Are cured meats safe to eat?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question, “Are cured meats safe to eat?”. We will discuss the risks and benefits of eating cured meats. We will also look at why meat is cured.

Are cured meats safe to eat?

Yes, it is safe to eat limited amounts of cured meats. Cured meats have been associated with many health risks because of the chemicals used in the curing process. However, there will be major risks only if you eat cured meats regularly and in large quantities.

Why is meat cured?

Meat is cured as a method of long-term preservation.

Cured meat is created through osmosis, which removes water from the meat and draws out any toxic microorganisms. The majority of methods call for a combination of salt and naturally or artificially generated nitrates to control water loss and preserve color, flavor, and lifespan.

Cured meat is created through osmosis, which removes water from the meat and draws out any toxic microorganisms. The majority of methods call for a combination of salt and naturally or artificially generated nitrates to control water loss and preserve color, flavor, and lifespan.

There are two types of methods used to cure meats: wet and dry. The fundamental distinction is that wet curing uses a liquid brine, whereas dry curing does not. To ensure that the meat is safe to consume, all methods for curing meat need the salt solution to enter the whole piece of flesh. Duration, humidity, warmth, and spices are some of the additional aspects that help to develop flavor during curing.

What are the chemicals used in cured meats?

Sodium chloride

The most basic curing ingredient is sodium chloride. The following are the major activities of salt during curing:

  • It keeps meat fresh by preventing bacterial growth.
  • It gives meat products a basic flavor.
  • It reacts with fats and adds flavor to the food.
  • It has a preservation effect because it inhibits bacteria growth.

Nitrites and Nitrates

Most of the negative effects of cured meats are because of these salts.

N-nitroso chemicals are cancer-causing agents that are known to be involved in some of the bad effects of eating cured meats. They’re made of nitrite (sodium nitrite), which is commonly found in processed meats.

For three reasons, sodium nitrite is used as an additive:

  • To keep the meat’s red/pink color.
  •  To enhance the flavor by inhibiting fat oxidation (rancidification).
  • To prevent bacteria from growing, improve flavor, and reduce the danger of food poisoning.

The largest dietary intake of nitrosamines is cured meat. Polluted water, cigarette smoke, and pickled and salted foods are some of the other sources 

When cured meat products are subject to high heat (over 130°C), as when frying or grilling, nitrosamines are generated. Nitrosamines could play a significant role in the development of bowel cancer.

Sugar

Sugar is an important element in the curing process. The following are the primary activities of sugar in curing:

  • It balances out the abrasiveness of salt.
  • It gives the product its distinctive flavor.
  • It promotes water retention and, as a result, cooking yield.
  • It gives bacteria energy to turn sodium nitrate into sodium nitrite, which speeds up the curing process.
  • It acts as a substrate for the production of acid, lowering the pH of the cure.

What are the risks of eating cured meats?

  • Several types of cancer have been related to nitrates and nitrites. The amount contained in cured meats is usually low. However, if you’re subject to migraine headaches, you should generally avoid cured meats because nitrates and nitrites might be migraine triggers.
  • Most cured meats are rich in sodium because curing involves adding salt to preserve food. High salt levels have been connected to high blood pressure and an increased risk for heart diseases and strokes. Even if you don’t have a hypertension problem, eating high-salt meats can lead to weight gain.
  • To be on the safe side, always buying cured meats of a higher quality with fewer chemicals, preservatives, and artificial components are worth the extra money. That’s all the more incentive to keep it as a “treat” rather than a normal meal.

What are the benefits of curing meats?

  • Curing meats extends the shelf life and gives the dish a rich, otherwise impossible flavor. It has a salty flavor that a lot of consumers enjoy.
  • It also softens the meat and enhances the flavor.
  • Cured meats are ideal for last-minute meal preparations, but it’s also a good option for individuals who live in houses with limited kitchen facilities.
  • Curing ensures the product’s microbiological safety by preventing food poisoning caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria.
  • Larger chunks of meat can be cooked or served just after they’ve been cured.
  • Cured meats are less rancid due to the nitrites.

Here’s how you can cure meat at home.

Other FAQs about Meat that you may be interested in.

What happens if meat gets freezer burn?

Can you eat ox?

Can you cook a frozen roast in the oven? (3 Types of Roast)

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question, “Are cured meats safe to eat?”. We discussed the risks and benefits of eating cured meats. We also looked at why meat is cured.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.

References

CURING AND SMOKING

Why Processed Meat is Bad For You

How Healthy Are Cured and Processed Meats?

Everything You Need to Know About Cured Meats