Thursday, June 19, 2014


I wrote this up to help you with my recipes so, with that let's begin. 

My recipes are really easy to follow if you use the info given below. Replicating my recipes is possible because I use percentages for everything. The weight of meat plus fat is 100%. All ingredients to be added are expressed as a percentage of the weight of meat plus fat. Percentages can be used to standardize recipes regardless of batch size. All weights are metric. An online calculator is provided below. 

No weights are given because the weights of meats vary. Again everything is a percentage of the meats weight after trimming. Here is an example- Meat weight is 2393 grams and we want to find out the amount of salt we need in grams- 2393 * 3.5%=83.755 or 2392/100 * 3.5 =83.755 grams. Or 2393 * .035 = 83.755

For the majority of my recipes I use .25% cure #1 & #2 for all my curing needs. This equates to 156 ppm of Sodium Nitrite allowed by the Meat Division of the USDA for Comminuted meats. The .25% corresponds to 1 oz (28.35 g) of Cure for each 25 lbs (11.33 kg) of meat. l lb of Meat would need .04 oz of Cure. The percentage is .25% of the meats weight. I.E 16 oz or 453.592 X .25% = .04 oz or 1.134 My preference is to always use grams. 

I use the following percentages to calculate how much cure I need for a given recipe. There are other ways to calculate cure formulas and I provide that too if you are curious. i.e. meat weight is 1000 grams and you want to calculate cure needed. 1000 grams * percentage below gives you grams in needed. 1000 * .25%= 2.5 grams.  

  • .19 % = 120 ppm use sometimes for Bacon
  • .25% = 156 ppm Max for Comminuted meats
  • .32% = 200 ppm for pumped or immersed.
  • .60% = 347.4 ppm for larger Cut of meat that will dry for a long time. 
  • .99% = 625 ppm USDA MAX limit for dry curing. 

I urge you to read the USDA PDF file. Very useful information. When it comes to PPM there are upper and lower limits you want to adhere to. 


To Calculate how much Cure # 1 you need for a given recipe you must know Parts Per Million desired. I.E 120 PPM, 156 PPM in formula below. 

(PPM Sodium Nitrite) * (Weight of Meat in Grams) (.0625) / 1,000,000 = CURE # 1 in grams 

Examples below

 156 ppm * 2267.96 / .0625 / 1,000,000 = 5.66 grams

.25% when used in Calculations = 156 ppm 
2267.96 * .25% = 5.66 grams

I have come across some recipes that seem problematic. In other words I thought the amount of Cure (Sodium Nitrite) given in a given recipe was a little high. Generally speaking most recipes do not list percentages as it relates to the meat weight. Most people don't care either but if you are like me, well you want to know everything. 

The calculation below will allow you to reverse engineer the recipes to determine the Cure in PPM. If the recipe is a dry cure recipe I.E. like Bacon it's easy just use the meats weight. If it's a brine version (immersion) add the meat and water together used for the recipe. I.E meat weight 4000 grams + 9 kg of water = 14000 grams

Just reverse the math to figure out the PPM. 

Example below

5.66 grams * 0.0625 = .35375 grams Amount of Sodium Nitrite
(.35375 * 1,000,000) / 2267.96 = 155.97 PPM

Equilibrium Curing

What is Equilibrium curing and why should you use this system? Simply put Equilibrium curing (dry cure or Brining) uses precise amounts of salt which is expressed as a percentage of the meats weight. Using this method eliminates any possibility of over salting or over curing meat. By applying a precise amount of salt the product will never become over-salted regardless of time spent curing. I calculate the amount of salt I need for a given recipe and rub it all over the meat making sure I get it into every nook and cranny. Again applying a precise amount of salt the product will never become over-salted regardless of time spent curing. 

So the next obvious question is how long do does it take for the meat to absorb the salt? I can't give you a definitive answer but will tell you what has worked for me. 

This is a guideline and not a hard and fast rule. It takes about a week to for the salt to absorb into one inch of meat. For dry-brining salt will absorb 1/4 inch per day from both sides of the meat. 

Everything I cure needs (always) at least 2 weeks. For really large thick cuts I will go 3 weeks (and sometimes maybe 1-3 days more). If I think it needs more than 3 weeks I will inject/pump using a brine at 200 ppm. More on this later. 

For dry-curing the product will be vacuumed sealed and flipped every day. The great thing about vacuum sealing is the brine the meat creates in the bag is always in contact with the meat. 

In equilibrium brining (only use 156-200 ppm) the product is submerged or encapsulated inside a bag which ensures full contact with brine. During this time the salt and cure are absorbed into the meat via osmosis and diffusion. Calculating amount of cure needed for a given recipe is based on the weight of meat plus the weight of the water used in the brine. You will have to decide what ratio of water to meat you want. Higher the ratios of meat to water will yield a slightly faster cure. 

Here are some examples. Let's say you want to do a brisket and will use a ratio of 2:1 the calculation would look like this... Weigh the Brisket using grams which is 3200 grams in our example and add half the weight in water which is 1600 grams.  The number that would be used in the calculation would be 4800 grams.  

Here's a couple more.  1:1 ratio would be 1000 grams of meat to 1000 grams of water = 2000 grams. 

3:1 would be 4500 grams of meat to 1500 grams of water = 6000 grams

4:1 would be 1000 grams of meat to 250 grams of water = 1250

Note: I find that brining takes up to much room in the refrigerator so I elect to dry-cure everything. I will elect to use a combination cure if I find the need because the meat is to large for the dry cure to penetrate in a 21-24 day period. I will create a 4:1 brine (200 ppm) and inject enough brine to equate to 5-10% of the weight of the meat. I.E if the product weighs 1000 grams I will inject a 50-100 grams into the very center mass. Or I will split the dry cure by spitting it into thirds. I might take 2/3's of the dry cure and combine with water and inject evenly and take remaining cure and rub into meat. I am targeting those areas where I believe a dry cure will not be penetrate after X amount of time. After the injection I dry cure as normal. Yes, not exactly a science but it works nonetheless. 

"Equilibrium brining is a method of brining that makes it impossible to over-salt or over-cure meat when using a reasonable percentage of salt and the proper amount of cure. In equilibrium brining the submerged meat and the cover brine (or cover brine and injected brine, in larger pieces of meat) act as a single system and are considered a single unit when calculating salt, sugar and cure amounts. Over time, the ingredients in the brine migrate into the meat until levels in the meat tissue and in the brine are balanced via osmosis and diffusion. Therefore, the calculation for ingoing salt, sugar and cure is based on the weight of the meat plus the weight of the water or other liquid used in the brine." Martin Fisher

Why I use Dextrose for my Bacon...
Chemical action of curing

Salt inhibits the growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms by drawing water out of microbial cells through osmosis. As the unwanted bacterial population decreases, other beneficial bacteria, primarily of the Lactobacillus genus, come to the fore and generate an acidic environment (around 4.5 pH). The sugar included in the cure is used as food by the lactobacilli; generally dextrose is preferred over sucrose, or table sugar, because it seems to be more thoroughly consumed by the bacteria. This process is in fact a form of fermentation, and, in addition to reducing further the ability of the spoilage bacteria to grow, accounts for the tangy flavor of some cured products. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of unwanted bacteria.xxxSmoking adds chemicals to the surface of an item which affect the ability of bacteria to grow, inhibit oxidation (and thus rancidity), and improve flavor.

Don't be confused!!! differences between Cure # 1 and Cure # 2
Prague Powder #1
Also called Insta-Cure and Cure #1. Cures are used to prevent meats from spoiling when being cooked or smoked at low temperatures. This cure is 1 part sodium nitrite (6.25%) and 16 parts salt (93.75%) and are combined and crystallized to assure even distribution. As the meat temperature rises during processing, the sodium nitrite changes to nitric oxide and starts to ‘gas out’ at about 130 degrees F. After the smoking /cooking process is complete only about 10-20% of the original nitrite remains. As the product is stored and later reheated for consumption, the decline of nitrite continues. 4 ounces of Prague powder #1 is required to cure 100 lbs of meat. A more typical measurement for home use is 1 level tsp per 5 lbs of meat. Mix with cold water, then mix into meat like you would mix seasonings into meat. And for Parts Per Million read above.

Prague Powder #2
Used to dry-cure products. Prague powder #2 is a mixture of 1 part sodium nitrite, .64 parts sodium nitrate and 16 parts salt.  It contains 6.25% sodium nitrite, 4% sodium nitrate, and 89.75% table salt.

(1 oz. of sodium nitrite with .64 oz. of sodium nitrate to each lb. of salt.)It is primarily used in dry-curing Use with products that do not require cooking, smoking, or refrigeration. This cure, which is sodium nitrate, acts like a time release, slowly breaking down into sodium nitrite, then into nitric oxide. This allows you to dry cure products that take much longer to cure. A cure with sodium nitrite would dissipate too quickly.

Use 1 oz. of cure for 25 lbs. of meat or 1 level teaspoon of cure for 5 lbs. of meat when mixing with meat.

When using a cure in a brine solution, follow a recipe. 

What Are They? How Do They Compare?
Sodium Erythorbate is an antioxidant that is the sodium salt of erythorbic acid (produced by fermentation of food grade starch). In the dry state, it is non-reactive, but when mixed with water, it reacts with atmospheric oxygen and other oxidizing agents. In meat curing, it controls and accelerates the nitrite curing reaction and maintains the color brightness. It is used in frankfurters, bologna, and cured meats. Sodium Erythorbate should always be added when using curing salt (nitrites/nitrates). This is because, when used in sausages, the processing time can be cut down (up to one-third), as the erythorbate accelerates the rate of curing by breakdown the nitrite and speeding up the setting of the pink colour pigment.
The antioxidant properties of erythorbate helps prevent rancidity, and prevents colour fading of sliced meats.
Sodium Erythorbate is a more stable product compared to sodium ascorbate, and has the identical antioxidant effect.
Usage levels will range from 0.04% - 0.15%. Suggested use amounts for sausage, corned beef = 55 grams / 100 kg of meat; for hams = 250 gram/100 litre of pickle.
Sodium Ascorbate
Sodium Ascorbate is an antioxidant that is the sodium form of ascorbic acid. In water, it readily reacts with atmospheric oxygen and other oxidizing agents. It has the same qualities as Sodium Erythorbate, but with added Vitamin C.
1 part Sodium Ascorbate = 1.09 parts Sodium Erythorbate
Ascorbic Acid
Ascorbic Acid is also known as Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin. It is more reactive, and more difficult to blend with other ingredients. Market price is generally 20 - 25% higher than Sodium Erythorbate.

1 part Ascorbic Acid = 1 part Sodium Erythorbate

Curing Calculator 

Us Metric Conversion Spread sheet

Universal Cure Calculator 

Metric Converter Ounces/Grams etc 

Purchase Gram Scale

All About curing Meat

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Curing Fact Info


More on Brining

Safe Jerky Made at Home

Food Safety Hazards and control for the Home Cook

North Dakota State University Publications on Making Jerky Safe.

FSIS Compliance Guideline for Meat andPoultry Jerky

Processing Parameters Needed to Control Pathogens in Cold-Smoked Fish

Suggested Reading

Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages
by Stanely Marianski

The Art of Fermented Sausages

by Stanley Marianski 

Meat Smoking and SmokeHouse Design

by Stanley Marianski