What is the issue with Nitrates?

Discussion in 'Bacon' started by pyro50, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. pyro50

    pyro50 Newbie

    Been reading the Bacon cure discussions and there is a wealth of informative posts out there, thanks guys.

    One thing I couldn't find (forgive me if i missed it) is the logic behind the USDA's guideline against Nitrates in bacon (or "anything fried" as someone put it).

    Is it carcinogenic(or more so than the other cures)? Or is there a greater risk for bacteria growth if used incorrectly?  Or????????

    I don't want to start the debate of one vs. the other again here, so.......JUST THE FACTS MA'AM!!! 
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  3. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    The USDA based their rule on how nitrates are converted to Nitrosamines when subject to high heat.  Since most people eat bacon crisp, fried they advise that Nitrates are not suitable to bacon curing.   This leads to many opinions about the dangers of nitrosamines, the amout of nitrosamines when using nitrates and so on.   DaveOmak is a wise man, I think I will take his advice and not offer my opinion.
  4. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  5. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Ya might try putting Nitrate  nitrates   nitrosomine in the handy dandy search tool.

    There was just a discsussion about this last week..


  6. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Gee,  if people don't ask questions the forum sure would get slow.   Pyro,  ask away,  we love chatting and helping new members!

    As you have seen this is one of those volatile issues and if you would like to continue the conversation in PM  feel free to contact me, but be warned,  I am biased.  Hehe
  7. danmcg

    danmcg Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    First off....Welcome to the forums, Pyro50

    Ok just the fact's;

    This is from the Marianski's book "Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages".

    Nitrate Safety Concerns

    "There has been much concern over the consumption of Nitrates by the general public. Studies have shown that when nitrites combine with by-products of protein (amines in the stomach), that leads to the formation of nitrosamines which are carcinogenic (cancer causing) in laboratory animals. There was also a link that when Nitrates were used to cure bacon and the latter one was fried until crispy, it helped to create nitrosamines. In order to accomplish that the required temperatures had to be in the 600° F (315° C) range. Most meats are smoked and cooked well below 200° F (93° C) so they are not affected. Those findings started a lot of unnecessary panic in the 1970’s about the harmful effects of nitrates on our health. Millions of dollars were spent, a lot of research was done, many researchers had spent long sleepless nights seeking fame and glory, but no evidence was found that when Nitrates are used within the established limits they can pose any danger to our health."

    Basically  I think the USDA's issue with nitrate is that when you have nitrate in a short term cure it might not be converted to nitrite and then to nitric oxide since it's dependent on bacteria to make the conversion and there's a good chance that when you get around to frying that bacon it might still have residual amounts of nitrate that could form nitrosamines that could cause cancer.

    Are they right to forbid it's use in commercial meat processing. Sure, The USDA always plays it safe with our food and with the use of cure accelerators now a days a meat plant can pump out a cured belly in a matter of hours so there is no call for the nitrate.

    Is it safe to use at home.........LOL no comment.......

    We here at SMF try to use the USDA's guideline as our reference for safety, so if it says no nitrates in the bacon then that's what some of use preach especially to the newbies. once you understand the process you can be you own judge.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011
  8. pyro50

    pyro50 Newbie

    I hate to perpetuate this, but I'm too damn technical for my own good at times

    I now understand the conversion of nitrates to nitrites with bacteria present in the meat, no questions there.  BUT, the real question now is that a little side bar chemistry research I've done has indicated that sodium nitrite can produce nitrosamines just as nitrate can when subjected to high heat.  So we're all screwed.  

    I've already talked myself out of this conversation... oh well, everything in moderation.  I'll take my chances.  I'm gonna go crack a beer and light the new AMNS.

    Thanks Gents.   
  9. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Yes it can,  but nitrites break down fairly fast and the concentration of nitrite in the meat after curing is low so you have less to make the nitrosamines meaning less nitrosamine.  Nitrates beak down slowly so there is more available to form the nitrosamines resulting in higher amounts
  10. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    They never could prove that it causes cancer....didn`t you know that everything causes cancer ....
  11. pyro50

    pyro50 Newbie

    Great break down, that makes sense in regard to nitrates being used for long term cures at higher-than-fridge temps.  Thanks Al.
  12. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    That is why we pay attention to cure times.  Most of us follow the information that nitrite takes three days to have it's effect on the raw belly.  Some of us will use the entire amount of cure, applied in one application and then allow the bellies to cure for 7 - 14 days.  This gives the nitrites time to break down, the flavors to meld and salt to be absorbed.    I use multiple applications and allow the belly to cure for slightly longer. 

    Glad we where able to help

  13. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Supposedly high heat is the issue.  But these folks tell us something different about every two years.

    Cook the food you like and enjoy it.  How long do you want to spend in the nursing home diapers anyway?  LOL

    Good luck and good smoking.
  14. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Your a funny guy Bear....[​IMG]
  15. chefrob

    chefrob Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    great info dan.....that's how i am understanding it.

    nice save bear!
  16. africanmeat

    africanmeat Master of the Pit OTBS Member

     I will treat this matter like a marriage .
  17. africanmeat

    africanmeat Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  18. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Not to stirrrrrr the pot, but aren't nitrates also used for long term curing?

    So, how would nitrates be OK for ham and not bacon?

    If nitrates need to hit 600° to be converted to nitrosamines, then what temp does bacon fry at?

    Our wonderful government warns people to eat some fish only (1) time per week, as it may contain low levels of Mercury.  Mercury will accumulate over time and can be harmful.

    I'm sure there are some fish that should never be eaten, and some that could be eaten every day. 

    The Feds throw out a blanket statement as a warning to eat fish in moderation.

    I view the statement on Nitrates the same way.  Food with Nitrates should be in moderation!

    Just My 2 cents

  19. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    I checked my burner on high with my infra-gun, and it was around 400˚.

    I don't burn my Bacon. If I want to do that, I'll use the grill, and eat the charcoal.

    States have a list of which fish are "never eat", "once a week", "twice a month", etc, etc.

    I think there's too much variance from state to state, for the Fed to do fresh water fish warnings.

    I think Fed has a seafood bulletin (international??).

    My 1 1/2¢  [​IMG]


    EDIT:  I forgot to mention, most of the State fish warnings have two categories. One for children, pregnant women, & women of child bearing age, and one for the rest of us.

    Naturally the rules are more strict for those women & kids.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2011

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