Salts, Nitrates, Nitrites and Curing
Also Known As: Salts, Nitrates, Nitrites, Pink Salt, Prague Powder, Curing Salt
Differing combinations of salt, sugar, nitrite and/or nitrate are used for the purposes of meat preservation, color and flavoring. When done with salt along it’s typically referred to as salting or corning (e.g., corned beef). The term curing is typically reserved for when salt is used with nitrites/nitrates (e.g., bacon). This can be done with either coating the meat’s surface (dry cure) or by dissolving the cure in water (wet cure, brine, or pickling).
Here is some various information that you may find helpful when dealing with salts, brines and cures.
Measuring Salt by Weight / Morton vs Diamond Kosher Salt
When using large amounts of salt, especially for brines/cures, it is always best to weigh the salt. Why? Depending on what type and brand you use it actually has a different shape and density. Table salt is a cube shape, whereas kosher salt looks more like a pyramid. What does this all mean? Well, you can’t just measure a cup of salt and dump it in. Most good recipes should either include a brand or a weight or both. Personally, I prefer Morton Kosher Salt and will include weights for all brines/cures for those using other salts. Here is a simplified conversion that may help:
1/2 cup table salt = 3/4 cup Mortons Kosher Salt = 1 cup Diamond Crystal
Prague Powder #1 vs Prague Powder #2
Prague Powder #1 (Insta-Cure #1)
Prague Powder #1 is a commercially available curing mixture that is 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% table salt. It’s artificially colored pink so it won’t be mistaken for regular salt. Insta-Cure #1 or pink curing salt are other names you’ll typically see when purchasing it. Insta-Cure #1 being the most prevalent. Prague Powder #1 is used for any type of cured meat that will require cooking such as bacon or corned beef.
Prague Powder #2 (Insta-Cure #2)
Prague Powder #2 or Insta-Cure #2 is used for other foods that are air dried and not cooked, such as salami, pepperoni, or other dried sausages. The #2 also includes sodium nitrate which breaks down very slowly over a long period of time and converts to sodium nitrite. Think of it as a time-release mechanism for curing.
Where to By Pink Curing Salts?
You won’t find either of the pink curing salts in grocery stores, but it can be found at any places that sell sausage making gear or on Amazon. Note: It is different from saltpeter and Morton Tender Quick.
Why are Cures Dyed Pink?
Both curing salts are died pink so they won’t be mistaken for regular salt. However, don’t confuse it with pink Himalayan salt either. Sodium nitrite by itself can be lethal if misused. As such, commercially it is mixed in with large quantities of salt, dissolved in water, re-crystallized and died pink. Don’t be leery of using curing salt though. Just be aware of the potency when dealing with cures. Always be sure to verify all quantities in recipes. If sausage making or curing of any sort is to become a hobby I would highly recommend buying a quality digital scale and keeping accurate measurements of what you use. I have used a Salter digital scale for a long time and have been very pleased with it.
Go to the BBQ Dictionary for more definitions.
Last Updated: September 22, 2015