Curing has long been used as a method to counter the limited shelf life of meat. In this brief discussion, we’ll dig deep into “How long does salt cured meat last?”, benefits of curing meat, meat curing methods, reason for prolonged shelf-life of salt-cured meat, different types of salt-cured meats and potential health implications of consuming salt cured meat.
How Long Does Salt Cured Meat Last?
The potential shelf life of cured meat varies depending upon the type of meat in question but in general salt cured meat can last from months to years. But there are a few storage requirements that need to be implemented properly to prolong the shelf life. These storage parameters are enlisted below:
- Store the meat in proper packaging material (plastic or paper)
- Store meat in appropriate packaging conditions (vacuum or air tight)
- Meat should be stored at a cool temperature (either in the fridge or in the refrigerator)
“Different salt-cured meat cuts require different cooling temperatures as well as different packaging parameters.”
Benefits of Curing Meat
Salt-Cured meat not only has a prolonged shelf-life as the sole benefit. A number of health and sensory benefits are also attributable to salt-cured meats. These include:
- Prevention from bacterial contamination
- Enhanced taste and flavor
- Preservation of the color
Meat Curing Methods
There are several methods for curing meats using salt, which are described briefly.
- Dry Curing
In this curing method, the cure mix is directly coated on the meat. The meat is then stored into a plastic food storage bag and tightly sealed. From there, put your meat in the refrigerator and let the curing process take place. After curing, the meat is rinsed to remove excess salt
This method of curing is best suited to cure hams, bacon and smaller meat cuts.
- Brine Curing
This method requires you to prepare a sweet pickle solution by combining salt and water. For this purpose, you must use a non-corrosive bowl, such as plastic or glass. To cure, inject the brine solution into the meat using a meat pump or soak the meat over a period of time. Place the meat in the refrigerator to allow curing.
- Combination Curing
This method is an amalgamation of the first two methods. Used to cure hams, this method shortens the curing time and reduces the risk of spoilage because the process takes place both inside and outside the ham. Refrigerate the meat to cure.
- Sausage Curing
The sausage curing method, unlike those previously described, is accomplished by mixing curing salts and spices with ground meat. The curing process is then done in the refrigerator.
Reason for Prolonged Shelf-Life of Salt-Cured Meat
Meats have always been criticized as one of the most easily spoiled foods. The reason behind this is the high moisture content of meats. Curing the meat with salt is an effort to reduce the water content of meat.
When meat is cured it’s coated with salt, and that kick-starts a process where all the moisture on the inside is drawn to the skin, where it evaporates. Where there’s no water, there’s no environment for bacteria to grow and thrive.
Types of Salt-Cured Meats
- The most familiar form of salt-cured meat is probably bacon, which is a preparation made by the curing pork belly with salt, sugar, and smoke, then slicing it crosswise into thin, narrow strips.
- Ham is made by taking the entire rear thigh of a hog and curing it with salt, sugar, smoke, and other seasonings. Some types of ham, such as prosciutto, are also air-dried for extended periods.
- Corned beef is another type of salt-cured meat, which is made by soaking a beef brisket in a liquid solution of salt, sugar, and spices called a brine.
- Other salt-cured meats include sausages such as salami and chorizo; pancetta (also made from pork belly); soppressata (made from pork thigh with red pepper and salt); liverwurst (a spreadable sausage made from pork and pork liver); and summer sausage (pork and beef).
Potential Health Implications of Salt-Cured Meat
Salt-cured meat is rich in sodium! The high sodium in salt-cured meats renders it rather unsuitable for some people who suffer from hypertension, chronic heart diseases and chronic kidney diseases. So, in such cases people need to be wary of the portion size of meat before consuming it.
In this brief, we answered the question: “how long does salt-cured meat last?” In addition, we highlighted benefits of curing meat, reason for prolonged shelf-life of salt-cured meat, different types of salt-cured meats and potential health implications of consuming salt cured meat.