How to Use Salt and Smoke to Cure Meat

Salt and smoke curing has been around for eons and still makes for some of the best meat and fish. Here at BBQ Island, you will be able to achieve some of the tastiest meats for your family on any one of our electric, gas, pellet or charcoal smokers. You can salt, smoke or process meat and fish using both methods at the same time. 

Regardless of the method you choose, the meat or fish must be fresh. Never try to cure something that has started to turn.

Curing with Salt

If you have ever wondered how country hams could stay hanging in the store for what seems like forever, now you know – and will be able to make your own country hams. You can also salt other types of meat, fish, and even vegetables! 

When curing with salt, you need to use the correct type of salt and the correct amount. The salt should be pure and not contain iodine or other chemicals. Additionally, the FDA recommends using nitrate and nitrite in your salting process, though not necessary, especially since those chemicals can cause severe sickness and possibly death if you use too much.

Without enough salt or brine, the food could grow dangerous organisms or could spoil prematurely. To properly cure roasts, a whole pig, hams and other meats, cut slits down to the bone. Pack the slits with the curing salt. Place the meat on a tray lined with about ½ inch of salt and spread the salt over the meat. 

Keep it in a cool place – less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit – for 18 days. If the meat is firm, it’s ready to smoke. If the meat is not firm, you'll need to cure it more, unless you are going to freeze it or cut it up and eat it right away. You may use a dry salt rub or a brine to soak the meat.

Curing with Smoke

When you decide to smoke meat or fish, you have a choice: hot or cold smoking. Hot smoking uses a higher temperature and takes less time. However, if you want something to last longer, you should cold smoke it.
Hot Smoking uses an enclosed box that holds the smoke and heat inside. The food is actually cooked using this method. Fish will last for about a week at room temperature while meats may only be left out for a few days. The smoker should be at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes to ensure that you kill pathogens and parasites.

Cold Smoking is done in a smoker, but it uses a temperature under 100 degrees. Use fruit wood or hardwood chips and smoke for several hours. The ideal temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit for no less than 12 hours, and preferably 24 hours. However, this temperature is in the danger zone, so you should only smoke cured meat, such as salt-cured meat and fish. Favorite woods to use include apple, mesquite, maple and hickory. 

Be sure you don't use any wood that is poisonous such as yew, buckeye, rhododendron, black locust and other woods. Also stay away from wood such as pine, fir, redwood and cedar to avoid a bitter taste in the meat.

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