Originally Posted by brayhaven
Thanks wade. I would be skeptical of the ability to permeate nitrite into meats like brisket or butts. Or even ribs. I use cure 1 in my jerky because it often sits in my hunting pack for a day or 2 vacuumed. But have never used it in anything else. I agree that some bags are poor quality. I use the foodsaver bags which seem to hold vacuum better than the cheap ones.
I'd be interested to see a poll of those who use chemical preservatives (aside from salt) in their smoked meats. Therre are some other things used commercially that might also help preserve like citric acid. It would also be interesting to know of any cases of botulism or other biological related poisoning from smoked meats.
The Nitrite certainly does permeate into solid meat masses though it can take time. If you use a dry brine to cure a side of back bacon and you remove it from the cure too early, when you cut it in half you can see the distinct pink region that shows how far the Nitrite has penetrated. For larger masses of meat the cure is often injected to speed up the diffusion process. For ribs with relatively little meat this probably would not take too long - though I have not personally tried it.
The pouches I found that gave me the most problems were only 50 micron. I now only buy 70 or 90 micron and to date these have all been good.
You asked about the other chemical preservatives people use. Different methods and/or chemicals are employed to best suit what you are trying to produce and how long and under what conditions you are going to store them. The methods are not either/or but depending on what you are trying to achieve you may need a combination of several. The explanation below is not intended to be a text book in microbiological control but just an indicate some of the considerations when selecting a food preservation method.
Different methods are employed to control different bacterial strains. These usually include heat treatment, high salinity, dehydration, acidification and chemical control and of course good hygiene in the food preparation is also very important.
Heat treatment, through cooking, kills most bacteria, although some are particularly resistant to heat. For instance bringing the internal temperature of food up to 165 F (74 C) will kill most bacteria though things like botulinum spores need to reach temperatures above 212 F (100 C) to be killed - hence the reason why we cannot just use boiling water and need to use the higher temperatures that can only be produced in something like a pressure canner.
Bacteria also need free moisture to thrive and so by removing this through salt or sugar dehydration, air drying or freezing, the bacteria will not be able to multiply.
Many of the harmful bacteria also prefer a neutral environment and do not thrive in acidic conditions. This is where products made from naturally acidic foods (like tomatoes) tend to be less liable to infection - and preserves that are high in vinegar/citric acid (like chutneys) and also good. You can also use non toxic, acid producing bacteria (e.g. some lactobacillus) in things like cultured salami or yoghurt where, as they multiply, they create an acidic environment which then inhibits the growth of other more harmful bacteria.
For some of the food products it is not possible to use some of the more extreme of the methods above so in order to be able to control certain highly resistant bacteria/spores we can also use additional chemical control e.g. Nitrite.
For many things we produce we will often use a combination of methods - for instance in the production of cultured salami the preserving is done through the combination of dehydration, acidification and also chemical control.
Edited by Wade - 11/17/14 at 10:46am