Curing salts are used in food preservation to prevent or slow spoilage by bacteria or fungus. Generally they are used for pickling meats as part of the process to make sausage or cured meat. Curing salts are generally a mixture of table salt and sodium nitrite. They usually contain sodium nitrite which serves to inhibit the growth of bacteria, specifically Clostridium botulinum in an effort to prevent botulism, and helps preserve the color of cured meat. Many also contain red dye that makes them pink to prevent them from being confused with common table salt. Not to be confused with Himalayan pink salt which is pure salt with trace elements that give it the pink color.
There are many types of curing salts often specific to a country or region.
Prague Powder #1
One of the most common curing salts. It is also called Insta Cure #1 or Pink curing salt #1. It contains 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% table salt. It is recommended for meats that require short cures and will be cooked and eaten relatively quickly. Sodium Nitrite provides the characteristic flavor and red color associated with curing.
Prague Powder #2
Also called Pink curing salt #2. It contains 6.25% sodium nitrite, 4% sodium nitrate, and 89.75% table salt. The sodium nitrate found in Prague powder #2 gradually breaks down over time into sodium nitrite, and by the time a dry cured sausage is ready to be eaten, no sodium nitrate should be left. For this reason it is recommended for meats that require long (weeks to months) cures, like hard salami and country ham.
Another name for potassium nitrate, saltpeter has been a common ingredient of salted meat since the Middle Ages, but its use has been mostly discontinued due to inconsistent results compared to more modern nitrate and nitrite compounds. Even so, saltpeter is still used in some food applications, such as charcuterie. Not to be confused with Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter which is sodium nitrate.
- Sárraga, C.; Gil, M.; Arnau, J.; Monfort, J. M.; Cussó, R. (1989). "Effect of curing salt and phosphate on the activity of porcine muscle proteases". Meat Science (Elsevier Science) 25 (4): 241–249. doi:10.1016/0309-1740(89)90042-9.
- Bitterman, M. (2010). "Salt Reference Guide". Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes. Random House. p. 187. ISBN 1580082629. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
- Gisslen, W. (2006). "Sausages and Cured Foods". Professional Cooking, College Version. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. p. 827. ISBN 9780471663744. Retrieved 2013-08-16.