How to Use Curing Salts for Curing and SmokingSteven Raichlen
• Label all meats in the curing process precisely, noting any special instructions and the date(s) they need attention (turning, refreshing the brine or dry rub, smoking, etc.). Transcribe the dates to your calendar.
• Unless air-drying, always hold meat at temperatures between 36 and 40 degrees F.
• To avoid excessive saltiness, soak cured meats or fish in cold water, then air dry before smoking or barbecueing.
• Avoid the “guy syndrome,” which holds that if some is good, more is better (e.g., hot sauce, bourbon, wood chips, etc.). When it comes to curing salts, use only the recommended quantities. Store them in the original containers and scrupulously follow the directions on the package. Again, when not used properly, nitrates and nitrites can be toxic.
• When using curing salts in a dry rub, mix thoroughly with the other dry ingredients before applying to the meat or fish.
• Salt draws moisture out of proteins. If dry-curing, routinely drain off any liquids that accumulate.
• Turn the food curing in your refrigerator once a day.
• Divide dry rubs into batches and reapply the rub every three days or so. This is called “overhauling.”
• When brining, ensure the protein is fully submersed in the brining solution by weighting it with a dinner plate or tightly sealed bags of ice. (Replace as needed.)
• Use nonreactive containers or sturdy resealable plastic bags when curing pork bellies, beef brisket, jerky, etc.
• If brining for longer than seven days, replace the brine with a fresh mixture to avoid spoilage.