I can’t find a specific discussion of this issue, so I would appreciate any advice/wisdom you can pass on.
I wanted to buy myself a small fridge so that I don't have to fill the main fridge with fish during the curing/drying process, so on Saturday I picked up a nice wine fridge/cooler for a great price. But once I got home I realized the temp range (it gets down to 39-40 degrees F) may not be suitable for use as a smoking accessory. I have read about the 40-140 rule to prevent bacteria growth, and since my fridge only gets down to around 40F I am wondering if it is useless.
The plan was to use it for 2 or 3 steps in the curing/smoking process:
– curing/brining anywhere between 4 and 12 hrs
– drying after curing to form a pellicle, again probably between 4 and 12 hrs
– (optional) storing after smoking to let the flavours even out
I am not as worried about the 3rd step, but steps 1 and 2 are the main reason I bought the fridge.
So, my questions:
- How much ‘wiggle room’ is there in the temp range? For the curing and brining steps, is 40F a safe temperature to temporarily (4-12 hrs) store fish?
- Does the curing/brining process impact the temp range? (ie. Would salting/curing make 40F a safe temp?)
- I generally cure with salt and brown sugar, but if there are safety concerns storing fish at 40F, would the use of nitrates or nitrites (haven’t used them before, so need to learn more) change the acceptable temp range? (would it make 40F safe?)
- I only smoke fish, so are the bacteria-related dangers involved with salmon any different than those with pork or beef?
- Since the fridge is right around 40F, would any bacteria growth be greatly slowed down? (ie. Would there be much less bacteria in the finished product? Does that matter?)
Basically, what kind of risks would I be taking if I used my wine cooler at 40F to temporarily (4-12 hrs) store my fish? And if there are risks, are there ways to make it a useful accessory (ice cubes, nitrite/nitrate, shorten the steps, etc)?
Apologies for the number of questions, but I am trying to figure out if I have wasted my money on the wine cooler, or if I can use it to solve some or all of my fridge problems. If there is an issue with potential bacteria growth at 40F, I assume I could add ice cubes to the curing process to get the temp down to an acceptable level (and could shorten the drying stage to be less than 4 hrs), but I would like to be able to use the fridge by itself throughout the process without needing to actively lower the temp further.
Thanks for any help you can provide.