Pink Salt Percentage for Pastrami

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I dry cured bacon many, many times, using Rytek Kutas's curing recipes simply adjusted for the weight of meat I was curing. Very simple and very satisfactory results.

But after reading that other website a few times over - over the years, and more recently - I think their methods seem safer, and their arguments supporting their methods just sit better with me.

My advise to anyone new to all of this, read that other site, read Rytek Kutas's book, read all you find here, then decide for yourself what seems best.
 
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I can not believe that Jeff, owner of this very website, has a seemingly very reasonable write-up on curing a pastrami - and no one has ever mentioned it recently in any of the current curing threads?


The Pop's cure used seems as simple as Rytek Kutas's curing recipe(s)? I have no intention of endeavoring to master a "new" method of curing, but it is another take on curing for anyone that might care to read it. It seems like Pops' cure is the same formula for whatever is being cure and the only variable is how long an item is cured? What can be easier than that?

Anyways...
 
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They do not and cannot.

With the dry rub the salt and cure #1 stand alone and are 100% of themselves. When applied to a meat piece they act directly to the meat through diffusion (it all goes into the meat) and we know how much salt and cure is in the meat piece at 14 days.

With a cover only brine, the salt and cure #1 are mixed with water and are not stand alone but are now a percentage of the water weight. The salt and cure, in solution, that is touching the meat surface only are able to diffuse into the meat, not the salt and cure that are suspended away from the meat surface in the rest of the brine. This salt cannot effect the meat until it is able to physically touch the meat surface. So now we have to guess what the actual uptake into the meat will be and how long it will take, which will be much longer than dry rubbed. There is no scale no equations to calculate this uptake. USDA says no more than 10% of the meat weight in brine, Stanley Marianski says in reality the water uptake is closer to 4%. That’s a pretty wide margin, but it still does not address how much salt and nitrite will diffuse into the meat. Could be 4%, could be 10%, I’ve read lab results that suggest upwards of 18% salt and nitrite Uptake. It’s all over the map, does it work, yes, are some happy with that process, yes, but none of us know what or how much of the brine ingredients diffused into the meat. Was it enough? Maybe so, but how much was it exactly? With out lab tests none of us can know. I hardly call that “equilibrium “ more like a lucky guess. There are so many things that can and do influence the uptake of brine to meat. Fat layers and thickness of fat, sodium moves very slow through fat, skin in the case of pork again sodium moves even slower through skin, moisture content of the meat, freshness of the meat, muscle fiber make up, weather the meat has been frozen or not, the variables go on but they all make a difference. Lab results show that a clean and trimmed loin muscle will uptake more salt and nitrite than a belly piece. So it’s variable and not equilibrium with a cover only brine.

This is why I much prefer dry rubs or brine injection. In this way I can inject or rub on exactly the salt and nitrite that I want in a finished product. In this way I can obtain true equilibrium that is 100% repeatable and I know pretty much exactly what’s in my meat, and that beats a guess any day.

Appreciate the thorough reply, everything you wrote makes technical sense. Practically though, what I keep seeing over and over seems to indicate cover brines do work very well and unless my own eyes are wrong(very possible), it seems like a piece of meat in a cover brine will at some point take in an adequate amount of salt, sugar, and cure#1. If they are as variable as you say, wouldn't there be tons of reports of not properly cured meat since the uptake stops at a low percentage as you've indicated?

Could it be possible, the uptake you are referencing is only referring to liquid only not salt, sugar, and cure#1? As the cover brine touching the meat diffuses into the meat, the salt, sugar, and cure#1 will keep diffusing from the outer rings of higher concentration kind of like the meat is a black hole pulling everything inside of itself? Would time reduce the variables, if we gave a brisket 20-30 days in a cover brine would everything eventually equalize at some point or still be stuck at some unknown percentage?

Anyway, I again appreciate all the explanations! This is making me want to test both methods to see what happens. I'm surprised nobody here has done this yet!
 
Appreciate the thorough reply, everything you wrote makes technical sense. Practically though, what I keep seeing over and over seems to indicate cover brines do work very well and unless my own eyes are wrong(very possible), it seems like a piece of meat in a cover brine will at some point take in an adequate amount of salt, sugar, and cure#1. If they are as variable as you say, wouldn't there be tons of reports of not properly cured meat since the uptake stops at a low percentage as you've indicated?

Could it be possible, the uptake you are referencing is only referring to liquid only not salt, sugar, and cure#1? As the cover brine touching the meat diffuses into the meat, the salt, sugar, and cure#1 will keep diffusing from the outer rings of higher concentration kind of like the meat is a black hole pulling everything inside of itself? Would time reduce the variables, if we gave a brisket 20-30 days in a cover brine would everything eventually equalize at some point or still be stuck at some unknown percentage?

Anyway, I again appreciate all the explanations! This is making me want to test both methods to see what happens. I'm surprised nobody here has done this yet!
To be clear, I never said that cover brines don’t work. Just the opposite, they are traditional and they do “work” it’s just that it’s random in process and in modern days we have much better ways to cure meats. But no cover only brine will ever be “equilibrium “ in my mind. Work they might, but not in balance. Carry on and do what is comfortable and makes sense to you. I’m just saying what my experience is and what I’ve seen. Curing has a range, and within that range it all works. Some methods are just better than others, IMO.
 
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To be clear, I never said that cover brines don’t work. Just the opposite, they are traditional and they do “work” it’s just that it’s random in process and in modern days we have much better ways to cure meats. But no cover only brine will ever be “equilibrium “ in my mind. Work they might, but not in balance. Carry on and do what is comfortable and makes sense to you. I’m just saying what my experience is and what I’ve seen. Curing has a range, and within that range it all works. Some methods are just better than others, IMO.

If I was to try what seems the most comfortable it would definitely be the dry cure/dry brine method. It makes the most intuitive, practical, and technical sense. I understand you never said cover brines don't work, but in my mind if someone says something is random that's more or less the same as saying it doesn't work. If the uptake stops around 10% of the cover brine, then shouldn't we see a lot of results with small red bands and huge grey bands of meat that were not penetrated by the cure?
 
The randomness in cover brines is due to the meat ...... how it was treated, how many times frozen, etc, from my understanding.

With dry curing, there is no randomness since all the cure and salt are applied directly to the meat. The results are consistent and repeatable.
 
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Alright, well last question for you guys if you're not too tired of them. When using a dry cure is it safe to put the meat with the cure in a vacuum sealed bag and let it sit for 14-15 days sealed in the fridge?
 
Some vac seal tightly, some loosely, some of us (myself included) use plain old ziplock bags, and some even cure openly on a rack in the fridge. 14-15 days is fine as that's about how long I go. I do flip and give the bags a massage every day or 2.
 
...but in my mind if someone says something is random that's more or less the same as saying it doesn't work.
I would have to fall back on my terminology of more predictable, or less predictable when comparing different methods and the results of those methods.

Using a pork belly as an example, both a dry cure and wet cure diffuse into the meat face differently than they diffuse into the fat cap (or fat cap with skin) face, but overall predictability of a dry cure is higher in my eye than a wet cure.
When using a dry cure is it safe to put the meat with the cure in a vacuum sealed bag and let it sit for 14-15 days sealed in the fridge?
We know that a dry cure extracts liquid from the meat early in the cure cycle, then the meat re-absorbs the liquid later in the cycle. There is also some mobility within the meat itself. I subscribe to the notion that meat should not be constrained as that might interrupt that liquid movement. So for me, a zipper bag works fine as would a vacuum bag with a partial vacuum.
 
As long as we're touching all the bases... there is one interesting fact about a covering curing brine that is sometimes overlooked.

We know the amount (or weight) of salt and Cure #1 that go into a curing brine is based on the weight of the meat + the weight of the water. But when the meat initially goes in the bucket, the curing brine is stronger than the desired outcome of the cured meat.

For instance, let's take a 5# pork belly and 3# of water which is 3629 grams of total weight. We calculate 2% of salt and 0.25% of curing salt, then dissolve those into the water. And in a perfect outcome, the 10 to 14 day cured bacon will have almost 2.25% salt. However, in the beginning, none of the salt or cure have diffused into the pork belly, it's still in the water.
 
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As long as we're touching all the bases... there is one interesting fact about a covering curing brine that is sometimes overlooked.

We know the amount (or weight) of salt and Cure #1 that go into a curing brine is based on the weight of the meat + the weight of the water. But when the meat initially goes in the bucket, the curing brine is stronger than the desired outcome of the cured meat.

For instance, let's take a 5# pork belly and 3# of water which is 3629 grams of total weight. We calculate 2% of salt and 0.25% of curing salt, then dissolve those into the water. And in a perfect outcome, the 10 to 14 day cured bacon will have almost 2.25% salt. However, in the beginning, none of the salt or cure have diffused into the pork belly, it's still in the water.
Agree.
Keep in mind also that the first 7 days diffusion is fairly rapid, but after that the diffusion slows down a lot because the outer surface of the meat is “saturated “ with salt. So the process slows way down. This is why injecting first then covering is the smartest play. This way we are diffusing inside out and outside in.
 
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I would have to fall back on my terminology of more predictable, or less predictable when comparing different methods and the results of those methods.

Using a pork belly as an example, both a dry cure and wet cure diffuse into the meat face differently than they diffuse into the fat cap (or fat cap with skin) face, but overall predictability of a dry cure is higher in my eye than a wet cure.

We know that a dry cure extracts liquid from the meat early in the cure cycle, then the meat re-absorbs the liquid later in the cycle. There is also some mobility within the meat itself. I subscribe to the notion that meat should not be constrained as that might interrupt that liquid movement. So for me, a zipper bag works fine as would a vacuum bag with a partial vacuum.

I don't want to misquote SmokinEdge, please correct me if I do. It seemed like he was saying a cover brine is not predictable because at some random point the uptake of salt + cure#1 will stop. It could be 8%, 10%, or 14% but at some random point it will happen and your meat will be not properly cured.

In my mind this sounds like, to use your own example of a 5# pork belly and 3# of water which is 3629 grams of total weight with 2% salt(73g) and .25% cure#1(9g), that it could be very possible only 10% of the salt and cure#1 used in the cover brine would actually end up in the meat after 10-14 days which would be .20%(7.3g) salt and .025% cure#1(.9g).
 
I don't want to misquote SmokinEdge, please correct me if I do. It seemed like he was saying a cover brine is not predictable because at some random point the uptake of salt + cure#1 will stop. It could be 8%, 10%, or 14% but at some random point it will happen and your meat will be not properly cured.
Uptake is slippery slope and opinions vary over a range of percentages depending on the source of information. Also the protein's type, thickness and shape can can have an effect on uptake. One important thing that is not discussed often enough is overhauling/agitation. When brining or using a curing brine I generally have a bag in a stainless or plastic bucket. Each day I hold the bail and quickly rotate 90° back-and-forth about 8 or 10 times. Commercial operations can use circulators or tumblers for their brining operations.

I can't say I've heard of 14% uptake, but 7% to 12% are generally accepted numbers. I can tell you it's hard to inject 10% of the meat weight on certain things.

I've been tempted to buy a digital salinity meter to monitor the change in parts per million over time in a brine, but it probably wind up in the same drawer as my old school salometer.

 
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I have a piece of tri tip weighing 1037g. I'm thinking of doing the following dry cure: 2% salt, 2% sugar, and .25% Cure#1. The only problem is the Cure#1 comes out to 2.59g. My scale isn't that accurate, should I just go down to 2g or up 3g? Or I could buy a gram scale...
 
I have a piece of tri tip weighing 1037g. I'm thinking of doing the following dry cure: 2% salt, 2% sugar, and .25% Cure#1. The only problem is the Cure#1 comes out to 2.59g. My scale isn't that accurate, should I just go down to 2g or up 3g? Or I could buy a gram scale...
Go up to 3g I wouldn’t go down. For the future get you a gram scale that measures tenths
 
Either way should be fine. 2g should give you about 121ppm. which is still effective. 3g should put you about 181ppm. which is below the FDA max of 200ppm for a dry cure.
 
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Appreciate the responses from everyone, I went with 3g.

Just to ask, what if my scale wasn't accurate and it was accidentally 4g. Would that be a start over situation? I believe that would be 241ppm.
 
Good reason to have check weights right there. I don't check mine every use, but often enough.

That's a decent bit over the max. so I would start over, but you'd have no real way of knowing your scale was off (a full gram is pretty bad off at that!) The accepted standard is 156ppm to allow some wiggle room without going over the max.
 
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