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Bag cure bacon - cure time?

Lima Delta

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Hello!
I have a batch of bacon which I've been curing in bags in the fridge. In all, I have 8 slabs weighing 4-6 lbs each in four separate bags. After rubbing each slab down thoroughly with my curing mix, I placed two slabs in each bag meat-side to meat-side, flipping and agitating the bags daily.
Yesterday, after curing 10 days, I had planned to take everything out and smoke it all. I removed a slab from one bag and sliced a few test strips. The slab itself looked, smelled and felt amazing (nice and firm) but after test frying I noticed that there was a thin uncured "vein" of meat between two layers of fat. On closer inspection of the slab, I could see the uncured meat as a thin pink zone in an otherwise well-cured hunk of belly. So, not having experienced this before (using this method, my bacon has always been cured in 7-10 days) I put the bag back in the fridge after overhauling all the bacon by turning them fat-side to fat-side in the bags. I'm hoping to stretch the curing time out now, but I have never gone longer than 10 days using this method before. They will be 11 days as of today.
My question is this:
Using cure #1, what is the maximum time I can allow my bacon to cure like this?

Thanks for reading!
 

SmokinEdge

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What was the cure mix you used? How much was applied to each belly? How much cure #1 was used?
 

Steve H

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If I were to take a guess without further info. I'm saying having 2 slabs touching each other in the bag could cause this. If they were on top of each other as you suggested. Then that would throw the cure time out the window.
 

lamar

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I always cure my bacon a minimum of 2 weeks, so you are good to go longer. Read recently where someone cured for a month and had good bacon.
 

Lima Delta

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Thanks for the replies.
I'm using 1 tsp of #1 per 5lbs of meat in this recipe. I measured out separate batches of rub for each bag based on weight. After rubbing each slab down, the leftover rub was added to the bag and has formed a brine with the water that came out of the meat.
I've heard of people curing bacon much longer than a couple of weeks, but it isn't clear to me if they were using something other than cure #1. Although as I understand it, it's not good to use anything containing nitrate when curing bacon. So does anyone have any experience curing bacon for, say, 3 weeks using just cure #1?
 

SmokinEdge

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I removed a slab from one bag and sliced a few test strips.
This tells me that he sliced a few pieces from the end of one of the slabs. Cure travels in all directions, even from the sides about 1/4” per day, so the end pieces he sliced were cured, more so than maybe the center of the slab. Hard to make a call not knowing the salt % and cure #1 % to meat weight.
 

chopsaw

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Yeah . If it didn't get oxygen to it it will show pink . On the surface touching will leave a pink color or spots .
 

Lima Delta

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Cure #1 was measured out at 1tsp / 5lbs meat
I used 6% kosher salt

The high salt % is partly what has me wondering how long is too long...
 

SmokinEdge

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Cure #1 was measured out at 1tsp / 5lbs meat
I used 6% kosher salt

The high salt % is partly what has me wondering how long is too long...
Ok you are good on cure and in the correct amount.
6% salt is extremely high and while this helps the curing process it will make the belly too salty to taste good. You will need to soak the belly in cold clean water for a few hours changing water every hour or so to lower the salt content. I cure with 1.5-1.75% total salt. I wouldn’t recommend over 2.0% total salt.

As to the pale pink color, that can be normal in some muscles in belly. The color comes from nitrite reducing to nitric oxide and that fixes itself to myoglobin in the meat fixing the pinkish red color we associate with cured meat. The more myoglobin in the muscle the more pronounced that pink color. The less myoglobin the more pale the color. I have seen this occasionally in my bacon and I’ve seen it in commercial bacon. I think your bacon is fully cured. If you go longer, I’m afraid you may end up with inedible bacon for the salt content. The stronger the salt concentration, the faster the meat cures, but we need to balance this with a quality finished product. If it were my bacon, I would rinse it well in cold water then soak, then dry and smoke.
 

Lima Delta

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Ok you are good on cure and in the correct amount.
6% salt is extremely high and while this helps the curing process it will make the belly too salty to taste good. You will need to soak the belly in cold clean water for a few hours changing water every hour or so to lower the salt content. I cure with 1.5-1.75% total salt. I wouldn’t recommend over 2.0% total salt.

As to the pale pink color, that can be normal in some muscles in belly. The color comes from nitrite reducing to nitric oxide and that fixes itself to myoglobin in the meat fixing the pinkish red color we associate with cured meat. The more myoglobin in the muscle the more pronounced that pink color. The less myoglobin the more pale the color. I have seen this occasionally in my bacon and I’ve seen it in commercial bacon. I think your bacon is fully cured. If you go longer, I’m afraid you may end up with inedible bacon for the salt content. The stronger the salt concentration, the faster the meat cures, but we need to balance this with a quality finished product. If it were my bacon, I would rinse it well in cold water then soak, then dry and smoke.
Thanks for the advice.
I made this recipe with the 6% salt last year, and it came out fine - not too salty at all which is why I did the same thing again this year. Last year however, I had it fully cured in 7 days. Well live and learn lol. I'll definitely give my bacon a bath before smoking and next year I'll be sure to dial back the salt.

As to the pink meat, I'm sure it was uncured because the the test pieces I fried had that "pork chop color" instead of a proper cooked cured color.

Out of curiosity, if a person were wanting to prolong the curing this way what would a safe limit be when using #1?
 

SmokinEdge

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L Lima Delta
I’m not sure where you got your recipe or how it was developed, but in cure, weather brine or dry rub, everything tries to come to equilibrium. That is the meat and the cure mix or brine try to balance equally with one another.
In the curing process, salt pushes into the meat because there is no salt inside. As this happens water gravitates from the meat to the exterior of the meat where there is a concentration of salt. Highs rush to lows and vise a verse. The cure #1 (nitrite) follows the salt in osmosis. So the higher the concentration of salt, the faster nitrite moves through the meat or the faster osmosis occurs. But we want a tasty final product and we don’t live in 17th century America with no refrigeration. So we cure for flavor, food safety and presentation for the most part.

So, if we apply nitrite at 0.25% to meat weight and apply no more then 2.0% salt again to meat weight, these are sufficient concentration for food safety, effective curing. Also if you want to cure for 3 weeks because it convenient it’s all good because there is only a maximum of 2.0% salt to meat weight. It can’t get more salty. It’s safe and can ride as long as a month with no more saltiness than 2.0% meat weight. But at 6.0% salt, the salt will still try to equalize and given enough time it will. Giving a final product too salty to eat.

Im more than happy to walk you through a recipe based on % to meat weight. This is key to successful and repeatable curing.
 

Lima Delta

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Ok, that makes sense, thanks. The recipe I had is just one I got from the internet, which I copied for the flavors.
I understand that the cure must be measured independently according to the weight of the meat, but that the other ingredients can be adjusted according to taste. Clearly I didn't account for how the salt flavor would be affected by the duration of the cure.

I can see I came to the right place, thanks again!
 

SmokinEdge

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Out of curiosity, if a person were wanting to prolong the curing this way what would a safe limit be when using #1?
The safe limit for cure #1 is 0.25% to meat weight. Or 1.1 grams per pound of meat, or 1 level teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat. This all will bring you to the same result of approximately 156 parts per million. This is within USDA guidance and very effective.
 

SmokinEdge

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After rubbing each slab down thoroughly with my curing mix, I placed two slabs in each bag meat-side to meat-side, flipping and agitating the bags daily.
This also can be a problem, although not huge. If you are going to do this, place the bellies fat side to fat side. Salt, which carries or pushes the cure(nitrite) moves much slower through fat than through muscle. So keeping the meat side exposed to the cure is best. Curing is all about thickness of meat (if not injected) so 1/4” per day. A belly that is 1 1/2” thick with fat on one side will cure in about 6-7 days. 10 days is a nice buffer. If salt % is equilibrium, then 2 weeks is fine or up to 4 weeks. Just remember to leave the meat side exposed to cure.
 

Lima Delta

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Ok, that also makes sense. This year is the first time I've put more than one slab per bag so if the bacon is slow to cure this year, that's probably why. Here's hoping my bacon doesn't turn out too salty!
I'll report back with when I know more!
 

thirdeye

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Cure #1 was measured out at 1tsp / 5lbs meat
I used 6% kosher salt
The high salt % is partly what has me wondering how long is too long...
Ok, that makes sense, thanks. The recipe I had is just one I got from the internet, which I copied for the flavors.
I agree that 6% salt is very high, plus the carrier for the sodium nitrite is also salt, so your total salt will now be over 6%. For perspective 6% salt would be 60 grams of salt per kilogram of pork belly. I use 1.5% salt which is 15 grams of salt per kilogram of pork belly.

In theory, when dry or wet curing formulations are stronger than usual, the curing time can be reduced, but you still have to take into account the diffusion of the Cure #1. But I've never seen any published curing method that calls for 6% salt. Can you post the full recipe (or link) that you used? There might be something in the write-up that will give us a clue as to the salt percentage.

A soak-out in cold water will likely be needed. I would go for at least 2 hours, then make a slice and discard it. Take a second slice and test fry it, tasting for saltiness. This should tell you if you need to soak-out longer.
 

Lima Delta

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A soak-out in cold water will likely be needed. I would go for at least 2 hours, then make a slice and discard it. Take a second slice and test fry it, tasting for saltiness. This should tell you if you need to soak-out longer.
I'll do that. I was going to test fry after a soak, but I wouldn't have thought to discard the outer piece - thanks.

Here is a link to the original recipe that I used (you'll need to skip down a ways to the section "Dry cure method"). But here is the gist: " Start by combining ½ cup of salt ½ cup of brown sugar, 1 TBS of black pepper, and 1 tsp of Insta-Cure #1. "
I first tried this recipe a couple of years ago, but last year I changed it by eliminating the honey and instead added garlic and onion powder, but kept the salt and sugar ratios the same.
This year I again kept the salt and sugar ratios the same but added some cayenne pepper.
Per 5lbs belly:
-1 tsp cure #1
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (144 g) kosher salt
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
 

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