Cured Whole Muscle Meat 101 - What Is It?
Cured Whole Muscle Meat 101 - What Is It?
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What Is Cured Whole Muscle Meat?
Cured whole muscle meats are any whole muscle cut of meat that you are going to cure and cook. Popular examples of this would be Bacon and Hams. Generally, these are larger thicker cuts of meat that we want to cook slowly so curing allows us to make sure the meat stays safe through the cooking process and we sometimes need to use different methods to effectively apply the cure.
When curing bacon you can inject the cure directly into the belly or rub the outside of the belly with a cure and allow osmosis to bring to the cure to the center of the meat. Since bellies are generally a thinner cut of meat either of these methods, as well as vacuum tumbling, works perfectly fine.
When we start talking about thicker cuts of meat, like a ham, we need to either change the cure we are going to be using or change the method of introducing the cure. Dry rubbing a thick cut like this with a normal cure is going to cause problems as the cure might lose it’s effectiveness before it fully penetrates the meat, for this reason, we always prefer to inject large whole muscle meats with the cure solution and then follow that up with vacuum tumbling or brining in a 50% strength solution.
The meat must then be held to allow the cure to work in the meat. If you are using a traditional cure that contains Nitrites and no additives then you will hold it for 5-7 days after injecting, or if you are using a cure accelerator you need to hold it overnight or if you are vacuum tumbling you can go almost directly to the smokehouse.
Since these cuts have been cured with Nitrates or Nitrites they can be slow smoked and since the cuts are so thick cooking times can be extreme. It is not uncommon for hams to take over 12 hours to be fully cooked.
Cured and fully cooked meats still need to be stored in the refrigerator, for the longest shelf life they should be vacuum packed first.
I do it all the time. Still remember my mom saying it’s not a good idea. I’m sure if you are buying a nice steak and intend it eat it as a grilled T-bone you might notice some flesh cell break down (texture change). If you are going to use it in sausage you will not notice any difference. Made brats last night. Once frozen pork and elk. Refroze the brats. I do it time and time again.
Here is a link to a website that has a handy Excel spreadsheet. It is, as it says a free non-commercial site.
As for Waltons dropping the ball, I vote they are doing a great job.
I think for all of us there are general guidelines, but unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled environment, both for the preparation, cooking (if you cook them) smoking, hanging etc, the results are bound to vary from batch to batch.
Personally, I am searching how to get my home made smoked and dry cured pepperoni to the exact texture and firmness of Margarita pepperoni from the store.
Through trial and error I have the flavor where I want it, but not the texture or firmness. I know time, temperature and humidity are all crucial, but the best I can do is in the basement and then subject to the environment that is there.
I figure as long as I am not killing anyone or making anyone sick I am making progress. Thanks Waltons for all of the great information so far.
Having said that, it would be nice to have your chart in an Excel spreadsheet.
Thanks Jonathon! One question tho! You eluded to 178 being high for a temp! Don’t you guys recommend setting the temp at 175 during the final stage to completion to internal temp? Three degrees shouldn’t make that much difference should it??
Sounds reasonable. Thanks for your input. Pulling the meat at 152 will make a big difference I bet! Thanks again.
@Kinger Thanks for the information. Your process, other than going to 178, is on in my mind. The only thing I do differently is an ice bath for 20 minutes. Showering for 10 minutes, if you are running a cycle and a fan in your smoker can work, but I still think an ice bath would bring it down faster and more. Last time I did thick summer sausage it was down to 110 in 20 minutes, I also tried showering it at 2 minutes on 2 minutes off for 20 minutes and it was only down to 136 (ish) but i did not have a fan running on them.
One more thing you might want to try, if you are stalled towards the end you can finish them up by putting them in a vacuum bag (I have done then hot, right from the smoker, some condensation in the bag but it still gets a good vac) and get some water going at around 165, it should get up to temp in under an hour depending on the thickness.