Updated: Oct 12, 2022
The simple answer? Curing is a process of meat preservation. We have used curing methods to preserve meats ever since man first began to consume meat. In the days when man was simply a hunter and gatherer, it was necessary to preserve meat to be able to consume it later. Unlike these days when we can simply order meat online, fresh meat was not a readily available resource for stone-age humans. The idea behind curing was originally to slow down spoilage of meat and prevent the growth of microorganisms. Each method of curing imparts unique properties to the meat, ultimately affecting the taste. Let's take a look at some common forms of curing and how it affects the final product.
Dry curing has been in use since the 13th century. It is a process often used to cure ham, bacon and smaller cuts of meat. The most well-known method of dry curing is curing the meat with salt. To cure meat with salt, cover it entirely in salt and let it sit for a whole day. This method adds flavour, rapidly removes water from the meat and slows down the development of bacteria. This method can be extremely simple for anyone to follow, but many people say that it wastes far too much salt. If you wish to dry cure your meat yourself, be sure to wash it to get rid of the excess salt before cooking.
Wet curing is also known as brining and requires the meat to be submerged in a salty solution along with nitrates and or other flavours for a set period of time. Brining can also mean that the meat is injected with a curing solution to add a smoky flavour to it. Injecting the meat is generally carried out in a commercial setting as doing so manually makes it difficult to get the mixture of salt and brine just right.
Smoking meat is a method of curing that dries the meat through the chemicals present in the wood. Since smoke is antimicrobial and antioxidant, it is a great method of preserving food. Both hot and cold smoking methods can be used to cure meat through smoking.
If you want to eat a chicken sausage or a chicken salami today, you can simply order it from artisanal butchers such as Kaavo Meat. However, not many are aware of just how their meat was processed and whether or not it has been cured or processed before they get the meat. The process of curing can affect the taste and consistency of your meat, making it an important part of the type of meat you are consuming. Buy fresh or cured meat only from trusted sources to ensure that you get safe and quality meat.