What is Curing Salt?
Pink curing salt, also known as Prague Powder is a mixture of 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% sodium chloride. It’s mostly table salt, but the addition of sodium nitrite is vital to inhibit the growth of anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that do not require oxygen to grow) such as the ones that cause botulism. The intent of preserving meat is to allow it to have a longer shelf life. When food is kept longer, there is greater risk of bacteria spreading and spoiling the food, or making anyone who eats it sick. By using curing salts, you greatly reduce the risk of this bacterial growth to allow your food to remain edible for much longer than would be otherwise possible.
Pink curing salt also helps to preserve the colour, texture, and flavour of the meat or fish being preserved.They are often used in the production of traditional cured meat products such as bacon, ham, and corned beef. The curing process usually takes several days to a week and involves rubbing the curing salt mixture onto the meat or fish and then storing it in a cool, humid environment. The curing process can also be accelerated by injecting the curing salt solution directly into the meat or fish.
Curing salt is also commonly used in the production of fermented meat products, such as salami and pepperoni, as well as fish products like lox.
It's worth noting that curing salt should not be confused with regular table salt. Curing salt is only meant to be used in small amounts, in the process of curing meat, because of the presence of sodium nitrite.
Why use curing salt?
The main reason for using curing salt is to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria can cause botulism, a potentially fatal illness. Curing salt contains sodium nitrite, which acts as a preservative and helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. It also gives cured meats their characteristic pink colour and unique flavour. Additionally, curing salt can improve the texture and juiciness of the meat. Curing salts are used in the preparation of meats to allow it to last longer than it would on its own. Preserving meat is a great way to save money by reducing waste through spoilage.
What causes meat to spoil?
Meat can spoil due to the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. These microorganisms thrive in warm temperatures and require moisture to grow, so meat should be stored in a cool, dry place to slow the growth of these microorganisms. Additionally, meat should be handled and cooked properly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella.
These microorganisms can be present on the surface of the meat when it is processed and packaged, and they can multiply over time if the meat is not stored properly. The growth of these microorganisms can cause changes in the colour, texture, and smell of the meat, as well as the production of harmful toxins. In addition to microorganisms, enzymes present in the meat can also cause spoilage by breaking down the tissue and changing its texture. The time before the meat spoil, it depends on many factors such as the type of meat, the temperature it is stored at, and the level of preservatives present in the meat, among others.
What's the difference between Prague Powder #1 and Prague Powder #2?
Prague powder #1 and Prague powder #2 are both types of curing salt that are used to preserve meat. However, they are used for different purposes and have different ratios of salt and nitrite.
Prague powder #1, also known as Insta Cure #1, is used for both dry and wet cured meats, and it is used in making products like bacon, ham, and corned beef. It contains 6.25% nitrite and 93.75% salt. The nitrite helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum, and it also gives cured meats their characteristic flavour and colour.
Prague powder #2, also known as Insta Cure #2, is used primarily for dried and semi-dry cured meats over a span of weeks/months such as salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto. It contains 6.25% nitrite and 4% Nitrate, and 93.75% salt. Nitrate is used in addition to nitrite for a long fermentation process and it helps provide a distinct flavour over time.
In general, using the right type of curing salt and using it in the correct amount is crucial to make safe and delicious cured meats, and to prevent harmful bacteria growth.
How to use curing salt
It’s important to weigh/measure your ingredients when using curing salts. The recommended ratio is 6.25 grams of curing salt per 1 kilogram of meat. The curing salt should be mixed with other curing ingredients such as sugar and spices, and then applied to the meat. The meat should then be left to cure for a specific amount of time, which will vary depending on the type of meat and the desired outcome.
Curing salt can be applied to meat in several ways, including dry curing and wet curing. Dry curing involves rubbing the curing mixture onto the surface of the meat, whereas wet curing involves submerging the meat in a brine solution containing the curing mixture.
It is important to note that curing salt should not be used as a replacement for cooking. Cured meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C) to ensure that any remaining harmful bacteria are killed.
Is curing salt dangerous?
When using curing salts, a little goes a long way. Be sure to measure carefully and follow your recipe. Sodium nitrite in high doses can be toxic which is why it’s cut with table salt and dyed pink to ensure it isn’t mistaken for regular table salt.