Curing & Smoking of Meat

Curing & Smoking of Meat

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Background & History

Many methods of preserving meat have been used throughout history. Sumerians first to salt meat over 5,000 years ago. Ancient Hebrews used salt from Dead Sea to preserve meat 4000 years ago Possible that smoking of meats was “accidentally discovered” by Native Americans. Hung meat from tops of teepees In 1970’s 80’s ingredients used in curing and smoking were heavily researched Possible health implications (cancer, etc.)

What is Curing?

Curing is addition of salt, sugar, and nitrite or nitrate to meats for purpose of preservation, flavor enhancement, or color development.

Today curing is performed more for flavor development than for preservation

Other functions of curing

Shelf life extension

Development of unique properties

Resistance to rapid deterioration

Controlling microbial growth.

Curing Ingredients

Salt (NaCl)

Contributes flavor

Preservative effect

Controls microbial growth (doesn’t kill bacteria)

Osmosis (enhances transport of nitrate, nitrite, and sugar)

Can be in granular or rock forms.

Only difference is quantity of NaCl in the salt.

Sugar (C12H22O11)

Contributes flavor

Counteracts salt

Provides source of energy for nitrate converting bacteria

Lowers the acidity of the cure

Can be added in the form of:

Sucrose (table sugar/brown sugar)

Dextrose (refined corn sugar)

Corn syrup solids

RRM uses powdered sugar

Finer particle size→ easier to dissolve in water

Commercial cures use corn syrup solids


May require more to get same flavor

Curing Ingredients

Nitrite (NaNO2) or Nitrate (NaNO3)

Contributes flavor

Prevents warmed-over flavor (WOF) in reheated products

Retards development of rancidity during storage

Prevents growth of C. boltulinum in canned products


Contributes cured-pink color to the product.

Nitrites & Nitrates

Usually come in the form of potassium or sodium nitrites or nitrates.

FSIS allows use of nitrate (NaNO3 or KNO3) ONLY in dry cured meats or dry sausage.

FSIS permits use of Nitrites (NaNO2 or KNO2) in bacon

Ingoing nitrite level cannot exceed 120 ppm

Must be accompanied by 550ppm sodium ascorbate or sodium

Residual nitrite must not exceed 40 ppm

Nitrites and Nitrates can be carcinogenic.

MIT Study: 40 pounds of bacon/day for 40 years

Currently seeing increase of “No Nitrite” or “Uncured” products

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