What is & How to Use Pink Curing Salt or Prague Powder

There are a whole bunch of ways that you can use pink curing salt or Prague powder (and there are a bunch of other names for it).

I want to give you a rundown on how I use pink-curing salt and some other important details about this ingredient.

Pink curing salt is in many popular foods produced at home or commercially – like pastrami, bacon, corned beef, pancetta, many hams.

This website eat cured meat is all about curing meat, so over the last 15 or 20 years, I’ve been using pink curing salt as part of my recipes for salamis, pancetta, bresaola, and many other cured meat projects.

There have been some improvements in how pink curing salt has been calculated. I’ll go over with you how it’s used for large-volume projects small-at-home curing or charcuterie projects.

Method for Curing Meat with Salt
Wild Venison Meat Cured with Pink Curing Salt, Sea Salt and Spices

My brother has put together an equilibrium curing calculator, this is a very popular tool that works out the salt percentage to the total weight of the meats used for curing. This calculator also works out 0.25% of the pink curing salt, whether it is pink curing salt #1 or #2, the percentage of pink curing salt is the same.

There is a link at the top of each page, or you can find that pink curing salt and equilibrium curing calculator here.

What is Pink Curing Salt?

Pink curing salt is either no.1 or no.2.

TypeSalt AmountSodium NitriteSodium NitrateUsesExamples
Pink Curing Salt #193.75%6.25%Under 30 Day Cured & Cooked FoodsPastrami, Luncheon Hams, Corned Beef
Pink Curing Salt #289.75%6.25%4.00%Over 30 Day Cured & Cooked FoodsDry Cured Salami, Braesola, Country Ham, Lonza, Coppa, Pancetta

Pink Curing Salt is:

Salt (NaCl) – basically sea salt/sodium chloride

Sodium nitrite (NaNO2) – helps protect the meat from unwanted bacteria.

Sodium nitrate (NaNO3) – for over 30-day curing, sodium nitrate breaks down to sodium nitrite as the curing progresses. It converts and breaks down.

There is a color change that’s used with pink curing salt, the meat does take on a red/pinkish hue, which is a reaction happening inside the myoglobins in the meat. You’ll notice most commercially produced cured meats like hams or bacon has this pinkish kind of reddish color.

When I have not used nitrites or nitrates in my homemade cured meats, you can notice that the meat stays a more neutral color.

How to Use Pink Curing Salt?

Most of the pink curing salt packages that I’ve seen have indicated a commercial quantity and ratio of use.

Pink curing salt is generally written as 4 ounces should be used for 100 pounds of meat.

The way I work out my meat curing is to decide on the amount of saltiness using the modern equilibrium curing, so let’s say 3% salt for making braesola.

I use 2.75% salt + 0.25% pink curing salt #2 equals total 3% salt

Since the majority of pink curing salt is ‘salt’ with the nitrate/nitrites.

For example,

1000 grams of meat

= 27.5 grams of salt

= 2.5 grams of pink curing salt #2

Here is a table to highlight the different amounts, whether it is No.1 or No.2 the amounts is the same:

Amount of Meat Pink Curing Salt Amount (ounces)Pink Curing Salt Amount (grams)
100 pounds4 (0.25%)113.4 grams (0.25%
5 pounds0.2 (0.25%)5.66 grams (0.25%)

There are 2 methods of using pink curing salt for meat curing, either a brine or a dry cure. Above the table is dry curing.

A brine is a water/salt type of curing sometimes known as pickling or wet brining.

A ratio of 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat is the guide for brining. But then one has to work out the brine and the salt amount.

My preference is using an ‘equilibrium’ brining, I came up with the calculator for this as well.

For Equilibrium Curing at home, 0.25% of the meat weight, means accurate scales are very important in measurement – here is a page of scales I can recommend.

Why to Use Pink Curing Salt?

When curing meat, canning, brining – its protection from unwanted bacteria, using pink curing salt in the correct ratio can avoid bacteria such as botulism.

Taste and color are also factors, a grey-looking ham doesn’t have the same appeal!

Effects of Nitrates and Nitrites

According to the textbook, meat production of quality meats and sausages (Marianksi &Marianski) adding nitrates to meet will improve flavor, prevent food poisoning, tenderize the meat, and develop the pink color widely known and associated with smoked meats.

Amazon Book Buy Link

Different Names for Pink Curing Salt

Here is a list of pink-curing salt that have the same ratio of salt, nitrates & nitrites.

Under 30 Days Pink Curing SaltOver 30 Days Pink Curing Salt
Pink Curing Salt #1Pink Curing Salt #2
Prague Powder #1Prague Powder #2
Quick Cure #1Quick Cure #2
Instacure #1Instacure #2
Tinted Curing Mix (TCM) #1Tinted Curing Mix (TCM) #2

Here are curing salts with different ratios of nitrates/nitrites – this is due to European Meat Curing standards (many of these have 0.6% of nitrite in the salt vs. 6.25% for curing salt #1) – therefore my calculator is not applicable).

  • Colorazo – Sweden
  • Sel Nitrite – France
  • Peklosol – Poland
  • Nitrited Salt – England

There are Other brands like Tender Quick, I have not used or had experience with these, so I won’t comment here.

TenderQuick – These all have different amounts of sugar, nitrites, and nitrates depending on the product. They have similarities to pink curing salt but it is best to just follow what instructions are stated on the packaging. These products are popular in Canada.

Precautions About Pink Curing Salt

Salumi, a meat curing book’s by Ruhlman and Paulson’s summarizes curing salts like this,

Nitrates and nitrates are naturally occurring chemicals that our bodies rely on. Green vegetables such as spinach and celery are loaded with them. As much as 95% of the nitrates in our bodies comes from vegetables. Our bodies naturally convert nitrates into nitrites which work as a powerful antibacterial agent, particularly and an acidic environment (such as our stomachs).

Nitrates and nitrites provide same antibacterial function and the sausage it’s been cured. Lactobacillus bacteria, feeding on sugars in the sausage, produce acid(that is the tanginess we associate with salami) and the nitrates keep harmful microbes from growing – most importantly, the bacterium that generates the deadly botulism.”

Here is a scientific paper about the health benefits of nitrates/nitrites from fruit and veg – Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits

Pink curing salt is used at very minimal levels when I am doing a few pounds of dry-cured meats. A very small percentage of 1 teaspoon is used as part of the ingredients.

Pink curing salts is something that should be doubled or even triple-checked to make sure you have the right amount.

In contrast, pink curing salts when used properly, and in the right ratios add a level of protection to the curing project in my opinion – this is why I use them.

From the textbook Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages, it states,

Carcinogens can only be formed when products are heated above 266°F or 130°C. This can only happen when cured bacon is fried or cured salamis I grilled. The majority of cured meats never reach such high temperatures.

Page 51, Marianski & Marianski – Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages

What If the Wrong Amount of Pink Curing is Used

If the pink curing salt has been used incorrectly, sometimes you get two different times of color through the meat. This is also why equilibrium curing is such a great way to use pink-curing salt at home.

When I have equilibrium cured pieces of meat with the right amount of salt and 0.25% curing salt. Once this meat has been vacuum packed you can put it into the fridge, depending on the size I would normally leave it for 2 to 4 weeks.

However, on occasion, I forgot about it, and even after three or four months, the meat has been sitting in an oxygen-low environment cured and ready for the next step. Removing it and hanging it in my homemade DIY curing chamber.

Useful links & Resources

Link to USDA Guide on Curing

Useful Meat Curing Book Recommendation Page

European Meat Curing Regulations – Via Ireland Applicable to Europe.


  1. Hi Tom,

    Greetings from İstanbul, Turkey and would like to thank you for this great website👍

    Tons of valuable information and very easy language that even newbees can understand everything..

    All the best,
    Oguz Akalin

      1. Pink salt (Sodium Nitrate) is a poison that is used to kill feral hogs in Texas and the southeast.
        Sodium Nitrate is also carcinogenic ans is related to stomach cancer and colon rectum cancer.
        Salt is all you need to cure meat; 2 to 3.5% by weight. Sugar, black pepper is just for flavor.

        1. Author

          The U.S and Euro Govt scientists say at certain minimal levels it is safe. I am more like you and generally avoid it nowadays, as I say on this site – it’s up to the individual to decide.

  2. Hi Tom!
    Does the brine salinity change depending on the size of the cut?
    For example, I made a brine for a 5lb corned beef recipe by using 1 gallon of water, 2 cups of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar, and 5 teaspoons of Prague Powder #1, to brine in the fridge for 5-7 days.
    However, I didn’t realize til after I made the brine that my cut of beef was actually only 2.5 lbs. I still submerged the meat in the full 1 gallon of brine.
    Will this be okay to eat after 7 days of curing? Or should I have cut the amount of brine in half?

    1. Author

      Heya, it’s more about it, it takes longer to get inside – variations like fat embedded in muscle and around the outside can make a difference too.
      Doesnt sounds like your using equilibrium brining, so time in the brine is key. Your cooking it, so the brine is more about the flavor from the sounds of it. When you need full brine/sale penetration for cured hams where you are not cooking it, it’s different.
      You can always leave it in for whatever days you want, then take a slice off and cook it, if its too salty. Soak it in water to draw/equalize out some of the salt.

  3. Thanks for the info! So, I am wanting to make venison sweet bologna which is made from 80% venison and 20% pork shoulder. The seasoning I bought came with pink cure #1. I sent the meat through the grinder twice and I added the seasoning and cure in between grinds. I found a company that makes the best sweet bologna and they smoke it for 4 days! Can I cold smoke this sausage and it be safe (50-70degrees)? Or do I need to hit a higher temp? If so, what temp? Thanks in advance!

    1. Author

      Hey, always hard to comment on other processes..
      If it was me, I would cold smoke 30-40F/0-5C to keep at a basic fridge temp. Often people will say 4 days of cold smoke, but really that’s possible 8 hours a day with rests in between in the fridge – I am guessing though!
      Since your goal is an emulsified sausage that is cooked/reaches a safe internal temp – you may want to follow the recipe to start off with.
      There is also a classic Eastern European approach called ‘warm smoking’ – since I haven’t done much for it I won’t comment, but potentially they might do that too. Ring them!

  4. I purchase a 10 pound raw ham.
    I also purchased a package of 5280 culinary brine mix 16 oz.
    It doesn’t say on the package that Prague power #1 is one of the ingredients.
    Are you familiar with the mix?
    And is curing powder usually included or not?

  5. Tom: I mix my own Brisket Rub. I would like to incorporate a curing salt (Prague #1) in the mix, to provide a smoke ring to my oven-cooked brisket.
    My question: What percent of curing salt should I add to my rub mixture?

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