Ok, I have been reading around, and basically, I keep hearing "four hour rule", and "should I cure?", but nobody actually says anywhere (or anywhere that I have found yet) Why. Now I only know how to explain this in a non-scientific way, because it is what we are taught in the abattoirs, so please don't think that I am being condescending by this, it is in my own words
Types of microbes (nasties)
Although there are beneficial bacteria, I'm not going to say anything about them, because, seriously, this isn't the "making yoghurt" forum, but I do have to draw attention to the fact that, some microbes hurt you some don't...and some are actually good for you, but here, we are only dealing with the nasties.
Basically, there are 2 types of nasties that can make you sick food poisoners, and food spoilers The main difference between the two is that one of them, is in itself poisonous, and the other, excretes the poison into the food...not really much of a difference, food poisoning is food poisoning, no matter which way you get it...whether by eating a dead poisonous bug, or eating poisonous bug poop.
Life of a microbe.
Microbes are life. They are little animals, that need moisture, food, warmth...and time. Now, when smoking/curing meat, our weapons against these little varmints are moisture and warmth. Curing, causes the microbe to "dry out", they die, everybody happy. Just a piece of trivia...There has not been a single case of food poisoning when a salt/nitrate cure has been used (properly). The other thing to prevent microbes growing, is using temperature. Microbes thrive at temperatures between 5 and 60 degrees C (41-140f)...below that temperature they go dormant, and don't breed (but don't die either...hence the danger of thawing/freezing/thawing food), above that, they start to die, but between 140f and 176f they may be dying slower than they are breeding i/e they may have time to multiply before they cook to death. Now an internal temperature of 165f is recommended in USA...but, personally, I know that my knife needs to be dipped for 2 seconds in 180f for it to be sterilised...and that's a knife, with no pores or variations in its' surface depth. I also know that tinned food is sterile (i/e microbe free), and it has been exposed to at least 248f...for about an hour. Another piece of trivia, is that meat, from healthy animals, is sterile (no microbes), until it is cut.
So, YES, if you are not curing get an internal temperature of AT LEAST 165 degrees fahrenheit.
and YES, use a salt/nitrate cure if you don't intend on getting this temperature...lol, one last piece of trivia...Nitrate isn't a very effective cure, NITRITE is, but to get nitrite, the nitrate has to react with some protein from the microbes.
Good luck...hope this helps.