1. Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.

Dry Cure vs. Brine Cure

Discussion in 'Hot Smoked Bacon' started by tjohnson, Feb 6, 2010.

  1. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I understand why meat is cured, but is there an advantage to one curing method over the other?

    Faster Curing?

    Thickness of the meat?

    Personal Preference?


  2. atcnick

    atcnick Smoking Fanatic

    I too have wondered this.  Anyone?
  3. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    Pops would be the one for this?
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2010
  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    My whole muscle meat curing experiences have thus far been limited to Candian Bacon, Corned Beef (brisket flats and points for pastrami), and a few different beef cuts sliced-up for Jerky.

    I have brine/cured with either canadian bacon or corned beef, and while some have used a dry rub/cure for CB, I prefer the wet method due to possible variations in the rate of application of the cure.

    I just didn't feel comfortable with trying to apply a dry rub/cure blend on the meat, as it is possible to apply too little in some areas, which may cause incomplete cure if not given enough time for the lighter application of cure to react with the meat. Basically, IMO, it is more dificult and challenging to dry cure than brine/cure.

    The process for corned beef, to my knowledge is solely a brine/cure method, so I stuck with that. 

    The curing method I use for Jerky is not really a brine/cure or a dry cure...technically it would be a brine/cure, but there's just enough water content with all the spices and cure to moisten it really well while stored in a plastic bag until the curing is completed (more like a marinade process, but without any acidic additives like lemon juice or vinegar). The sole purpose of using added wtare in this case is to ensure more even distribution of cure and spices in the batch of jerky meat.

    I've always had repeatable results with the above methods, so I'm staying with it.

    Hmm, this may be way out in left field, but wouldn't a true dry cure by definition be in reference to a Virginia Ham, where as the meat has the curing agent, salts, sugars applied by hand and the ham is hung in open air and not wrapped in plastic? Or, is the same basic method with wrapping after the cure application considered to be a dry cure as well? Or, is the difference in a Virginia Ham being considered a dry aged and cured meat product, while our typical home cured meats are not aged?

    Last edited: Nov 5, 2010
  5. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    An injected/brine cure product will be cured faster then a dry cured one. It's also preferred for large pieces of meat like a ham, it gets the cure into the center of the meat faster, so less chance of  spoilage.. I think the brine cure makes for a moister product and it also does a better job of getting any spice flavors into the meat.

    I like my bacon dry cured, it pulls some moister out of the meat and firms it up.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2010
  6. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    As always DanMcG nails it.

    Wet cure is great for things like corned beef, chicken, hams because you are not necessarily trying to concentrate the natural flavors.  The end product requires extra moisture.  Hams require an injection.  Country Hams are different, you cover them with salt and cure for a couple of weeks and let them go for a couple of months in a dry, cool cure room.  You want a country style ham to be drier and more intense in flavor.

    I dry cure bacon for that very reason.  I want a firmer, more intense flavor when done.  Jerky (slices of whole muscle meat) I tend to do a wet cure because in the end I am taking almost all the moisture out of it, concentrating the flavors.
  7. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    WOW!  What a blast from the past.  I originally posted this back in February.

    I've tried brine curing and dry curing.  Both methods were effective for me, but I prefer dry curing for bacon.  I can see where dry curing on a large or thick piece of meat may not be effective and it would need to be injected.

    Great info!

  8. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    I prefer dry curing with Tender Quick.

    It seems to me that most people who use TQ, prefer dry curing, because of the great flavor & you get to play with your meat every day (can't believe I said that!).

    I believe most people who use the other cures prefer brine curing. I would think that one of the reasons they prefer brine curing is the reason Eric stated---getting it applied evenly on the meat. 

    If you're doing 10 pounds of meat, you would use 10 TBS of TQ (5 ounces)---This is easy to apply evenly.

    But if you're doing 10 pounds of meat with pink salt, you would use only 2 tsp---Try evenly applying that all by itself, without adding salt or sugar. And if you mix it with salt & sugar, how good did you mix it? Did it get sugar on that part of the meat, and cure on that part of the meat? But if you mix the proper amount of pink salt in a brine, you are sure to get it evenly distributed.

    Also if I am going to cure something thicker than 3 1/2", I will inject a TQ brine into the center parts of the meat, and then dry cure with the rest of the amount of TQ needed for that weight of meat.

    My 2 cents,


    Plus I believe Pops can elaborate on the fact that he regulates how much salt he uses in his cure---Something you can't do so good with TQ.

    However, I have never had anything I cured with TQ that ended up too salty.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2010
  9. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Well I use the dry and the brining methods for curing meats. I use the dry method and tender quick with alot of my bacons. Now I even have a corned beef in a wet brine now for my trip to New Jersey. But I like the brining for the bigger hunks of meat and the dry for smaller pieces of meats for bacons. I also agree with Dan on his methods and his thinking too. He taught me the dry curing of bacons.
  10. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I was brought up with wet brining (pickling) and have never done any dry curing.  Because pickling satisfies the curing process with no additional work, you can control the salt content with no freshening, you let it soak with no rubbing or turning (and in a business this is a good thing), you inject your brine to cure from the inside-out as well as from the outside-in, the osmosis process takes place effortlessly and naturally and produces a ready-to-eat mild-cured ham, beef, pork, or poultry product once smoked, to me the advantages are apparent.  I've had dry cured Virginia hams and bacons before and enjoyed their uniqueness, flavors and textures, but for regular consumption proved too strong for my palate, just personal preference.  I know they take a lot more work.  If I'd been brought up in Virginia I'm sure I'd have a totally different view, also, lol!  The unique property of my dad's hams is that, with a lower cure concentration over a longer period of time (30 days) it tenderizes the product more thoroughly, making a tender, juicy, flavorful ham, striking a balance between the right amount of curing agent with the right amount of smoke (my dad used crushed corn cobs for his smoking medium, not wood - a sweeter, milder smoke process).  Plus, the most important reason of all... the number 1 reason ...   I'm too lazy to change, lol!
  11. richoso1

    richoso1 Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Pops, thanks for the explanation of why you choose the wet brining method. East to understand, and to the point. It';s all good my friend.
  12. scarbelly

    scarbelly Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member

    This is a great discussion. Great feedback. Thanks to all who posted
  13. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Thanks Pops,

    Hope you're feeling great nowadays!

    I knew you'd come in here with a lot of common sense & long time know-how.

    I was thinking of what you said, before you said it.

    I, like many others here, like to play with my food. I like to flip & massage my Bacon packages over every day, and look at what's gonna be in my smoker real soon( Yummm ).

    But I was already sure that if YOU were curing 14 hams, 27 slabs of Bacon, 3 Turkeys, etc, etc, I'm sure you wouldn't want to waste all that time playing.

    Thanks again,

  14. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks Pops!

    Maybe I need to "Practice" on some more bacon.........[​IMG]

    Sucks to be me!