Curing Meat Explained

Curing Meat Pork Belly

Curing Meat

Curing is the process of preserving meat. It is primarily done with salt. There’s more to it than just adding salt, however. Ingredients like spices, herbs, or even wines are added to increase flavor. Curing meat is essential to preserving it as it help prevents spoilage. While kosher or coarse salt can be used, a finer grind is more common to allow for better absorption.

Why Does Meat Need Curing To Be Preserved?

Most meats have a high percentage of water, which must be removed to help prevent spoilage. Salt penetrates meat to help prevent bacteria from forming. Salmonella is one time of bacteria who’s growth is inhibited by even small concentrations of salt — as low as 3%.

It is important to stick to recipe guidelines from respected sources when curing meat. Food safety is not something to play around with and only experienced charcuterie enthusiasts should scale or change recipes.

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Dry Curing Meat Vs. Wet Curing Meat

When curing ingredients are mixed together and rubbed on meat, it is referred to as dry curing. This is generally used for smaller cuts of meat like pork belly or ham. Because of the amount of salt and spices used, the meat is sometimes washed after the curing process.

Wet curing meat is sometimes called brining. Water is added to the curing mixture to immerse the meat in for curing. Curing meat this way usually produces a milder flavor and less saltiness. This brine, or sweet pickle as it is sometimes called, can also be injected directly into the meat.

Sausage Curing

The sausage curing method is slightly different. Unlike those previously described, it is done by mixing curing salts and spices with ground meat. There is some debate as to whether sausages should be called a cured meat product. Regardless, the salt is an important aspect of preserving it, as well as adding to its flavor.

Image: Flickr user A. Drauglis CCBY-SA 2.0. Edited for size and color.

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