Curing Meats for Smoking

The best quality smoked meats and sausages are made from cured meat. Fresh sausages, blood sausages, liver sausages are usually made from uncured meat, although meats (for example tongues) for some head cheeses are cured in order to make them pink and more visible. The general rule, however, remains the same, meats that will be smoked should be cured first. Curing meat not only develops a pink color, but what is more important it develops a characteristic curing flavor in smoked meats.

Some of the meat cuts listed below might not available for a hobbyist, however, a farmer who slaughters his own animals will definitely find the information useful.

Dry Curing and Salting

The cuts that don't contain meat (and myoglobin) such as back fat or fat trimmings are cured with salt only. Sodium nitrite reacts with myoglobin (meat) so it will be wasted when added to fat. In addition, the customer will have to eat it.

Name Dry curing mix (salt and sodium nitrite) Salt Curing time
Smoked jowl Curing mix for 1 kg (2.2 lb) jowls:
70 g salt and 2.0 g Cure #1(1/2 tsp).
- 12-15 days
Smoked back fat - 7% 14-18 days
Smoked horse loin Curing mix for 1 kg (2.2 lb) horse loin:
30 g salt, 2.5 g cure # 1, 10 g sugar.
- 10-12 days

Salting Back Fat for Smoking

Back fat should be as thick as possible, 1.5 inch (30 mm), including the skin. There is no need for adding nitrite/nitrate as backfat does not contain meat and myoglobin. There is nothing for the nitrite to react with.

About 7% salt total is used in relation to the weight of back fat (70 g salt for 1 kg of back fat). The salt is applied in two stages: 50 g (5%) of salt is rubbed in into 1 kg of back fat. Some salt is sprinkled on the bottom of container, then back fat is placed the skin down. Then the second back fat goes on top (skin down) etc. The top back fat is placed the skin up and some salt is sprinkled on top.

After 7 days, the stacking order is reversed; the top pieces go down and the bottom fat backs go up. During this step 2% more salt (20 g per 1 kg of back fat) is added. Back fat remains in salt for 7 days or more. The total time is 2-3 weeks.

Curing Jowls for Smoking

The cross section of jowl looks like bacon, the difference is that jowls are much tougher due to more connective tissue. Having more collagen they easily produce natural gelatin which helps to bind different ingredients together, for example groats or bread crumbs with meat. For this reason they are added to special sausages such as head cheeses, blood and liver sausages.

As jowl contains layers of meat, sodium nitrite is added with salt in order to develop curing flavor and pink color. To cure 1 kg of jowls use 50 g salt (5%) and 0.02% (2.0 g) of Cure #1 which contains sodiun nitrite.

Mix 7% (70 g) of salt with 0.02% (2 g) of Cure #1 per 1 kg of jowls. The mixture of salt and Cure #1 is applied in two stages: 50 g (5%) of the mixture is rubbed in into 1 kg of jowls. Some mixture is sprinkled on the bottom of container, then first jowl is placed the skin down. Then the second jowl goes on top (skin down) etc. The top jowl is placed the skin up and some salt is sprinkled on top.

After 7 days, the stacking order is reversed; the top pieces go down and the bottom jowls go up. During this step 2% more mixture (20 g per 1 kg of jowls) is added. Jowls remain in salt for 7 days more. The total time 2 weeks.

Wet Curing

Meats are placed in a container, secured on top with a screen to keep them submerged and covered with curing solution (water, salt and sodium nitrite). In the USA cure #1 (sodium nitrite and salt) will be used in other countries different strength sodium nitrite cures are available. Making Brine...

Making brine using tables is the first step of making curing solution. The next step is adding sodium nitrite, usually premixed with salt and known as Cure #1. Adding very little will result in a weaker curing flavor and color, adding too much will push us over the maximum limits which were establish by the Food and Drug Administration. The following tables were created in 1969-1970s and potassium nitrate was used as curing agent. Nitrates are seldom use today and sodium nitrite is universally accepted curing agent. It is hard to find potassium nitrate today, at least for a hobbyist. To make the tables easier to use, the most popular curing solutions were calculated with Cure #1.

Curing Solutions
Strength in ° SAL 25° 27° 35° 46° 54° 60° 69° 80°
Water, US Gallon
(3.8 l)
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Salt 5.43 oz (154 g) 6.25 oz (177 g) 9.6 oz (272 g) 14.4 oz (410 g) 1.13 lb (515 g) 1.32 lb (598 g) 1.60 lb (728 g) 1.98 lb (898 g)
Cure # 1 4.2 oz (120 g) 4.2 oz (120 g) 4.2 oz (120 g) 4.2 oz (120 g) 4.2 oz (120 g) 4.2 oz (120 g) 4.2 oz (120 g) 4.2 oz (120 g)
Salt in Cure # 1 accounted for. 120 g Cure # 1 contains 112.5 g of salt.
Making Curing Solutions
Brine Tables

Example: To make one gallon of 46° SAL curing solution you need to mix 14.4 oz of salt, 4.2 oz of Cure #1 and 1 gallon of water.

Name Curing solution in °Bé (Europe) Curing solution in °SAL (USA) The amount (%) of curing solution per weight of meat Curing time in days Draining time in hours
Pork tongues 14 54 40% (400 g solution per 1 kg of meat) 5-6 12
Veal tongues 14 54 40 5-6 12
Beef tongues 14 54 40 14-31 12
Sheep tongues 14 54 40 5-6 12
Pork hearts 14 54 40 3-4 12
Veal hearts 14 54 40 3-4 12
Beef hearts 14 54 40 4-5 12
Sheep hearts 14 54 40 3-4 12
Pork heads 16 60 60 4-6 4-12
Veal heads 14 54 60 3-4 4-12
Beef heads 14 54 60 3-4 4-12
Sheep heads 14 54 60 3-4 4-12
Pork ears 16 60 40 2 12
Pig feet 16 60 60 2-4 12
Veal lips 16 60 40 4-5 4-12
Pork masks 14 54 40 3-4 12
Curing solution: water, salt, sodium nitrite. Curing temperature 40-46° F (4-8° C).
Name Curing solution in °Bé (Europe) Curing solution in °SAL (USA) The amount (%) of curing solution per weight of meat Curing time
in days
Draining time in hours
Smoked pork hocks 16-18 60-69 60% (600 g solution per 1 kg of meat) 3-4 12
Smoked ribs 12-14 46-54 40 3-5 12
Smoked hocks 14-16 54-60 40 5-10 12
Smoked beef tongues 14-16 54-60 40 14-20 12
Baked pork tender loins 6-7 (sugar also added) 25-27 50 2-3 4-6

Combination Curing - Injection Method Followed by Immersion Method

Meats are injected and then immersed in curing solution. If solution contains fresh herbs and spices, the meat should be injected with salt and nitrite first and the spices should be added to curing solution. Otherwise the needles can become clogged.

Name Curing solution in °Bé (Europe) Curing solution in °SAL (USA) The percentage of total curing solution used for injections Number of injections (muscles) The amount (%) of curing solution per weight of meat Curing time in days Draining time in hours
Pork ham, smoked and cooked in water 16-18 60-69 6-7% 7-9 40% (400 g solution per 1 kg of meat) 8-12 48
Pork butt, smoked and cooked in water 16-18 60-69 6-7 5-7 40 6-10 48
Veal ham, cooked in water 16-18 60-69 5-6 4-5 40 7-12 24
Pork loin, baked 7-9 27-35 3-4 4-5 40 1 12
Beef loin, smoked 12 46 2 2 30 6-8 24
Beef ham, smoked and cooked in water 16-18 60-69 6-7 2-4 30 8-10 48

Mixed Curing

Procedure: rub in dry curing mix into meat all around. Place in container, covering each piece with more salt. Pieces with skin are placed the skin side down. Cure for 14 hours and then cover with wet curing solution and cure for 1-2 days.

Name The amount of dry curing mix (%) per weight of meat Dry curing in hours Curing solution in °Bé (Europe) Curing solution in °SAL (USA) The amount (%) of wet curing solution per weight of meat Wet curing in days Draining time
Smoked loin 2% (20 g per 1 kg of meat) 24-36 12-14 46-54 30% (300 g solution per 1 kg of meat) 5-8 24 hrs
Smoked butt 2-6 24-36 12-14 46-54 30 6-10 24 hrs
Butt, cooked in water 2-6 24-36 12-14 46-54 30 6-10 24 hrs
Smoked bacon 3 24-36 14-16 54-60 40 7-10 1-2 days
Bacon, cooked in water 3 24-36 14-16 54-60 40 7-10 1-2 days
Curing mix for 1 kg (2.2 lb) of meat: 30 g salt, 2.5 g cure # 1, 10 g sugar.

Brine Curing

Name Brine in °Bé Brine in °SAL Brining time in hours
Pork skins, beef udders and tripe, veal tripe, pork stomachs (inside slime removed) 12-14 54-60 48-72
Brine: salt and water. Curing temperature 40-46° F (4-8° C).

Submerge meats in brine. Drain.

Special Applications

Salting Back Fat

Back fat does not need to be smoked, it can be just salted. After 3 weeks of salting back fat softens up and can be eaten; it has been a popular snack in the past.

Back fat is salted using 8% salt in relation to the weight of back fat. This corresponds to 80 g salt per 1 kg of back fat.

5% salt is used for rubbing.
3% salt is used for sprinkling.

Rub in salt into each piece of back fat on all sides using 5% of salt. Use remaining salt (3%) for sprinkling the bottom of container (about 1/4 inch, 6 mm) and the top of the pile. Salting time 14-21 days depending on thickness of fat backs. After 7 days you can reverse the stacking order; the top pieces go down and the bottom fat backs go up.

Salting Small Fat Trimmings

Fat trimmings are salted taking 2% salt in relation to the weight. Mix fat trimmings thorougly with salt and place in a container for 24-48 hours.

Blood

Fresh blood is usually salted with 3% salt in relation to the weight, but sodium nitrite may be added as well. Blood can be kept up to 48 hours at 40° F (4° C). It can be frozen for longer storage.

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