe.
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for decades.
I Hunt, Fish, Forage, Buy, Butcher (Wannabe Norcini), Make, Savor (I’m not a Saviour), and love curing and smoking meat.
Learning and consuming in a circular fashion, I am always interested in what is happening around the curing and smoking world
Seeking the passionate behind the passion.
Hi Tom, I recently discovered your website and it’s a real treasure trove of information.
I have a question on a 4.5 lb Pork shoulder that I’m attempting to cure into Spalla.
I salted for roughly 3 days in a ziplock bar in the refrigerator with a pan and 8 lb weight on top (as per Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Salumi).
When I took the shoulder out of the bag to hang, it had a slightly greyish tinge to it. I know this is probably because of oxidation but I wasn’t sure if this would negatively affect the curing process?
Also, I purchased this shoulder a few months ago at the farmers market (sold frozen) and it’s been in the back of the freezer ever since. The packing date was mid February, so I also wasn’t sure if the long time in the freezer would negatively affect the curing process? And perhaps this contributed to the greyish tinge/oxidation?
So is the the greyish tinge/oxidation okay?
And is the long time in the freezer okay?
Should I scrap this shoulder and Star with a fresh one?
Thank you so much for all of the information on your website! Keep up the great work!
Thanks for your kind words, really encouraging for me.
I double checked, but I am presuming you didn’t use any nitrates/nitrites.
Check out this too:
It’s really hard to guess what’s going on without seeing it.
But yes I would say oxidation, smell it and try using your senses, does it have any ‘off’ smell (our evolutionary noses are quite useful)
Fresh frozen meat that is thawed and then cured, I personally have had no problems with – as long as it was fresh (so you have to get your source to acknowledge this)
I know recipes don’t have (pink) curing salt, but I prefer to use it, not just for color but also the other obvious safety reasons.
(freezers can deteriorate smell/flavor so it depends how its frozen too (with air or without like with vacpac (which we do for harvest wild game generally), i friend had a wild young goat in the freezer for 2 years…we roasted it up, it was amazing! just a random story.
All the best,
Hi Tom, thanks for your very informative blog! Based on your DIY chamber booklet I’ve almost got a complete setup hooked up over the past week, can’t wait to see the results.
I do have a query regarding lower temperatures. As I don’t yet have a dehumidifier I have been controlling the humidity through having the fridge plugged into the humidity controller to try and maintain an average of 75% RH. Now with the current climate and setup I have this has the chamber averaging around 7deg C. My thinking is that this is preferable to when I had the fridge controlled by the temp controller to maintain ~12deg C, but RH was averaging 85%.
Just wondering what the downside would be to having the temp a few degrees cooler, but the humidity in the desired range?
Interesting… 7 Deg could mean thinks drying slowly…
Also, beneficial bacteria (penicillin) prefers is a little warmer too
85 is doable, but when you have meat in there (which is 70% water), it’s going to probably be a wetter environment, initially.
Might need that temp controller too…
Thank you for putting in so much effort in your site and sharing your experience. As a babe in the woods when It comes to curing (iv only made hams, bacons, and pancetta) having someone share the lessons they have learnt is much appreciated.
Thanks for your time.
Cheers Seth, Much Appreciated!
If there is any topic you want to suggest feel free. Sounds like you are on the right track!
I wanted to thank you for all the knowledge I’m getting from your blog. I’m getting into charcuterie. As a 28 yo French woman it was about time !
Everything is easy to understand and clear. I really enjoy the percentages used to calculate almost everything.
Thanks again !
Nice Sophia, thanks for the kind words. Check out the courses link at the top if you want a booklet on DIY curing chamber, my ‘charcuterie’ course will be out later this year too! 🙂
I recently found out you can ‘equilibrium’ percentage calculate your pickling of vegetables!
Hi again !
I have a question this time : I just bought a wine cellar (18 bottles). I programmed it at 11°C/52°F. Unfortunately it’s pretty hot in France and the actual temperature of the cellar is 17-18°C/62,6-64,4°F.
It it too high ? Can it cause spoilage or just a longer time for the meat to cure ?
Thank you so much for your help.
I prefer 11-13C all the time, since bacteria grows exponentially the hotter it gets. Personally, I wouldn’t.Portable cooler? plugged into a temperature controller? Whole muscle meat maybe, salami no thank you! Viva La France! (home of real chhhaaarcuuuterrrie!) Better to try smaller pieces in a fridge, I wrote about this here.
I need to buy a portable cooler. Hopefully I’ll be able to find that in some store.
I only have whole muscle meats hanging in there at the moment : lamb pancetta arrotolata, bresaola and beef bacon.
I’ll wait for the cooler months to try salami. Can’t wait !
Oui, vive la France ! Charcuterie is indeed a French word but I have to say the Italians are the masters in that matter.
I know we have amazing charcuterie, I’m Muslim so no pork for me. That’s why I decided to try curing meat at home. and your blog is so amazing to lear about that.
I had another wine cellar that was too small to hang the meat, I had to lay it so the pieces preciously mentioned have been curing in there at 13°C for 2-3 weeks and I just transferred them to the 17°C wine cellar to be hang. Hopefully, they’re dry enough to handle the hotter setting.
Thanks again for your tips !
Nice! Your on track! 🙂
Tom, gem of a site and already great help as I begin my own dry-cured meat hobby.
I have just set up a small curing chamber, 8 ft cu, from a refrigerator but am seeing some instability in my humidity control…..confirmed by a recording temp/hum monitor. Temp stays right in range. What I see is my humidity collapses in conjunction with the temp dropping….appears the humidity collapse might precede temp drop but not certain, they follow very closely. I assume the compressor is on during the drop. Humidity comes back with temp but sometimes overshoots and crawls back down as dehumidifier comes on. I ended up unplugging the humidifier as it appears I don’t need it in such a small space. Controller is working correctly and switching when it should. Total cycle during the swing it about the same time as when its stable in-range.
Whats going on and is it anything to worry about?
Thanks mate! Oh the joy of the craft and balancing the gear! If it swings like 10%, no problem. I’ve had similar things with chambers, but when the compressor is ‘drying’ things out too much – it does tend to get the dreaded case hardening (which can be remedied by vapacing for 2-3 weeks in fridge). I had this probably with a large commercial fridge, too much power!
I had a friend diffuse the airflow with a metal plate and another commercial fridge, which actually also had an impact on stabilising humidity. Trial and error is the way! Cheers T
Lots of great info here!
I’ve been wanting to find out if my crawlspace (no actual crawling required) is suitable for hanging and curing meats. Ultimately, I feel like what I need to do is get daily readings of min/max temp and humidity over the course of a year or so to determine whether it stays in the curing temp and humidity ranges. I live in the PNW, so we’re rarely very hot or cold, and the basement of course mitigates that further.
Do you have any recommendations on gear that would collect those readings (ideally, digitally) and record them so that I can do a trend analysis?
Hey mate, thanks!
I’ll be getting something like this soon, temp & humidity sensor/logger
prob get most consistent in basement? If your approx. in the right zone of 10-20°C, that’s fine/ humidity not ‘dry’ over 60%. If your thinking longer term dry curing.
Remember Parma Ham is in controlled environment for 3 months, then often its just hanging around in a building with the windows open, when it rains they close the windows!