Sugar Free Curing?

Discussion in 'Curing' started by eggieroe, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. It seems like all recipes for curing brines include some form of sugar.  I try to adhere to a low-carb, minimally processed diet, so I'd love to be able to cure things without it.  Is this a necessary ingredient for safety or is it merely for taste?
  2. c farmer

    c farmer Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Its just for taste.  It helps cut the salty taste down.  From my understanding.
  3. It is not a must. Some people like the sweet hint with bacon, salmon, etc. Others use sugar to counteract some saltiness.

    I don't use sugar in my cures.
  4. daveomak

    daveomak OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I keep reading sugar is necessary....   Can't find a reason....  Maybe because it is hygroscopic and keeps water in the meat for the salt and cure to work...   Darned if I know.....  Even 100+ years ago, sugar was a must...    Morton's TQ has sugar in it.....

    For controlling the amount of sugar and carbs...  use cure #1...  I add 1% sugar to my curing stuff...  if you eat a pound of meat, there is only 4.5 grams of sugar in that pound at 1% sugar....

  5. I am not aware of any scientific study showing meats cured with sugar are safer than those without. I will gladly retract my statements if presented with one.

    Sugar in savory dishes and cured products is mainly a New World thing.

    Classic cure recipes from 100+ year ago from Eastern Europe don't have sugar in the ingredients list. Back then sugar was only use for deserts, moonshine and fruit preserves.

    P.s. sugar is good to kick-start bacterial cultures in sausages. I use it for that but not to cure.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  6. Sugar is hygroscopic, a bit. A little sugar enhances browning, too. It is just for taste in most things (takes some of the "bite" out of the salt), but it is essential for fermented sausages like salami and even summer sausage. It feeds the bacteria that produce the lactic acid. Without sugar (glucose or dextrose rather than sucrose) the Lactobacillus don't take off, it takes too long to get the pH down and you run a real risk of really bad bugs (Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli) growing instead. It can have chemical effects, also. I used to make jerky with a 50:50 brown sugar/soy sauce marinade, and if you leave it in too long, you get really dark, caramelized, brittle jerky with almost no meat texture left to it. With only soy sauce, it just gets saltier.

    The problem I am having is my wife is allergic to corn, so dextrose is out. I need to find a non-corn alternative.
  7. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Stevia maybe?  However, it's a LOT sweeter than sugar...
  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver OTBS Member

    I use TQ and added Brown Sugar when I cure things.

    I don't know the science of it---I just started using that stuff when I started curing about 7 years ago.

    I never get anything that's too salty, and I never taste any Sugar, so I just keep using the same amounts.

  9. wade

    wade OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi EggieRow. 

    You specifically mention about using it in a curing brine and so I am assuming that this is an immersion brine. 

    There is no SINGLE ingredient in a brine that is essential as it will depend on the end product that you are trying to achieve with the brine - although by definition most "brines" do contain salt.

    If you were brining, say, your Thanksgiving turkey you are mainly doing this to enhance the flavour and texture and not to act as a preservative. In this case the meat remains chilled while it is in the brine and remains so until it is cooked and eaten. In this situation you can put whatever you like in the brine (that you are prepared to eat) and it will be purely be for flavour and down to your individual pallet. Salt is usually used though as it helps the meat take up and then retain water whilst it is cooking making it a more tender. 

    If you were using the brine as a "cure" then you would need to be more aware of the preservative nature of each of the brine components and how they work before you consider deviating from a recipe.

    The primary curing agent is the Salt and this works in two ways. In sufficient concentrations this will remove water from the bacteria cells thus inhibiting their growth or causing them to die. When used in a dry brine salt will also also draw out water from the meat cells, reducing the overall available water (Water Activity) of the final product. This reduction of available water in the meat also inhibits bacterial growth.

    As has been said above, the sugar is not a requirement but is mainly there to balance the salt taste. Sugar does also have an antibacterial effect under certain conditions as it will bind free water within the meat thus making it unavailable for bacteria to use. In an immersion brine though this minor preservative effect will be swamped by the significant increase of water in the meat taken up from the brine itself (up to about 10%). Unless you take subsequent steps to reduce the overall water content of the meat, any preservative effect of the sugar will be negligible and it is mainly there for flavour and to balance the taste of the salt.

    You did not mention Nitrite/Nitrate but I will, as this is also an optional component of a brine depending on what you are trying to produce. If you are looking to store the resulting product at room temperature or for more than about 10 days refrigerated or the production process involves periods where it will not remain chilled (e.g. being smoked) then you WILL generally need to add Nitrite/Nitrite as a protection against anaerobic spores like Botulinum, however for products that are processed and stored chilled with a short shelf life then it is optional. Even if not added for its preservative properties the Nitrite is sometimes added simply for generating a distinctive ham/bacon flavour.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
  10. I use Stevia in my brines. I've used it for bacon, ven pastrami, (w cure #1).
    Brined chickens overnight (no cure), with great results. I do think its sweeter than sugar, so I cut the amount. If my brine calls for 1 cup sugar, I'll use 2/3 cup stevia.

Share This Page