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Bag cure bacon - cure time?

DougE

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Ok. I’ll try to be as honest as I can. If I miss anything, let me know.

Curing meat effectively actually has a range to it. It’s not a set value, but does have minimum and maximum values. As long as you are within those parameters your meat will be cured. This is not voodo science, but actually very scientific but with a range.

To effectively cure meat, we need 50 parts per million of nitrite. this is accomplished with Cure #1 or Prague powder #1, all same. This cure salt contains 6.25% nitrite and 93.75% pure salt. It’s a standard here in the U.S. from here it’s all math to get to ppm, I can go over that if you wish, but for now we will deal with known values that give us known results.

Pop’s brine is a long story. This was actually his father’s recipe. He owned a butcher shop and cured meat. His philosophy was to brine meat longer with less salt and less nitrite than standard protocol. This would in theory produce a finished product that was more tender, more palatable ( less salt) that could be cooked immediately, not soaked in water prior to cooking, but rather purchase brought home and prepared for supper the same day. (1940’s) The local state USDA disagrees and demands brine testing every month. Of which he passes every test. He was tested this way for something like 20 years. The state kept a close eye, but Pop’s method was in fact safe And effective. This is basically a recipe of 1 gallon water, 1 cup salt and 2 cups sugar. One white and one brown, with 1 heaping Tablespoon of cure #1 (about 1 oz.)

USDA says we need 3.84oz of cure #1 to a gallon of water. So Pop’s is only about 1/4 the cure the USDA recommended. That was the problem for the government. (But was the point for Pop’s dad)

Pop’s brine though works, and works well and is safe. Many folks use it with wild success. I’ve used it and can attest to this fact.

When using pop’s brine, the process takes a bit more time. It’s the salt and nitrite concentration that dictates curing time. The stronger the shorter time, weaker is longer time.
Thanks for explaining. I think I get it now.
 

SmokinEdge

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Now equilibrium cure is not far off from Pop’s. Here instead of volume measurements to make brine that we place random amount of meat weight into, we now measure everything In grams.

Meat weight, water weight, some even go so far as to include the weight of the salt, sugar and anything else included.

So we come up with a total weight of meat and water, and to that apply by percentage to weight our salt, sugar and cure #1. All weights included. Everything thing in the pool will, in time come to equilibrium, or balance, given enough time.

So if we have a 10# ham. We cover with 1 gallon water (8.33 lbs) we add those two weights to give 18#. Now we solve for salt, sugar and cure #1. Each having a different value Based on our preference.

Example:
Meat 10#
water 1 gallon (8.33#)
solve for ingredients.

18# times 454 (grams in a pound) =8172 grams total weight.
Salt at 2.0%
8172x 0.02=163.44 grams salt.

Sugar at 2.0%
8172x0.02=163.44 grams sugar.

Cure #1 at 0.25%
8172x0.0025= 20.43 grams

So we see here that cure#1 in the same gallon of water with the same pounds of meat is different but very close.

Pop’s
about 27.0 grams (because that’s about all you can heap on a tablespoon)

Equalibrium cure #1 same meat and water is 20.43 grams cure #1 ( about 7.0 grams less cure #1.
also about half the salt and sugar.

Again this is about 1/4 the recommended nitrite by USDA. They both work though and are safe.

Ask more questions if you have them, but don’t make things complicated. It all works. I don’t use either of these methods because uptake in meat from a brine is random. I want to apply a known amount of everything to my meats, and I do so through injection or dry rub. YMMV.
 

exromenyer

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Yeah, that's sounds great.
And thanks for all the help! It's much appreciated.
Good Morning Guys,
Have you put a recipe together you are willing to share? I've got some old ones, some old data, and I've used that Diggity Dog Calculator posted here and it's really accurate. I'm just looking for some basic %'s based on 5 lb slabs (of course I'll weigh for exact weight) as I'm getting 20 lbs of pork belly this week and want to put something together. I've typically done Cure #1 obviously, brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder..... Just looking for a little more simple as it relates to weights of each (tsp, tbsp etc)

Thank you in advance,
Tony
 

Cody_Mack

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Thanks for the details SmokinEdge SmokinEdge ! It seems with equilibrium brine you have a little tighter control over salt content, and also sugar accordingly. I do also understand the "uptake in meat from a brine is random".

Rick
 

thirdeye

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...Then I get to realizing that I have also read about a wet cure where your quantity formula is based “per gallon of water”, and you are golden as long as that gallon that you brewed up will cover your product. And therefore the formulas do not factor the weight of the meat at all. Is this also correct?

Rick
That's how I understand Pop's brine to work. No need to weigh water and meat. Just mix the brine up, and long as it covers the meat, you're golden. That said, I am also confused as to how this method works the same as taking the weight of meat and water, and calculating from there to get your salt/sugar/cure#1 amounts.
Enhanced meat is tricky, but workable.
As to the difference in equilibrium brine and something like “Pop’s brine” don’t get caught up in it all. Pick one or the other. They both work fine.
Since we've discussed the commercial style 'degree' style of wet curing, then the equilibrium method of making a curing brine.... I was waiting for this discussion to move to Pop's Brine.

I refer to curing brines like Pop's Brine as a 'universal' curing brine and here's why. It's generally accepted in curing circles that 1 tablespoon to 3.5 tablespoons is an acceptable range of Cure #1 to mix into 1 gallon of water. And when you think about it, you can only get so much meat into 1 gallon of curing brine. (You can use more Cure #1, but the parts per million of sodium nitrite will get close to the upper recommended amounts.) I like to recommend Pop's Brine for it's simplicity, and the fact it works with low amounts of Cure #1.

As SmokinEdge SmokinEdge demonstrated with the calculation examples, small differences are to be expected from method to method. But instead of asking "why are there differences?" consider the term 'proven and demonstrated' methods. All three of the wet curing methods (degree, equilibrium, and Pop's Brine) can be proven with calculations, and have been demonstrated as workable for many years. In other words they all get the job done.
 

gmc2003

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I've skimmed thru the pages here, and noticed that the OP stated he used 1 tsp. per 5/lbs. I remember reading(I think daveomak daveomak ) that not all measuring spoons are equal, and you should measure your cure instead of relying on the spoon. When using cure #1 you want to use the correct amount. Not slightly over or under. Eliminating the guess work.

Chris
 

thirdeye

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I've skimmed thru the pages here, and noticed that the OP stated he used 1 tsp. per 5/lbs. I remember reading(I think daveomak daveomak ) that not all measuring spoons are equal, and you should measure your cure instead of relying on the spoon. When using cure #1 you want to use the correct amount. Not slightly over or under. Eliminating the guess work.

Chris
Absolutely correct, volumetric measuring tools are notorious for inaccuracy. Weighing is the best option for the Cure #1
 

SmokinEdge

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I've typically done Cure #1 obviously, brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder..... Just looking for a little more simple as it relates to weights of each (tsp, tbsp etc)
My dry rub for bacon is
1.5% sea salt
0.25% cure #1
Since cure #1 is 93.75% pure salt and 6.25% nitrite, my total salt combined is all of 1.75%
sugar at 0.75%
I don’t like salty bacon nor do I care for sweet bacon. The 1.75% salt and 0.75% sugar balance nicely for my taste and most everyone that’s had it.

Flavor ingredients like granulated garlic or pepper have nothing to do with the cure and are preference in application. I eyeball these things until they look right.
 

SmokinEdge

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I've skimmed thru the pages here, and noticed that the OP stated he used 1 tsp. per 5/lbs. I remember reading(I think daveomak daveomak ) that not all measuring spoons are equal, and you should measure your cure instead of relying on the spoon. When using cure #1 you want to use the correct amount. Not slightly over or under. Eliminating the guess work.

Chris
While I agree that cure #1 is best weighed. It is widely accepted that 1 level teaspoon to 5# meat is safe. Marianski mentions this many times. This value gives us, about, 156ppm. This is a workable and safe value of nitrite. However, the upper limit on nitrite per the USDA, is 200ppm. Marianski also states that about 50 ppm is the minimum value for nitrite to have any meaningful curing effect. There is room to work within these parameters.

Cure #1 needs to not exceed 200ppm and not go below 50ppm.

Pop’s brine is a good example. It’s all measured in Tablespoons and cups to a gallon of water. No weights, and this is acceptable. No matter 1# meat or 10# meat, and if you need more pickle to cover more meat, just mix up some more and pour over. That’s pretty cavalier, and not exact at all, but acceptable by all. Don’t get caught up in the science, rather use it. There was an actual lab test done on Pop’s brine and analysis of uptake of nitrite in belly vs. loin. I can post that if you like. It was done here on these forums. The results may surprise you how low the nitrite actually is, but was cured perfectly.
 

GrumpyGriller

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Okay fair enough. SmokinEdge SmokinEdge gave you a great rundown of the science behind the scene of curing brines and the Marianski book goes into more detail about the strengths of various brines as well as using charts and a salometer.

That said, equilibrium curing can also be used when making a curing brine. You mentioned a 10% salt solution, and here is why curing brines need way more salt, sugar and cure than an equilibrium dry cure. The short answer is weight. Instead of basing salt, sugar and cure on meat weight (when dry curing).... when brine curing you have water in the bucket, and in the equation. A gallon of water for example is 8.3 pounds, so if you wanted to cure a 3 pound pork belly and it took 1 gallon of water to cover it, you have to calculate salt, sugar and cure on 11.3 pounds total, not 3 pounds of meat weight.

In equilibrium curing, when you eventually find your sweet-spot recipe, say 1.7% salt, 2% sugar and 0.25% Cure #1 (or whatever you like for salt and sugar as the 0.25% of Cure #1 remains constant):
  • For dry curing, base your percentages on meat weight.
  • For brine curing, base your percentages on meat weight + water weight.
thirdeye - question for you...I've done several batches using Pop's Wet Brine and want to give your dry brine a shot. If I essentially follow your %'s, what differences in saltiness/taste would you expect?

Thanks!
 

thirdeye

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thirdeye - question for you...I've done several batches using Pop's Wet Brine and want to give your dry brine a shot. If I essentially follow your %'s, what differences in saltiness/taste would you expect?

Thanks!
This is an excellent question, and a tough one. If you have followed the evolution of Pop's Brine (which I did long before actually joining this forum) you will note that he was using granular salt (table salt) and the measurements were in cups per one-gallon of water. Later on he experimented with lower salt amounts, and lower sugar amounts too. I have some notes calling for 1/3 cup to 1 cup of salt per one-gallon of water, that is a huge range to choose from. And at one point I recall some experiments with Splenda. Anyways the bottom line (reading between the lines) is that the 'heaping tablespoon' of Cure #1 per one-gallon remained constant. So before answering your question on saltiness we would need to know how YOU mix your Pop's Brine.

Here is something else to chew on.... I picked the example percentages in the post you quoted out of thin air. My personal dry cure percentages for salt and sugar are 1.5% and 1% respectively. And, I have made my personal adjustments to Pop's guidelines, and I would think mine is in the 1% to 1.2% salt.
All that said, I do have a dry cure bacon article HERE.
And a Pop's Brine article HERE.
Give those a read and see if they shed any light on your question, because both wet and dry methods work. Everyone has their reasons for using one or the other. Looking forward to your next questions.
 

DougE

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I find 1.5% salt in my dry brine to be about perfect (about 1.75% total salt including the salt in the cure#1). I'm not a heavy salt user, and the amount I'm using gives a just salty enough finished product, no soaking or any of that needed after curing. I did a test fry on the first batch, but don't bother anymore.
 

GrumpyGriller

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This is an excellent question, and a tough one. If you have followed the evolution of Pop's Brine (which I did long before actually joining this forum) you will note that he was using granular salt (table salt) and the measurements were in cups per one-gallon of water. Later on he experimented with lower salt amounts, and lower sugar amounts too. I have some notes calling for 1/3 cup to 1 cup of salt per one-gallon of water, that is a huge range to choose from. And at one point I recall some experiments with Splenda. Anyways the bottom line (reading between the lines) is that the 'heaping tablespoon' of Cure #1 per one-gallon remained constant. So before answering your question on saltiness we would need to know how YOU mix your Pop's Brine.

Here is something else to chew on.... I picked the example percentages in the post you quoted out of thin air. My personal dry cure percentages for salt and sugar are 1.5% and 1% respectively. And, I have made my personal adjustments to Pop's guidelines, and I would think mine is in the 1% to 1.2% salt.
All that said, I do have a dry cure bacon article HERE.
And a Pop's Brine article HERE.
Give those a read and see if they shed any light on your question, because both wet and dry methods work. Everyone has their reasons for using one or the other. Looking forward to your next questions.
I followed the recipe in the link you had for Pop's Brine - nothing weighed, just used standard measuring cups. I've always made 2-3 gallons of the brine, and then added some peppercorns, garlic, and some other spices, always using Kosher salt as I only started doing this in 2021. I am not sure how much of a difference those made given they were small amounts in several gallons of water. I let the belly sit for 14 days, dried out overnight, and then cut into manageable pieces. From there, I'd put whatever dry rub I made or felt like and smoked a piece for about 6 hours. I never found it salty, and honestly, they always came out quite tasty :)

This time, I figured I'd try something different, and the dry/wet debate seems to have been going on as long as the fat side up/down debate. I was intrigued by rubbing honey over the belly before adding the dry cure, so wanted to give that a shot.
 

thirdeye

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I find 1.5% salt in my dry brine to be about perfect (about 1.75% total salt including the salt in the cure#1). I'm not a heavy salt user, and the amount I'm using gives a just salty enough finished product, no soaking or any of that needed after curing. I did a test fry on the first batch, but don't bother anymore.
Although I add cracked pepper during the cure, and after the rinse.... for some things I still add some pepper to one face of the slices I'm frying, or add some sugar and cayenne when I make pig candy, or maybe BBQ rub to the bacon for ABT's. Even if I under-salted a batch, or was serving bacon to someone that likes additional salt, I could do that before frying just like I do when cooking fresh side pork.
 

thirdeye

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I followed the recipe in the link you had for Pop's Brine - nothing weighed, just used standard measuring cups. I've always made 2-3 gallons of the brine, and then added some peppercorns, garlic, and some other spices, always using Kosher salt as I only started doing this in 2021. I am not sure how much of a difference those made given they were small amounts in several gallons of water. I let the belly sit for 14 days, dried out overnight, and then cut into manageable pieces. From there, I'd put whatever dry rub I made or felt like and smoked a piece for about 6 hours. I never found it salty, and honestly, they always came out quite tasty :)

This time, I figured I'd try something different, and the dry/wet debate seems to have been going on as long as the fat side up/down debate. I was intrigued by rubbing honey over the belly before adding the dry cure, so wanted to give that a shot.
Well, there you go. The little tweaks here and there, or some signature aromatics are things that make the method more personal. I've not heard of adding honey to the meat before the cure, so let us know how it performs in the bag. Like, does it dissolve or disappear after a few days? I have heard of brushing or spraying the bacon with honey water (or maple syrup water) while smoking. One spice I did play with was fenugreek, which presents a maple flavor. I didn't care for it, but some people use it.
 

DougE

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On the last one I did, I dusted the meat with coarse black pepper and granulated garlic after applying the curing rub. There was some difference in flavor over just doing the cure/salt/sugar, but not a huge one
 

thirdeye

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On the last one I did, I dusted the meat with coarse black pepper and granulated garlic after applying the curing rub. There was some difference in flavor over just doing the cure/salt/sugar, but not a huge one
A friend buys bacon from custom butcher/smokehouse shop when he visits family each year. One option is 'Garlic' flavored, and it's very pronounced. I think they must use some sort of injection.... maybe made with garlic extract, or they might cook their own garlic juice?
 

DougE

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A friend buys bacon from custom butcher/smokehouse shop when he visits family each year. One option is 'Garlic' flavored, and it's very pronounced. I think they must use some sort of injection.... maybe made with garlic extract, or they might cook their own garlic juice?
I'm guessing injection, cause the meat just isn't going to pull much flavor in beyond the surface from a topical application. Salt and cure will be pulled in, but spices are going to pretty much remain on the surface.
 
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Sven Svensson

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SmokinEdge SmokinEdge , DougE DougE , thirdeye thirdeye , You folks continue to impress me with your grasp of brining. This entire thread is a goldmine of information and explanation. I loved the historic info on Pop’s brine and how/why it was developed.

Just did my first real “dry brine by weight” today on what I’m hoping will be buckboard bacon and also some capicola. I’m too embarrassed to admit to the dry brining method I’ve been using for years. It will suffice to say I’ll be going through a lot less kosher salt for sure. I could never get the salt levels right but they were close.

My regular scale didn’t do grams in small enough increments so I had to hit Amazon for a tiny scale. The problem is now Amazon thinks I’m some kind of a drug dealer and is making some interesting purchasing suggestions. Ha!
 

SmokinEdge

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SmokinEdge SmokinEdge , DougE DougE , thirdeye thirdeye , You folks continue to impress me with your grasp of brining. This entire thread is a goldmine of information and explanation. I loved the historic info on Pop’s brine and how/why it was developed.

Just did my first real “dry brine by weight” today on what I’m hoping will be buckboard bacon and also some capicola. I’m too embarrassed to admit to the dry brining method I’ve been using for years. It will suffice to say I’ll be going through a lot less kosher salt for sure. I could never get the salt levels right but they were close.

My regular scale didn’t do grams in small enough increments so I had to hit Amazon for a tiny scale. The problem is now Amazon thinks I’m some kind of a drug dealer and is making some interesting purchasing suggestions. Ha!
You will enjoy that dry rub (brine) this process applies the exact ingredients you want, and as a plus, slightly dries the meat in terms of moisture content. This concentrates the flavors slightly and give an incredible finished flavor. Please post your results. Enjoy.
 

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