Curing salt is a type of salt used for curing and preserving food. Unlike pure salt, curing salt is a mixture of sodium chloride and sodium nitrite. Curing salt is also called Prague powder, pink curing salt, and Insta Cure.
There are two types of curing salt: curing salt #1 and curing salt #2.
Curing salt #1 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% salt. You can use curing salt #1 for any cured meat dishes that need to be cooked like smoked sausages, non-air-dried ham, and bacon. 2 teaspoons of curing salt cures up to 10 pounds of bacon or sausage.
Curing salt #2 contains about 1% sodium nitrate, 6.25% sodium nitrite, and 92.75% salt. This type of curing salt is used for meats that will be air-dried, but not cooked. Air-dried hams, salamis, and pepperonis are examples of meats that can be cured with curing salt #2. Sodium nitrate is added to curing salt #2 because, over a long period of curing, sodium nitrate breaks down into sodium nitrite. Curing salt #2 is ideal for meats with long curing times.
Curing salt #1 and #2 aren’t interchangeable because curing salt #1 doesn’t contain sodium nitrate and only keeps meat safe for a short period of time. Only use curing salt #1 for fresh meats that are cooked and eaten quickly. Curing salt #2 can be used on meats that are dried and cured over an extended period of time.
Curing Salt vs Regular Salt
Regular salt and curing salt have different uses, colors, and appearances.
Regular salt is made almost entirely from pure sodium. Otherwise known as table salt, regular salt is sprinkled onto foods to enhance their flavor. Regular salt is white, and non-toxic when used on any food.
Curing salt, however, is made from sodium chloride and sodium nitrite (and sodium nitrate, for curing salt #2). Curing salt has a pink color and is used to preserve meat by preventing the growth of bacteria, so it shouldn’t be used on food after cooking. Curing salt is toxic until the curing process has taken place, so this salt isn’t interchangeable with regular salt.
Curing salt isn’t the same as Himalayan pink salt, a naturally pink type of salt used for food seasoning.
Sodium Nitrite Curing Salt
Sodium nitrite is found in curing salt #1 and curing salt #2. The role of sodium nitrite is to provide the distinctive pink color and savory flavor associated with curing.
More importantly, sodium nitrite slows down the growth of botulism-causing bacteria, preventing spoilage. Sodium nitrate is used with curing salt because it allows meats to cure for several weeks without spoiling.
How to Make Curing Salt 1 (Prague Powder #1)
Making curing salt from home isn’t common, and buying the salt pre-made will ensure your meat products are safely cured. However, you can make your own curing salt from home if you don’t have access to store-bought products.
Curing salt #1 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% table salt. To make curing salt #1, follow these instructions:
- Combine 1 ounce pure sodium nitrite with 1 pound of table salt
- Make sure the sodium nitrite and table salt are well-combined
- Store the salt in a glass jar and use the salt to cure meat that will be cooked later
How to Make Curing Salt 2 (Prague Powder #2)
Curing salt #2 contains 1% sodium nitrate, 6.25% sodium nitrite, and 92.75% salt. Follow these instructions to make curing salt #2:
- Mix 1 ounce sodium nitrite with 0.64 ounces sodium nitrate and 1 pound of salt
- Make sure the ingredients are well-combined
- Store curing salt #2 in a glass jar and use the salt to cure meats over long periods
How to Use Curing Salt
When using curing salt for dry-curing (without added moisture), combine the salt with other ingredients, like spices and seasonings, before rubbing the combined ingredients into the meat. Because salt draws water out of proteins, the accumulated liquids should be routinely drained. Meats that are curing in the refrigerator should be turned and drained once a day.
Make sure to use enough salt for curing:
- The recommended use for curing salt #1 is 1 teaspoon of curing salt per 5 pounds (2.27 kilograms) of meat
- The recommended use for curing salt #2 is exactly the same: 1 teaspoon of curing salt for every 5 pounds of meat
To make a brine from curing salt #1, use 1/2 cup of curing salt for every 1 gallon of water. Add 2 ¼ tablespoons of sugar and 1 ¾ cups of table salt, as well as any spices or seasonings. Make sure the meat is fully soaked in the brine during curing.
Curing Salt Safety
Remember that curing salt and regular salt is not the same, and the two ingredients can’t be used interchangeably. Curing salt is toxic to humans in its raw form so it should not be used to salt food after cooking and right before eating.
If you plan to make your own curing salt, it is essential to use the right ratios of ingredients in the salt, and the right amount of salt in your meat. Too little salt could allow for bacterial growth and spoilage, while too much salt could ruin the flavor of the meat and even cause illness and death. Make sure the meat is thoroughly soaked or coated in the curing salt. This will prevent parts of the meat from spoiling.
Processed meats that have been cured or salted increase the risk of cancer when consumed on a daily basis, according to the WHO. Cured meats are an enjoyable addition to a balanced diet, but you should limit your intake of processed meat to reduce your risk of cancer.