Second cure underway -- need confirmation

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by sundown farms, Oct 8, 2016.

  1. I am on the 7th day of a wet cure of pork for tasso. Have read a lot here and other places to stay safe but am bothered by how the meat was found this morning on the 7th day. This is my second try at curing and have read enough cautions to be a bit paranoid.

    BACKGROUND - Last Saturday, 10/1/2016 I trimmed a small piece of pork butt into 1/2"-3/4" pieces about 3" long with little fat and the total weight was 1690 grams. Poured in enough water to cover by about a 1/2" after moving the pieces around so the water is mixed in. Water and meat weight 2594 grams. Using cure calculator at  for 156 PPM nitrite for the 2594 grams mixed into the water. Using advice found here calculated the cure needed to have the right concentration once the cure was absorbed by the meat. So mixed the following until fully dissolved then added the meat.
    • 7 gms Cure #1 - Calculator said 6.47 but new Taylor scale is only to the nearest gram.
    • 46 gms Kosher Salt - Calculator said 45.81 for a 2% solution
    • 12 gms Sugar - Calculator said 25.94 for a 1% solution but that look like too much for us.
    • Put it all into The Briner Jr. and into the refer. Stirred every evening.
    My concern is that as the week past there seemed to be less free water/cure even though the lid to the Briner has been fully snapped on. This morning there is almost no free water so essentially all the water/cure has been absorbed into the meat. Given I am making tasso the next step is the heavy coat of seasoning, then dry it for a couple of hours with a fan, then slow smoke (in MES Gen 2.5) at ~150 for 2 hours then ~170 for the final two hours. Hopefully a lot of the water dries out but that leaves the higher concentration of cure in the meat. Given the weight of the water was 904 grams compared to the meat of 1690 if all the cure in the water remains in the meat then it will have about 50% more cure than expected. 

    Am I correct to be worried or over thinking this or ....????
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    The calculator you used is for dry curing.

    For wet curing you would use 1 TBS of cure to 1 gallon of water.

    Also equal parts of sugar & salt.

    I like to cut down on the salt so I use 1/4 cu salt & 1/2 cu sugar.

    Then you can add any spices you like.

  3. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  4. Thanks guys. But, I kept searching and continue to find good advice. The thread that speaks directly to the Martin's calculator is  where Martin says it can be used for "equilibrium" brine. What he describes is what I did byway of advice I found about weighing the water plus the meat to determine the cure needed. 

    My concern now is that there seemed to be less water at the end of the cure. The more I think about it the more I doubt that the pork absorbed some of the water. Could that be possible? As much as 50% with it submerged with a 1/2" cover?
  5. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    Where else would it go?
  6. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

     Nothing to worry about....   When the meat reaches 130 ish deg. F, the nitrite breaks down and up to 80-90 % has been degraded so the nitrite left in the meat should be around ~30 Ppm...  or so they say...   When I do Tasso, I use a dry rub and put the meat in a plastic baggie...  I will even add a TBS of liquid or so to facilitate the stuff absorbing into the meat...  Different cuts of meat absorb liquid at a different rates....   You added the correct amount of liquid, usually 50% of the weight of the meat, for a proper equilibrium cure...  

    It is a good thing you are aware enough to question the physics...   The next cut of meat you try, will absorb probably 5% of it's weight...  The same condition applies to all brine solutions.. It's the meat cut that makes the difference...
  7. Dave - A response you gave someone else made me realize I needed to weigh at least the water + meat and then calculate the needed cure. That gave me a lot of peace and then today to find Martin's post where he talked about an "equilibrium brine" (see link in my post above) nailed it for me. I am sure I have more cure/nitrite than recommended but a post by Chef JJ leads me to be sure I will not make anyone sick. Your response above makes me smile as I can add the rub I planned tonight and smoke it tomorrow. I also found an article on the web about how salt changes the molecular nature of the meat and allows water to be absorbed. That article is here. See myth no.1.

    Your info about the breakdown relative to temp is even more comforting. Many many thanks!!!
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
  8. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Food myths...  a good article.....  thanks......
  9. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Martins calculator is good for calculating a dry cure and so you would want all of the cure to be taken up if that was what you used. Belly pork will take up 10-15% of its weight of brine and so, depending on the size of the piece of pork and the size of your container it is not impossible that a noticeable amount could have been absorbed.

    Regarding Martins comment that "it can also be used to calculate the ingredients for an equilibrium brine, etc.", he does not give instructions on how he intends you to do this using the calculator and so you should avoid it. Most of the advice that Martin gives is very good but occasionally it can be a little ambiguous.
  10. With due respect to Martin I ask anyone that comes across this thread to look at posts 2, 10, 11, 12 and 13 at Martin explains in a way I understand the parameters of emersion brining/cure as an equilibrium process. I appreciate that he also cites his USDA source. 

    As I have come to understand the nitrite cure application process in either the wet or dry method what happens is the nitrites move into the meat from the liquid or "blanket" of dry material containing nitrites and other seasonings. At some point, the nitrites are evenly distributed between the source (liquid or dry) and the meat. The rule of thumb is 1/2" travel into the meat per day and then add a couple of days to be sure. I view the couple of added days as a way to be sure the nitrite distribution reached equilibrium and there is enough in the center--the longest travel path--to kill botulism.

    Clearly, there seems to be two methodologies followed. One builds a solution with a standard ratio of cure to liquid and cures the amount of meat that can be covered by the solution. The other method proportions the cure and other seasoning to the amount of meat plus the amount of water in the solution. 
  11. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes the USDA Processing Inspectors' Calculations Handbook is a good reference book and it has been around for a long time - although the USDA themselves concede that it still contains inaccuracies. It is a good source though for commercial curing information.

    When it comes to wet brining, most people I know simply use an equilibrium cure with a large volume of brine compared to the meat. I have not come across the 2:1 or 4:1 methods that he is referring to - but maybe they are methods that he has developed himself or maybe I have just not come across them before. I am sure that if they are used by others here then they will enlighten us further. Perhaps Dave Omak or Pops will have more information. 
  12. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    If you will notice Wade's previous 2 posts, he does not provide logical explanations or cite facts for his statements, only what "may be' deemed inaccuracies in others posts......   It's one of Wade's minor faults...

    Below are explanations from various sources...   Since this is not a "life threatening" methodology, the reader can determine which method he/she chooses...

    Equilibrium Brining


    Weigh the total amount of meat or seafood plus water. In general, use an amount of water equal to at least 50% of the weight of the meat.

    (The "at least 50%" number is questionable..  Some scholars recommend as low as 25%..  using that number, the meat must be bagged.. In doing so, the concentration of ingredients in the brine solution, become 500% stronger than the target for the meat..  Thus increasing the molecular "pressure" for equilibrium...)

    If you won't be vacuum packing the meat with the brine, then use enough water to submerge the meat.

    If the meat has a lot of bone, subtract the approximate weight of the bone.

    Calculate and Add the Salt Required

    (0.25% ((0.0025)) for cure #1 to achieve 156 Ppm nitrite)

    Calculate how much salt you need to add by multiplying the total weight from step 1 with the desired final concentration of salt. Then dissolve all of this salt, plus any other seasonings, into the water for your brine.

    For most meats and seafood, the final concentration of salt in the flesh should be between 0.25% and 2%. A higher salt concentration will help retain more juices during cooking and yield a firmer textured flesh.

    For delicate seafood we suggest 0.5–1%, for white meats 1.5–1.75%. Most tender cuts of red meat do best without brining, or very low concentrations where the brined texture goes unnoticed.

    This approach can also be used for wet-curing. Simply increase the salt concentration to between 2–4%.


    Brining and curing are diffusion processes, just like heating, that scale roughly with the square of the thickness: a piece of meat or seafood twice as thick will take four times as long for the brine or cure to penetrate. A thin cut can take a day or so, but a large roast can take weeks.

    Equilibrium brining is at least 20–30% slower than brining with a high concentration brine, for the same reason that cooking sous vide to equilibrium temperature is slower than traditional cooking techniques. But, just like sous vide cooking, the approach avoids the need to time things just right.

    Unlike cooking with heat, however, it's usually no big deal if a food is under-brined, whereas over-brined from too much salt is a much bigger deal than overcooked. Over-salted food is simply inedible, a pitfall of conventional brining that this strategy entirely avoids.

    The Effects of Brining

    Charged chloride ions from the dissolved salt in a brine will repel, destabilize, and unravel various proteins within the muscle fibers of meats and seafood. This is not altogether different than what cooking with heat also does to these proteins.

    The combination of dissolved salt and heat combine to increase the juiciness of flesh by drawing water in during brining and squeezing less of it out during cooking.

    Brined foods that are cooked have a telltale texture because the combination of salt and heat creates a firmer, more elastic gel than heating does alone. But avoid overdoing it, otherwise the flesh can become too firm and chewy, as well as too salty.

    Equilibrium Brine Procedure 
    1. Weigh out the meat you’ll be brining, along with the amount of water needed to completely submerge it.  I like to brine in un-sealed cryo bags which reduce the need to fill an entire squared off container; this method usually requires an amount of water about 30-40% the weight of the meat.

    2.  Once you have that total weight of the meat + water, determine your desired level of salt concentration.  Most likely you’d be looking for somewhere between 1%-2%, any less and it won’t have much effect, any more and it’ll be overly salty with a weird texture.  Multiply your total weight of meat plus water by the desired end concentration of salt, and add that weight in salt to the water, plus any spices you want to get in there.

    3.  Let the meat hang out in the brine long enough to establish equilibrium.  For big roasts like I make in this recipe, I usually let it go for 5 days.  Smaller pieces don’t need as long, sometimes a little as a day for little steaks.  The beauty of this technique is it’s impossible to over-brine - just don’t let it stay in there for weeks, as the brine itself starts to get a little weird at that point.

    And below is a thorough explanation from Stella Culinary....
  13. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Dave. I will not post his contact details in the open forum however I will happily provide you in PM the name, email address and phone number of the FSIS agent that told me this when we were researching a similar issue with one of Martins posts - where he was suggesting that injection strength brine was actually suitable for using as an immersion brine. It appears that the phrase that he was referring to in the handbook was actually one of these inaccuracies.


  14. Dave - Thanks for the links. The Stella Culinary site is fantastic. I also acknowledged in another thread that when you advised to compute the cure based on everything that went into the solution that clicked for me and I quit worrying about the dilution factor of the meat when added to the standard cure batches all made the same ratios. I had no doubt those worked but it bothered me anyway. Many thanks for your time to share the post above. I will confidently put my cured seasoned pork --that is now ham--in the smoker this afternoon and look forward to taking out tasso.

    Wade - Thanks for the link to your other post. I will read it closely and sure to learn.

    Having you two very experienced guys to talk with on a Sunday morning is a blessing.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2016
  15. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Martin is very knowledgeable...   You can trust Martin's work...  He does get badgered by folks that lack his level of expertise....

    Tom, you are spot on....   The small curing guys, like us, cure meats individually and use the "weigh it" method.....

    The big processors use a "batch method" when wet curing meat products...  

    I have seen the meat go through a "needle injecting" machine and inject a solution to say pork bellies...  they know from past testing, how much solution is "captured" inside the meat...  using their formulae, additional curing solution can be added and still be below the guidelines set by the USDA... 

    Prior to the needle injector, the meat is weighed in the tub...  After the injector, the meat is placed into a tub and additional solution is added to keep the meat submerged while it equilibrates in a cooler overnight...  That solution has been calculated for that specific tub of bellies to meet guidelines based on the % pick up in the meat from the injector....

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