meta http-equiv=Content-Type content="text/html; charset=windows-1252"> When to Cure Meats: Smoking Meat, Making Sausage, Making Cheese, Making Jerky, Brewing Beer, Canning, Dehydrating

To Cure or Not to Cure

 

This is a very confusing issue for new sausage makers. When do you need a curing agent in your sausages? Its actually very simple but because the same terms are used interchangeably it can be confusing. So for the sake of simplicity lets re-define a few terms first;

 

Smoked - only adding smoke flavor but leaving meat raw with meats to be cooked later.

 

Cooked thoroughly cooking meats on a smoker to be eaten now or later.

 

Danger Zone - Bacteria, or other germs, need four things to thrive - time, food, moisture and the right temperatures. Bacteria, or other germs won't grow when the temperature of the food is colder than 41 F or hotter than 140 F. When foods are in temperatures range between 41F and 140F they are in the "Danger Zone." You need to keep potentially hazardous foods out of the "Danger Zone!" When food is left in the "Danger Zone", bacteria can grow fast, and become poisons that can make your family very sick.

 

 

Most sausages whether fresh or dry are smoked to add flavor.

Fresh sausages may be smoked to add flavor only at temperature not to exceed 90F.

For dry sausages, smoke to get the flavor you want, but again do not exceed about 90F. Once youve achieved the desired level a flavor you continue the drying the sausages with cool air.

The table below breaks down different types of sausages, whether or not they are smoked, cooked and require a cure. This may make it easier to see when cures are required and when they are not.

 

NOTE: These sausages are listed as they would customarily be prepared. Its up to you whether or not you choose to smoke them or not. Just remember that if the sausage is normally prepared fresh and you now decide to add smoke (not cook) for flavor you will want to add a cure.

 

Type

Slow Smoked

Fully

Cooked

Cure Needed

 

Fresh Sausage - Made from meats that have not been previously cured. This sausage must be refrigerated and thoroughly cooked before eating.

 

Examples include Italian Pork sausage, Chorizo, Linguisa, fresh Beef sausage, and the British Banger. The Jimmy Dean sausage we use for fatties falls into this category.

No

No

No

* This sausage does not require a cure.

 

Fresh Smoked Sausage - This is fresh sausage that is cold smoked. After smoking, the sausage can then be refrigerated and cooked thoroughly before eating. Examples include Mettwurst and Romanian sausage.

Yes

No

Yes

* This sausage does require a cure.

 

Cooked Sausage - Made with fresh meats and then fully cooked. The sausage is either eaten immediately after cooking or must be refrigerated and is usually reheated before eating. Examples include Hotdogs, Brats, Veal sausage and Liver sausage.

No

Yes

No

* This sausage does not require a cure.

 

Cooked Smoked Sausage - Much the same as cooked sausage, but it is cooked and then smoked, or smoke-cooked. It can be eaten hot or cold, but is stored in the refrigerator. Examples include hotdogs, Kielbasa and Bologna.

Yes

Yes

Yes

* This sausage does require a cure.

 

Dry Sausage - Made from a selection of meats. These are the most complicated of all sausages to make, as the drying process has to be carefully controlled. Once produced this type of sausage can be readily eaten, and will keep for very long periods under refrigeration. Examples include Salamis and Summer sausage.

No

No

Yes

* This sausage does require a cure.

 

 

From the table above you can see that there are generally three types of sausages that require cures. Using the new definitions and the table above lets try to figure out what the difference is and explain why we need to add cures to these three type of sausages.

 

With the exception of the dry sausages all sausages that are smoked but not cooked require a cure to be added. Why? Because they are smoked at low temperatures and remain in the danger zone for long periods of time.

 

Why do dry sausages require a cure? All sausages that are dried are not necessarily smoked but remain in the danger zone for long periods of time.

 

Why dont all cooked sausages require a cure? Sausages that are cooked are generally cooked at high temperatures and do not remain in the danger zone for long periods of time so they do not need to have a cure mixed in.

 

Why do hotdogs and bologna require a cure when they are cooked as well as smoked? Cured are added because these sausages are cooked or smoked slowly to prevent drying so once again they will remain in the danger zone for long periods of time.

 

I hope this clears up some of the mystery about when to add cures to sausages. When ever you have a doubt just ask yourself Will this meat be in the danger zone for long periods of time? If the answer is yes add a cure!

 

ENjoy!

 

 

 

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