To use cure or not to.....I personally dont use cure. While i see both sides of the argument valid, the one point that stuck out in my head is not using cure requires extra education and sanitary techniques.
I have worked in professional kitchens all my life. I have been health board certified several times. The thing to remember about food safety is a little memonic called FAT TOM
Food-starches, sugars, fats, proteins. This is what bacteria eats
Acid-acid kills most food borne illness bacteria at room teperature. Ever heard of civeche?
Temperature-between 40 and 160 is when bacteria will grow hours.
Time-it takes about 4 hours for bacteria to start to multiply
Oxygen-areobic bacteria needs oxygen to survive.
Moisture-without moisture (water) nothing can survive.
With that being said...there is plenty of food in the meat that is being jerked, removing the fat (fat is digested faster by pathogens) you eliminate a quick meal for bacteria.
Acid, vinegar, wine, or citrus juice will help to lower the PH of the meat deterring bacteria buildup.
Hot smoking is around 200. The air i sterilzed, and eventually the meat will reach 160 degrees within 4 hours.
Oxygen is depleated in a smoker making it even harder for bacteria to survive.
Salt and sugar remove moisture as well as smoking. With a nice dry crusty layer, your meat will last around a week in a dry invironment without the need for cure. Keep it in a paper bag. the paper will allow air to get at meat to help dry it and because the paper is softer, it will absorb most of the atmospheric moisture.
I also do not use soy, corn products, or liquid smoke with my jerky.