How To Cure Meat At Home

Curing meat at home is a lot easier than you think. Learn how to cook chorizo ​​​​​​​​or smoked pork ham for the grill with our guide to salting meat.

curing meat at home

Meat curing is a salt-based food preservation and flavoring technique. Thanks to the forces of osmosis, salt applied to the surface of raw meat wicks away moisture and slowly dries the meat.

What is meat curing?

Without water, dangerous microbes cannot colonize muscle tissue. This means that cured meat is safe to eat even if you haven’t heated it.

Although YOU can technically use pure salt to salt meat, many people choose to add sugar, nitrite or nitrate, and other flavorings. 

Celery powder is a common flavor additive. It is also a natural source of nitrates and nitrites. Nitrates and nitrites, which can also be found in curing salt, give cured meat its normal pink color. They also improve flavor and protect against botulism, a toxic bacteria that can be deadly to humans. 

The sugar is characterized by the taste of the salt, although the taste of each sausage is predominantly salty. 

It also provides fuel for the bacteria you want when you’re brining and fermenting your meat like cured sausages like pepperoni.

dry cured sausage on a cutting board

Which salt is best for curing meat?

Salt protects you from unwanted bacteria when curing meat, so using the right kind is crucial. Coarse kosher salt usually works best, but make sure it’s not iodized. 

Salt producers add iodine to their products to prevent consumer health problems from iodine deficiency. However, iodine leaves a strange aftertaste when used in large amounts. 

You can use pickling salts along with kosher salt. Pickling salts have some form of nitrites or nitrates mixed in. The most common form is pink salt or Prague powder, not to be confused with the delicious pink sea salt from the Himalayas.

Various suppliers sell pink pickling salt or Prague powder under numerous brand names. Some of those purchased are Instacure Salt #1 and #2. They are easy to use; Just follow the manufacturer’s directions for quantities.  

With the added nitrites in the pink curing salts you are safe from botulism. However, many chefs recommend using pink salt in small amounts while relying primarily on kosher salt. 

This is because nitrites are bad for your health in large amounts. Using a small amount of pink salt gives you the benefits of anti-botulism without the need to use a large dose of nitrite. 

What is the best environment for curing meat?

The best environment for curing meat is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit with around 70% humidity. Ideally it should be dark. 

An unplugged refrigerator with a small pot of water in it works well if you have one laying around. But a corner of your basement would also be suitable. You can even hang from your unlit fireplace !

Regardless, the best way to ensure your environment is on track is to test it. Use a hygrometer and thermometer to check the temperature and humidity before you start curing the meat. 

If you do not find a relevant area in your home, you can always buy a drying chamber. They range in price from $200 to over $5,000 or more depending on what you need. You can also create a camera yourself; it usually costs no more than a few hundred dollars plus your time. 

If all else fails, you can also cure meat in your regular fridge. However, your refrigerator is probably too dry and too cold. This means that the curing process is faster. 

Although rapid healing sounds like an advantage, it may not be the case. Faster maturation means there is less time to develop the mature flavors we expect in cured meats. 

Which meat is better for curing?

You can salt any meat, but the most likely cuts are pork. For example, prosciutto comes from the hind leg of a pig. Salami is also pork based, as are Spanish chorizo ​​​​​​​​and hot peppers. 

As you can see, you can salt whole cuts of meat, as is the case with prosciutto. Or you can salt the meat in sausage form, like you would with salami or chorizo. 

Whether you’re using ground beef or a whole piece, paying attention to quality is crucial. If you use poorer quality meat for curing, you will get poorer quality results. Local or game-raised game works best; In other words, get to know your butcher! 

How to smoke meat with salt

Learning to salt meat is easy, but there are a few different techniques. Find step-by-step instructions for both dry curing and equilibrium curing. 

Dry cured

People have been drying meat for centuries because all you really need is salt!

Necessary equipment and ingredients  

  • Meat of your choice
  • Kosher salt
  • Medicinal salt 
  • Spices 
  • Chamber or curing room 
  • Cheesecloth 
  • Butcher cord 

To dry meat whenever you don’t weigh it, but you should. Weighing the meat will help you determine when it’s ready to eat! 

After weighing, brush the outside of the meat with salt. You can add spices at this point if you like, but people usually add them later.  

Submerge the meat in a large container and bury in more salt for 24 hours. Then continue to the “Next Steps” section below. 

Balance cure

Equilibrium hardening is based, at least in small parts, on modern technology. You will need a vacuum sealer and access to the fridge. 

Necessary equipment and ingredients  

  • Meat of your choice
  • Kosher salt
  • Medicinal salt 
  • Spices 
  • Chamber or curing room 
  • Vacuum seal 
  • Cheesecloth 
  • Butcher cord 

In order to balance the curing of the meat, it must first be weighed. Next, measure out 3% of the meat’s weight of salt. Apply the salt to the surface of the meat in an even layer. Finally, vacuum seal your creation and place it in the fridge for five days. 

Next steps 

Once the meat is semi-dehydrated using one of the methods above, remove from the salt bath or vacuum-sealed packaging. 

Brush off excess salt (you can leave a little, but not too much). Next, apply your desired mix of salt and spices. 

Then wrap your meat in cheesecloth and hang it in your curing room or designated area. It needs to hang down to encourage airflow on all sides. 

If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can use butcher twine. If the meat is hanging, the cheesecloth or twine will also help hold its shape. This should make carving easier later. 

Sausage Pokemon 

While the process is similar, curing hot dogs has a few quirks, mainly because it uses less salt and more good bacteria to ward off microbes that can make us sick. 

Typical smoked sausage recipes contain a bacterial culture that is added to the ground beef. Then you stuff the ground mixture into casings. 

Next, weigh the sausages. Be sure to record the information somewhere; You need the starting weight to determine when it’s ready to serve. 

After that, you will hang the sausages in a warm environment. The warm temperature, known as the incubation period, encourages the growth of bacterial cultures. Then THEY reach the pH value of sausages that protects them from unwanted microbes. Your specific recipe will tell you how long it takes. 

Once you’ve hatched the sausages, you can hang them to dry like a whole piece of meat. Check them regularly to ensure good mold growth. 

You should see white, chalky mold growing on the outside of the sausages. YOU should not see black, green, or fuzzy mold, all of which can indicate a problem.  

Warning signals

Bad smells are never okay during the curing process. If you notice one at any point, it means unwanted bacteria are taking over. Unfortunately, SHE cannot save the meat at this time. 

This usually happens when you forget to cover a portion of meat with salt. That’s why you should never be stingy with your salt! Always use enough to completely cover the meat and you won’t have a problem. 

As mentioned above, raw sausages should develop a helpful chalky white mold when cured. This mold grows in the casings and must not penetrate the meat. If YOU cut into a cured sausage and see signs of mold in it, especially if it’s black or green, discard the compound immediately. 

When is ready to serve?

In general, you want the meat to lose 35-40% of its original weight. The best way to know if the meat is ready to serve is to weigh it. 

You can rate your sausages with the following formula:

Initial meat weight x 0.65 = target weight

For a smaller cut of meat, like a duck breast, this will only take a few days, maybe a week at most. However, with a larger cut, this can easily take five months or more. 

The longer the meat takes to cure, the more flavors it develops. To get the right flavors for prosciutto, for example, you need at least 400 days. However, high-end prosciutto has been around for over three years!

That’s why curing meat in a regular refrigerator doesn’t work as well as it does in a cellar or brine room. Low humidity in your fridge speeds up the ripening process and doesn’t allow enough time for flavors to develop. 

Once the curing process is complete, it’s time to test your creation. Use a meat slicer to get wafer-thin slices, serve, and enjoy! 

Leave a Comment