Fundamentals of Meat Curing


(1) To show the functions of the various ingredients used in curing.

(2) To demonstrate the chemical reactions involved in the curing reaction.

(3) To acquaint the student with the various uses of the curing process in the meat industry.

Reading material: Principles of Meat Science (3rd ed.), Chapter 7, pages 133 to 171.

Curing — the addition of salt, sugar and nitrite or nitrate for the purposes of preservation, flavor and color.



  • Flavor
  • Antimicrobial
  • Enhances cure transport through meat


  • Flavor
  • Counteracts harshness of salt
  • Energy for bacteria that change NO3 —> NO2

Nitrite or nitrate

  • Flavor
  • Prevents warmed-over flavor
  • Retards rancidity
  • Cured-pink color
  • Anti-botulinal effect

The curing reaction

Myoglobin + nitric oxide –> nitric oxide myoglobin + heat –> nitrosyl hemochromogen

Generation of nitric oxide (NO)

Sodium nitrate (NaNO3) + Micrococcus aurantiacus –> sodium nitrite (NaNO2)

Sodium nitrite (NaNO2) + glucono delta lactone (GDL) –> nitrous acid (HONO)

Nitrous acid (HONO) + ascorbates and/or erythorbates –> nitric oxide (NO)

Present-day ingredients for “uncured” meats

  • Celery powder – natural source of nitrates/nitrites
  • Cherry powder – natural source of Vitamin C and used to speed up the curing reaction

Application of cure ingredients

Dry curing — the oldest way of curing meats. Curing ingredients are rubbed on the surface of the meat to be cured.

Stitch pumping — a long needle with multiple holes around the shaft is used. Needle is inserted into meat and the curing solution (in water) is pumped into the product.

Artery injection — a large needle with only one hole in it is inserted into the brachial or femoral artery and the cure solution is injected into the arterial system.

Needle injection — a machine with multiple needles that injects, automatically, meat cuts with the curing solution. The most common way meat is cured today

Amounts and times

Cure type Mixture Amount Time period
Dry cure 10-0-1 100 lb 5 weeks
Dry sugar cure 5-3-3 1 oz/lb 7 days/inch
Cover pickle cure 80° 9 days/inch
60° 12 days/inch
Injection cure (8 to 15%) 80° 7 days/inch
45° 9 days/inch
Combination cure 80° IC + CPC 4 days/inch
80° IC + DSC 2 days/inch
Industry cure (10 to 34%) 70° IC Smoke immediately

Alkaline phosphates

Sodium tripolyphosphate —> increase water-holding capacity.

Up to 5% of pickle, no more than 0.5% in finished product.

Protein-Fat Free (PFF) Basis — 1985

Product name Cooked ham, loin Cooked shoulder, butt, picnic Ham patties, chopped ham,

similar products

Common and Usual 20.5 20.0 19.5
(Common and Usual)

with Natural Juices

18.5 18.0 17.5
(Common and Usual)

Water Added

17.0 16.5 16.0
(Common and Usual) and Water Product — X% of Weight is Added Ingredients <17.0 <16.5 <16.0

A prerequisite for USDA label approval of (Product name) and water product — X% of weight is added ingredients is a USDA approved quality control program. The maximum percent of added ingredients in the finished product on a total weight basis would be inserted as the X value. For example: Ham and Water Product — 20% of Weight is Added Ingredients.


Percent Meat Protein
X 100
100 – Percent Fat


Total protein by analysis = 16.4
Less: Calculated protein added = -0.2
Meat protein = 16.2
Total fat by analysis = 10.0


X 100 = 18.0
100 – 10


Review of Material — What the student should know:

(1) The functions of salt, sugar, and saltpeter in meat curing.

(2) Various types of curing processes.

(3) Government regulations regarding PFF.

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