confused about nitrites/nitrates prague salt #1 or 2 for curing

Discussion in 'Curing' started by expat smoker, Feb 10, 2013.

  1. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    My head is spinning with all the different info I'm reading and I have to admit that I am confused about all the contradictory information on curing meat for smoking.  some say 'always use prague salt, some don't even mention it, and I have a friend , who is a locally famous 'meisterbrief' [German certified meat processor] who told me simply add 5 grams of nitrate to 1 kilo of salt [less than .5%?] and no problem.
    I look at the ingredients on Prague Pink powder and it is simply 6.75% nitrates and the other 93.25% is salt.
    Then I hear that unless I use prague salt, then I'm flirting with disaster.  
    Now if Prague salt is that simple, then why can't I make it myself with the chems that I can get at a local chemical supply shop??  easy to mix and I usually put the dry cure mix in the blender to get the lumps out of the salt and in the hopes that it mixes the salt/sugar/nitrates.
    This has probably been discussed many times before, but my searching hasn't found it, so please forgive me for asking and please enlighten me about this simple basic part of curing.

    My last few attempts with a dry cure that ends up being wet after a day in the fridge were 1k salt, 1k brown sugar, 5 grams sodium nitrate, and my secret that I'll pepper, cloves and zest of orange and all my family and friends approved [and are still alive].
    Thanks in advance
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  2. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  3. What exactly are you trying to cure and for how long?
    Where are you located?

  4. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    Location ...Thailand, therefore hard to get western items and have to DIY with the things that you take for granted.

    Just started curing and have graduated to smoking a few weeks ago....curing mostly pork belly bacon and occasionally chicken.
  5. Can you get food-grade sodium nitrate and/or sodium nitrite?

    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  6. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    Is there much of a difference??
  7. Yes, there's a big difference.
    The course of action you can take is going to depend on what's available to you, it's a waste of time to babble about something that's irrelevant.
    I'd look into it and see if you can get either or both in food grade form, from trusted supplier!

    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  8. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    Thanks Martin for your concern and input.   I called the friend that is giving me the chem and asked him that question and his reply was that he wasn't exactly sure if it was 'food grade' or not, but has been using it for a few years and several smokes with no problems.  Made me feel like I was looking a gift horse in the mouth.

    The reality is that this may be the only game in town, as the hardest thing about living in Thailand is sourcing simple things.

    I'll google around and try to find the difference between food grade and non food grade nitrates/nitrites......unless anyone out there can tell me how to identify and what the ill effects might be.  Sorry for my ignorance, but I'm new at this and trying to source in a country that speaks little English and will tell you 'yes it is food grade' if you ask.......still a nice place to retire.

  9. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    What part of Thailand are you in Jack?
  10. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    Up north in the ricefields outside of Chiang Mai.....are you in the land of smiles??
  11. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    Just spent the whole hot day in the city going to 3 chemical supply shops as well as a restaurant supply shop and finally found a supplier of nitrites and nitrates and she says 'food grade' and confirmed by my sausage maker friend.  So, now what do I do?? I've heard that the standard over here is 5 grams of nitrite to 1 kilo of salt, which is far from the 67.5 grams of nitrite to 1 kilo to make a mix similar to pink salt.  Someone please inform me asap because I just bought 3 kilos of beautiful pork belly for bacon and I'm hot to smoke.....

    PS Dan, I just sent a pm off to 'Thailandphil' and will try to catch the chat tomorrow morning......thanks.
  12. z
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
  13. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I posted this before to your question about making your own curing salts:

    In the first recipe it is simply sodium nitrite and salt, 1 oz. to 1 lb., mix thoroughly.

    This is used for short - time curing, under 30-45 days, for hams, bacons, cured sausages for smoking and cooking.

    This is equivalent to Cure #1.  Cure #1, Instacure, Prague Powder no. 1,  etc., a mixture of 93.75% salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite - they are all the same. 

    The second recipe is for long - cure sausages that require fermenting instead of cooking, cured and dried for months.  This is salt, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate; the nitrate breaks down over a longer period of time into sodium nitrite for months of curing action.  The sausages, such as salami, pepperoni, etc. is smoked and dried for months, reducing moisture vs. hot-temp cooking.  It takes special equipment, curing chamber controlling the humidity and temperature precisely, allowing a mold to form, etc. to be successful at this type of curing.

    This is equivalent to Cure #2.

    The third recipe is for a curing mix like Morton's Sugar Cure with added salts and sugars.

    What you want is Cure #1 for curing hams and bacons and is relatively easy to make once you've located a source of food grade nitrite.  No nitrate is needed as it takes longer cure times - months - for it to break down and be effective.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
  14. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    CURES - Cures are used in sausage products for color and flavor development as well as retarding the development of bacteria in
    the low temperature environment of smoked meats.
    Salt and sugar both cure meat by osmosis. In addition to drawing the water from the food, they dehydrate and kill the bacteria that make food spoil. In general, though, use of the word "cure" refers to processing the meat with either sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate.
    The primary and most important reason to use cures is to prevent BOTULISM POISONING (Food poisoning). It is very important that any kind of meat or sausage that will be cooked and smoked at low temperature be cured. To trigger botulism poisoning, the requirements are quite simple - lack of oxygen, the presence of moisture, and temperatures in range of 40-140° F. When smoking meats, the heat and smoke eliminates the oxygen. The meats have moisture and are traditionally smoked and cooked in the low ranges of 90 to 185° F. As you can see, these are ideal conditions for food poisoning if you don't use cures. There are two types of commercially used cures.

    Prague Powder #1
    Also called Insta-Cure and Modern Cure. Cures are used to prevent meats from spoiling when being cooked or smoked at low temperatures (under 200 degrees F). 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 temperate 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.

    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. (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.
  15. Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  16. FWIW, here are the limits set forth by the gods at the USDA as far a commercial curing goes.

    Last edited: Feb 14, 2013
  17. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    OK, got it sorted out for now.  I connected thru this forum with 'Thailandphil', who coincidentally lives close to me and he kindly offered me a bag with enough cure for a couple of months at the rate that I am using it now.  In the mean time, I finally located a company down south in Thailand that sells an Australian version of pink salt at a reasonable cost and they will airmail it to me.....when they have it in stock next week. 

    Thanks for all your input and patience with my panic newbie questions.


  18. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Cool Jack....liking forward to your pic's of cured stuff!
    BTW Phil is a heck of a nice guy.
  19. expat smoker

    expat smoker Smoke Blower

    yea, he's a good guy and set me straight on a few things and we had a lot in common.Thanks for the intro Dan.
  20. z
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013

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