Using nitrate/nitrite curing salt on brisket, chicken, and other meats?

Okay. So I finally tried out pink curing salt on brisket based on this Steven Raichlen recipe.

I cured this brisket in brine for 2 weeks and smoked it. If it’s smoked the cured brisket is pastrami and if I boil it in water, the brisket is now corned beef.

I thought it was a great way of keeping the brisket in the fridge for 2 weeks (or longer) without spoiling also while adding flavor.

I was just going to ask if anyone using pink curing salt for other meats (besides the usual salami) and if you can recommend any books, websites or resources?

I was thinking about trying it out on chicken, pork etc. just to preserve and add flavor.


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To add the flavor of … poison?

Be very careful with that stuff, it is toxic, not just another salt, not to be sprinkled on food as seasoning.

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Nitrite is used to prevent botulism

Everything is poisonous, just depends on the amount :wink:

Anyway OP’s question:
Best book in my opinion: Marianski’s home production book. Most can be found online
The forum belonging to it is real in depth

Make sure you understand what you are doing. I got Ruhlman’s first edition of charcuterie and I found a lot of errors. With other words, get any of the curing books but always check the calculations.

A book I really liked was/is charcuteria by jeffrey weissía-Soul-Spain-Jeffrey-Weiss/dp/1572841524


I’ve used both in curing whole meat charcuterie and some sausages. The main thumb-rule seems to be nitrite-containing salt (cure #1) for shorter term cures (and/or cure plus drying period), nitrate-containing salt (cure#2) only if the time is greater than about 30 days (the nitrates break down into nitrites over time).

In mid-term very watery brines, like in making your corned/pastrami with a 2-week curing period, or other similar length wet brines, I think the nitrite salt is useful to avoid potential overgrowth of bad bacteria. You’ll see food bloggers comments like, “You don’t need it because you’re going to cook it anyway”, which may not be correct. The bacteria can produce enterotoxins that survive the bacterial death-by-cooking and which can still make you sick. I found Raichlen’s recipe online and it calls for 8 days curing, plus his brine is a bit heavier on the salt [regular salt, I mean] than I normally do for corning, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about bacterial growth if I were following his recipe but leaving out the nitrite.

Lots of people who want to avoid using the nitrite salt in a corning type wet brine often just jack the regular salt another half percent and only brine for a week, which to me is fine for brining a flat (point may need a bit longer). It’s a dull gray color, though - not what people expect from corned or pastrami. And the flavor’s not quite on. I think there are natural additives for color if you want some pink in it - beet and cherry extracts I’ve seen mentioned, but I haven’t tried them. I made my dull gray pastrami once and went back to using cure #1.

A problem with wet brines and nitrite salts is I’ve seen recipes all over the map with respect to concentrations of the nitrite salt recommended. Generally speaking you want to be in the range of about 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Sometimes they’ll give you amount of pink salt and then instruct you to “use enough water to immerse” - sloppy. One website recommended 4X the right concentration (3 tablespoons based on her 3 quarts of water), and I and several others chimed in. She argued “Well I went back to the chef and he says it’s right”. We persisted and she consulted a food prof friend, who set her straight. She came back with a corrected recipe per the food prof’s suggestions. [Edit - like badjak said in a lot fewer words, “always check the calculations”.]

For dry applications, most sausages and for curing/drying whole muscle meats, if you see a recipe that is telling you to use more than about 0.25% nitrite containing salt by weight of the meat, see if can figure out why.

These guys are selling a cure they say works to reduce bacterial growth and is all nitrite- and nitrate free. I haven’t tried it.


Thanks for the info. I actually went I got the book “Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages” by Marianski and reading it now. It has a lot of background info about the process.

Hey. I’m not like a professional and was planning to casually dump in chicken/turkey legs, pork etc. along with the brisket in bucket of brine (salt + nitrite) and leave it to cure for 2 weeks.

Like…most/all harmful bacteria can’t survive the salt brine - I’m guessing - and so there’s no worry about cross contamination.

After 2 weeks, I’m going to bbq, hot-smoke the chicken, beef, pork etc., for a real feast of cured products


I’ll say that the notion of mixing a couple of kinds of poultry, beef and pork all in the same brine makes me a bit queasy. I wouldn’t do it just because I don’t know how the various potential pathogens might interact in such a soup.

But aside from the bugs, I want to warn you about texture. I have put poultry and also pork chops in a longer-term brine (separately) at approximate salinity levels typical for brining a corned beef (approximately 1 tbs salt/cup water = 1 cup salt/gallon water, as in Raichlen’s recipe).

Even at just 3 days brining time, I was very disappointed with the resulting texture. Chicken, turkey breast, and pork chops all turned out to have a very ham-like consistency once cooked. Rubbery/squishy like ham, I mean. I like that in ham, but not in chicken or other meats.

So if you’re going to try this, I’d suggest small batches at first and pull a piece each day and see what it’s like cooked. It might turn out you like the texture that results, but for my family it wasn’t the best.

FWIW, any time I go as long as 24-36 hours for large pieces of poultry (like a turkey) or a large bone-in pork roast, I halve the amount of salt to 1 tbs per 2 cups water. The sugar I leave as-specified in the original recipe, though, as it doesn’t seem to penetrate that much and I enjoy a slightly sweet crust on the meat when I’m grilling or smoking it.