Regular table salt is the chief ingredient used in meat curing. By removing water and adding salt to meat, a solute-rich environment where osmotic pressure draws water out of microorganisms is created. This retards the growth of harmful microorganisms. Salt also slows the oxidation process, effectively preventing the meat from turning rancid. The process requires a concentration of salt of nearly 20%. Salt also causes the soluble meat proteins to come to the surface of meat particles within processed meats like sausages. These proteins coagulate when the sausage is cooked, helping to hold the sausage together.
While the use of nitrates and nitrites (saltpeter) in food preservation is controversial, nitrates and nitrites not only help kill bacteria, but also produce a characteristic flavor and give meat a pink or red color. This increased the popularity of their use during the nineteenth century as consumers strongly preferred the red-colored meat to the grayish hue of meats cured with regular sodium chloride. When it was discovered that there was a potential for the formation of nitrosamines when the preserved food was cooked at high temperatures, the U.S. Government began carefully regulating the use of nitrites and nitrates in commercial meat processing.
With the exception of bacon, sugar added to meats for the purpose of curing contributes little to the resulting flavor, but it can help alleviate the harsh flavor of salt. In addition of sugar also boosts the growth of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus by feeding them.
Meat can also be preserved by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering plant materials, usually wood. Smoking helps seal the outer layer of the food being cured, making it more difficult for bacteria to enter. The Plains Indians used to hang meat at the top of their teepees to increase the amount of smoke making contact with the food.
Common smoking styles include hot smoking, smoke roasting (pit barbecuing) and cold smoking. If the smoke is hot enough to slow-cook the meat, it will also keep it tender. Smoke roasting and hot smoking cook the meat while cold smoking does not. If the meat is cold smoked, it should be dried quickly to limit bacterial growth during the critical period where the meat is not yet dry. This can be achieved by slicing the meat thinly and dehydrating it, as with jerky. Cold smoking is often employed in combination with salt curing.
These articles might interest you :
As I did last year and the year before, here’s another arbitrary, retrospective list of the top 20 influential conservation papers of 2015 as assessed via... Read moreBy Bradshaw
[Star Wars spoilers ahead] Having now seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens four times in eight days, I’m thoroughly obsessed with the movie and have become... Read moreBy Brute Reason
SOCIETY, WOMEN'S ISSUES
There's only one place I recommend to travelers looking for the absolute ultimate in luxury during their stay on Roatan, and that's Barefoot Cay Resort. A... Read moreBy Cubiclethrowdown
Contrary to popular current sentiment, from those who condescend about "religion" and "the church" and its "hypocrites," and claim to be able to "do God" on... Read moreBy Elizabethprata
Have you ever observed something in progress? While evidence of man-made progress is generally observable, Mother Nature takes a rather slow, gradual, and... Read moreBy Adrenaline Romance
Have no fear, because in between seeing Star Wars and setting up Grinch traps, our staff this holiday week has not forsaken the vast frozen tundra of the world... Read moreBy Christopher De Voss
What the hell is this woman talking about? What do you mean, don't tell my kid that he/she isn't smart? If I don't say that, they will think I think that... Read more3 hours, 49 minutes ago by Joanigeltman
MOST POPULAR FROM FOOD & DRINK
- Beginner’s Guide to Plant-Based Shopping by Chuck Underwood
- Food Review: Paesano Pizza, 94 Miller Street, Merchant City, Glasgow G1 1DT by Emma
- Event review: The Honours Birthday celebrations, Malmaison, Glasgow by Emma
- German Winter Ale – Twin Sails Brewing by Mikescraftbeer
MOST RECOMMENDED IN FOOD & DRINK
- Avocado Pesto Breadsticks by Chuck Underwood
- Easy Pizza Dip by Lemon_sugar
- Pomegranate and Orange Flower Panna Cotta by Zoebakeforhappykids
- Pixel Pils – Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks by Mikescraftbeer