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Cures and Safety

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I'm seeing a few threads out there currently active that are talking about making sure to follow directions explicitly or "it could be bad". I don't know EXACTLY what this means.

Ok, I'll be the one to ask...

What happens to you/me/the meat, when we don't follow directions?
Does it just taste wrong? Can it make us sick? Can I get some terrible disease? Be specific if you can, please.

I got a slicer for Christmas and belly bacon is on my list of things I want to try. Now I'm too freaking scared to do it. I can buy it in the store and feel pretty confident it's not going to kill me. So if making my own is that tricky, I'm wondering if it's worth the effort.
post #2 of 28
best advice I got for ya is to read this link I have learned a great deal from it and I have been making my own stuff for quit some time. curring can be done with just salt. I think people are forgetting this. They used salt for hundreds of years to preserve meats. There are different strengths that you want for different cuts of meat and type of meat. a salinometer will help you but this link is great ! to much to explain...oh by the way I just got my dudesiem paper in the mail I am official now !!!!
post #3 of 28
Are you sure about this? My understanding of it is that the sodium nitrite turns into nitric oxide which is what really "cures" the meat.
post #4 of 28
Here is a good read for you on Nitrites and Nitrates.

Richard J. Epley, Paul B. Addis and Joseph J. Warthesen


For centuries, meat has been preserved with salt. At certain levels, salt prevents growth of some types of bacteria that are responsible for meat spoilage. Salt prevents bacterial growth either because of its direct inhibitory effect or because of the drying effect it has on meat (most bacteria require substantial amounts of moisture to live and grow).
As use of salt as a meat preservative spread, a preference developed for certain salts that produced a pink color and special flavor in meat. This is the effect we see in cured meats today. Near the turn of the century it was determined that nitrate, present in some salt, was responsible for this special color and flavor. Still later it was determined that nitrate actually is changed to nitrite by bacterial action during processing and storage and that nitrate itself has no effect on meat color. Today the nitrite used in meat curing is produced commercially as sodium nitrite.
What Nitrite Does in Meat

Nitrite in meat greatly delays development of botulinal toxin (botulism), develops cured meat flavor and color, retards development of rancidity and off-odors and off-flavors during storage, inhibits development of warmed-over flavor, and preserves flavors of spices, smoke, etc.
Adding nitrite to meat is only part of the curing process. Ordinary table salt (sodium chloride) is added because of its effect on flavor. Sugar is added to reduce the harshness of salt. Spices and other flavorings often are added to achieve a characteristic "brand" flavor. Most, but not all, cured meat products are smoked after the curing process to impart a smoked meat flavor.
Sodium nitrite, rather than sodium nitrate, is most commonly used for curing (although in some products, such as country ham, sodium nitrate is used because of the long aging period). In a series of normal reactions, nitrite is converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide combines with myoglobin, the pigment responsible for the natural red color of uncured meat. They form nitric oxide myoglobin, which is a deep red color (as in uncooked dry sausage) that changes to the characteristic bright pink normally associated with cured and smoked meat when heated during the smoking process.
How Much Nitrite Can Be Used?

For the curing process, sodium nitrite legally can be used at up to the following levels, set by the Meat Inspection Regulations, Title 9, Chapter 111, Subchapter A, Code of Federal Regulations, 1974:
  • 2 pounds per 100 gallons pickle brine at the 10 percent pump level in the product
  • 1 ounce per 100 pounds meat (dry cured)
  • 1/4 ounce per 100 pounds chopped meat and/or meat by-product.
As established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Meat Inspection Regulations cited above, the use of nitrites, nitrates, or combinations of them cannot result in more than 200 parts per million (ppm), calculated as sodium nitrite, in the finished product. Parts per million can be calculated as follows:

ppm =grams sodium nitrite x 1 million

grams of cured meat sample

For example:

0.01 gram sodium nitrite x 1,000,000

50 grams cured meat= 200 ppm sodium nitrite

Another way of expressing 200 ppm is to say it is 1 pound of sodium nitrite in 5,000 pounds of meat.
Effective June 15, 1978, the USDA changed the curing procedures of "pumped" bacon as follows: the use of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate is prohibited; the level of ingoing sodium nitrite shall be 120 ppm (or 148 ppm potassium nitrite); the level of ingoing sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) or sodium erythorbate (isoascorbate) shall be 550 ppm. According to USDA surveys, these changes have resulted in bacon that does not form nitrosamines when cooked at 340 degrees F for 3 minutes on each side. These three changes apply only to pumped bacon and do not apply to dry cured bacon.

The following information on nitrite toxicity is from "GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) Food Ingredients: Nitrates and Nitrites (Including Nitrosamines)," 1972. This report was prepared for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Battele-Columbus Laboratories and Department of Commerce, Springfield, VA 22151.
According to this source, the fatal dose of potassium nitrate for adult humans is in the range of 30 to 35 grams consumed as a single dose; the fatal dose of sodium nitrite is in the range of 22 to 23 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Lower doses of sodium or potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite have caused acute methemoglobinemia (when hemoglobin loses its ability to carry oxygen), particularly in infants, resulting from conversion of nitrate to nitrite after consumption.
It has been reported that people normally consume more nitrates from their vegetable intake than from the cured meat products they eat. Spinach, beets, radishes, celery, and cabbages are among the vegetables that generally contain very high concentrations of nitrates (J. Food Sci., 52:1632). The nitrate content of vegetables is affected by maturity, soil conditions, fertilizer, variety, etc. It has been estimated that 10 percent of the human exposure to nitrite in the digestive tract comes from cured meats and 90 percent comes from vegetables and other sources. Nitrates can be reduced to nitrites by certain microorganisms present in foods and in the gastrointestinal tract. This has resulted in nitrite toxicity in infants fed vegetables with a high nitrate level. No evidence currently exists implicating nitrite itself as a carcinogen.
To obtain 22 milligrams of sodium nitrite per kilogram of body weight (a lethal dose), a 154-pound adult would have to consume, at once, 18.57 pounds of cured meat product containing 200 ppm sodium nitrite (because nitrite is rapidly converted to nitric oxide during the curing process, the 18.57 pound figure should be tripled at least). Even if a person could eat that amount of cured meat, salt, not nitrite, probably would be the toxic factor.

In the 1970s, newspaper articles discussed the safety of meat products cured with nitrite. Under certain conditions not yet fully understood, the natural breakdown products of proteins known as amines can combine with nitrites to form compounds known as nitrosamines. There are many different types of nitrosamines, most of which are known carcinogens in test animals.
Not all cured meat products contain nitrosamines; when present, they usually are in very minute amounts. According to S.R. Tannenbaum and T.Y. Fan in "Uncertainties about Nitrosamine Formation in and from Foods," proceedings from the Meat Industry Research Conference, University of Chicago, 1973, many variables influence nitrosamine levels: amount of nitrite added during processing, concentrations of amines in meat, type and amounts of other ingredients used in processing, actual processing conditions, length of storage, storage temperatures, method of cooking, and degree of doneness. For example, the USDA now requires adding ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or erythorbic acid to bacon cure, a practice that greatly reduces the formation of nitrosamines.
The effects of heating meat products cured with nitrite have been investigated. The previously cited study, "Effect of Frying and Other Cooking Conditions on Nitrosopyrrolidine Formation in Bacon," by J.W. Pensabene, et al., indicated that when bacon was fried at 210 degrees F for 10 minutes (raw), 210 degrees F for 105 minutes (medium well), 275 degrees F for 10 minutes (very light), or 275 degrees F for 30 minutes (medium well), no conclusive evidence of nitrosopyrrolidine could be found. But when bacon was fried at 350 degrees F for 6 minutes (medium well), 400 degrees F for 4 minutes (medium well), or 400 degrees F for 10 minutes (burned), nitrosopyrrolidine formation was conclusively found at 10, 17, and 19 parts per billion. Thus, well done or burned bacon probably is potentially more hazardous than less well done bacon. The same study and one by W. Fiddler, et al. (J. Food Sci., 39:1070, 1974) have shown that fat cook-out or drippings usually contain more nitrosopyrrolidine than the bacon contains.
It is unknown at what levels, if any, nitrosamines are formed in humans after they eat cured meat products, or what constitutes a dangerous level in meat or in humans. Nitrosamines are found very infrequently in all cured products except overcooked bacon, as discussed above.
Feeding studies documented in the "GRAS" report using meats containing high levels of nitrite showed no evidence of carcinogenesis. However, nitrosamines still are considered a definite potential hazard to human health.
Although nitrite is a controversial food additive, recent studies indicate that nitrite can inhibit the production of malonaldehyde, which may be toxic to living cells. In small quantities (yet at 1,000 times the levels of nitrosamines), malonaldehyde frequently is found in food products that turn rancid. Wieners, ham, bacon, and corned beef resist the accumulation of malonaldehyde due to their nitrite content.
Who Controls Usage?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency responsible for testing or validating scientific data related to human safety of food additives. The USDA is the federal agency responsible for monitoring proper use of nitrite by meat processors, including the testing of finished meat products, to insure that nitrite is not present in amounts exceeding 200 ppm. Questions concerning use of nitrite in meat should be directed to the USDA.

Based on available evidence to date, nitrite as used in meat and meat products is considered safe because known benefits outweigh potential risks.
post #5 of 28
I went back and changed my posted do to confusion. I know nitrites are used for preserving but what I should have said was only salt can be used. Nitrites give the pink red color to the meats as well as help out with the curing process. It's really not this difficult to figure out for everyone. I think a lot of people are over thinking parts that don't need over thought. And not thinking about certain important things....hell I think I'm confusing my self..lol
post #6 of 28
Another good read about nitrates and nitrites


Curing is not that hard and is safe as long as you follow the directions and remember what product you are using.
post #7 of 28
x2 ^^^^^^^
post #8 of 28
This is very sound advice. I think a lot of confusion can arise when we use cures in a situation that the package directions don't address. I currently have 3 different brands of the kind of cure we refer to as Instacure #1, or Prague Powder #1, etc. (93.75% sodium chloride and 6.25% sodium nitrite) on hand. They all have fairly vague or no good instruction on them, or a broad general statement such as use one ounce per 25# of meat, which only applies to a specific process and use, but not other uses. Certainly no instruction on how to use for things such as bacon. So it is essential that you educate yourself with good known references such as Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing, Charcuterie, or other reputable sources. Know with absolute certainty the type of cure you are using (as in my case, a 6.25% sodium nitrite cure) and utilize precision measuring methods, whether it be a scale or a utensil for a given process. I think all of us that are trying to explain cures are on the same page in as much as we want members to be safe and confident in their use of cures. We certainly don't want to scare anyone away from trying a new process or technique. We just want every one to be safe and secure in that knowledge.
post #9 of 28
Ok I am with the Dude here- I have been watching the Bacon posts for some time and thought that some TQ (per the directions) some brown sugar and some maple syrup would be what I needed to provide my family with a great bacon. Everyone seemed to indicate that 9-11 days of cure would fit the bill and a little smoke would finish things off.

I am not a chemist and want the KISS ( Keep it simple stupid ) method
post #10 of 28
Here's what I mean by vague or general labeling of cures. Obviously a blanket statement such as "follow label directions" doesn't apply to all processes. Some examples:
post #11 of 28
To specifically answer these questions, I'll refer you to chapter one of Ryteks book. I don't think it's a coincidence chapter one is titled "Curing Meat" all 30 pages address this specific topic in far greater detail than we can here.
post #12 of 28
I started curing with the TQ and the Sugar TQ and that's what I'm using for the most part. Very simple and direct. Works great. Hard to mess up unless you just can't count. 1 Tablespoon per pound of meat. Both are interchangeable... brine/pickle 1 cup of TQ or Sugar TQ to 4 cups of liquid.

Dude!!!!!!!! Don't be skeeeered. Get in there with it man. This Buckboard Bacon and Canadian Bacon are off the chart. I have a Chuckeeee curin in a brine in the fridge right now. It opens up a whole new adventure to smoking. Not to mention that the dry cured brisket (packer) I made into pastrami actually made the room move everytime I took a bite. It was awesome.

Curing with salt and no nitrates or nitrites is a completely different process than the cures that contain them. N and N make it a lot quicker, safer, and over all simplify the process. You can't take pure salt and cure as per directions for TQ or Instacure and cure anything. There is a lot of great reading concerning meat curing and preservation. I've been really into it lately. I'm taking it a step at a time with the simple stuff first... now I'm going to get into the sausage making. Curing is fun and safe if you use according to directions.
post #13 of 28
Easy answer here is bite the bullet and get some Tender Quick, no brainer.


This should uncloud the whole issue unless you want something more confusing. Mortons has been in business forever and wouldn't risk making people sick.
post #14 of 28
Not to add to the confusion here, but I've always understood that TenderQuick should be used at a rate of 1 1/2 teaspoons per pound of meat when used in sausage as in these recipes; http://www.mortonsalt.com/recipes/Re...l.aspx?RID=115, http://www.mortonsalt.com/recipes/Re...il.aspx?RID=45. And at a rate of 1 tablespoon per pound of meat when used in a dry rub process; http://www.mortonsalt.com/recipes/Re...il.aspx?RID=44, http://www.mortonsalt.com/recipes/Re...il.aspx?RID=43.
post #15 of 28
You can make yourself sick in several ways. Nitrite poisoning if you add to much or don't complete the reaction.

Not normally, all seems well until you get a headache.

Yes it can, you can get Nitrite poisoning if you use way to much, you can end up with food poisoning if you don't use enough.

No, but you can get terrible sick, but no disease will hit you.

All food has risks with it, don't over think it, the key is to do what minimizes the risk. By doing what you are doing with this question, asking those who do it. I would go further and say know the difference between what someone's opinion is, and what is fact.

The fact you are interested in learning to handle it correctly means you will do well if you seperate the opinions from the science. Follow the concentrations correctly.

Many people consider TQ a salt or sugar, it is not, it is a cure.

Many people refer to cure as salt, it is not, it is cure.

Know that there is a big difference in sausage and cured meats. One is Fresh one is cured. Fresh is going to be handled well above the safety zone. Cured is going to be smoked in the safety zone. (commonly referred to as cold smoking)

Cure cooks the meat and protects the meat from pathogens. This allows it to spend a lot of time in the danger zone. Fresh has no cure and should be hot smoked above the danger zone.

The old ages used salt only, the cry is made by some why they can salt cure, really old salts contained large amount of nitrite and nitrate and as such were cures. Todays salts are refined and contain no nitrites or nitrates and are not as effective as salts of yesteryore.

But pure salt cure is possible, I do my seranno hams in pure salt no cure. However it is a special process with many control points in it to ensure I don't make people sick. My salt cure method is HACCP approved and I am allowed to do it commercially. It is involved and you do throw meat away from time to time that had a pathogen in it. So salt cure can be done, but not by a novice and I would not take advice on it from anyone that can not tell you the chemistry of what is happening.

There are also fake salt cures. This mostly involves people adding a lot of salt to meat, seeing that the protien fibers tighten up and believe they cured the product. They did not, they tightened it up and made a false assumption they accomplished a salt cure. Most commonly this is observed with salmon.

Do it, it is safe and easy. You have lots of friends and knowledge here to get you through it. Just ignore any call to not use a cure. Be it TQ, cure 1, cure 2 or a bacon premix, it will come out OK just using some common sense.
post #16 of 28
I have never made sausage so I haven't looked up that info. I use it as a dry rub per instructions on the package and a brine per instructions. Checking out your links Mortons gives specific amounts for making sausages and I would follow Mortons instructions. As always... with any cure... go by the manufacturers instructions. Thanks for the links.
post #17 of 28
For anyone thats not real sure about curing meat for bacon I highly recommend getting a Hi Mountain Buckboard Bacon kit it has everything you need and detailed instructions on how to use it. Its also tastes great.
I have used it and just bought a bulk bag of it I also know a few others on here that use and like it.
post #18 of 28
good informitive thread..........
post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 
Is that kit applicable for use with belly bacon also?

Thank you to everyone who's sounded off here. I really appreciate your help. I see that I've got a lot of reading to do. Along with the slicer I also got the book "Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing" by Rytek Kutas-4th Edition (copyright 2008). I haven't had time to open it yet. Guess I'd better get going. Although, just looking at the glossary, there doesn't seem to be anything in there for bacon.

The other thing I noticed right inside the cover was a SPECIAL NOTICE-Please Read*** stating
Insta Cure No. 1 replaces Prague #1
Insta Cure No. 2 replaces Prague #2
Insta Cure (formerly Prague Powder)

I put this in here because I see people talking about using Prague. I'm guessing this means it isn't produced anymore?

Just FYI I've had a bag of Morton's Tender Quick in the cupboard for quite a while. On the side of the bag it says, quote, "A 32-page completely illustrated guide to curing, ham, bacon, small cuts and sausage making. For more information and prices write:
Morton International, Inc., Morton Salt
100 North Riverside Plaza
Chicago, IL 60606-1597

It also says the contents of the package are
Contents: Salt, Sugar, 0.5% Sodium Nitrate (preservative), 0.5% Sodium Nitrite (preservative), Propylene Glycol.

So, yeah, I think following directions would be a wise idea.
post #20 of 28
Dude yes you can use that kit for bellies I know Desertlites and I both do and I'm sure others do to.
I have the Morton's guide your talking about and its not bad for what it costs but its not like the book you have of course its not near as many pages either
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