The Original Dry Bag Steak | Make Artisan Dry Age Steak at Home › Forums › Dry Aging Steak › Dry Aging Steak with UMAi Dry® › Why Instacure #2?
- This topic has 9 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 9 years, 5 months ago by Jim Stover.
December 11, 2013 at 4:56 am #1787
Having read Charcuterie (and Salumi) by Michael Ruhlman, I notice that his recipes do not include Instacure (1 or 2) on whole muscles just ground products. Is it necessary due to drying in the refrigerator rather in a warmer drying room?December 11, 2013 at 5:03 am #7526JimMember
InstaCure #2 helps preserve the meat color and is a measure of safety.
We realize that some recipes do not include the use of InstaCure #2 for whole muscle meats, however given the great diversity of raw materials and curing environments we used it for food safety reasons.December 11, 2013 at 5:50 am #7529
The short answer to your question is no. One of the main benefits of nitrates and nitrites is that they inhibit the growth of very bad bacteria. Bacteria are more robust the warmer it gets between 40 and 140 degrees. In addition, they help maintain a nice pink color to the meat and impart a particular flavor.
I’m not sure if your question is premised on a fear of nitrates/nitrites. We ingest 80% of our nitrates/nitrites from vegetables. When used in charcuterie, NITRITES are what we’re after and they break down into harmless nitrous oxide after they are done completing their magic. NITRATES are broken down into nitrites, which do the aforesaid magic. A combination of nitrates and nitrites is used to assist in a longer cure. The nitrites are broken down as the nitrates are being converted to nitrites.
Have you seen nitrate/nitrite free bacon in the store? If you read the label closely, it probably contains some form of celery, which has a ton of nitrates/nitrites in it and does the exact same thing we accomplish with pink salt. Regardless of where it comes from, the molecular structure of nitrates and nitrites is exactly the same. USDA rules do not yet account for products cured with plant-based sources of nitrates and nitrites so they can say it’s “all natural.”
According to the University of Wisconsin, levels of nitrates and nitrites present in cured meats is between .00002 – .004%, while the veggies, and especially leafy greens people are so fond of, contain anywhere from .1 – 1%. At least 90% of the nitrates and nitrites we use in our products are broken down and completely harmless.
With that being said, nitrites can be harmful at elevated levels (as can water). A 4 gram dose of pure nitrites would likely kill a grown man, but that is equal to between 6000 and 10,000 servings of cured meats in one sitting. Even I don’t get that hungry. If you drink too much water, that can kill you too.
A fear was raised in the 70’s or 80’s regarding carcinogenic compounds produced when cooking meats containing nitrites above 300 degrees. It can happen but the harmful compounds present can be measured in the parts per billion and are eliminated by the addition of vitamin C and other adjuncts in modern products.
The bottom line is, DON’T FEAR NITRATES OR NITRITES!!! They are your friends in this process!December 11, 2013 at 6:02 am #7530
I am not concerned about the nitrate/nitrite issue per se, just curious really. I routinely use Instacure #1 when making bacon and corned beef.
I guess my question was really whether it was necessary considering a variation in the drying environment for Ruhlman’s recipe or merely a precaution.December 11, 2013 at 7:40 am #7534
Sorry for the rant but I get frustrated when someone asks me to to try his or her new nitrate-free “fill in the blank” because he or she thinks it’s healthier.
#2 will allow for a longer cure vs #1, which would not necessarily be needed for corned beef or bacon.
When humans figured out the role naturally appearing nitrates and nitrites play in preserving meat, we did what humans do with our science and technology and synthesized it so we could accurately measure it and make observations. Think of it as an insurance policy for the time and effort we put into homemade charcuterie.
Without being a scientist, I think salt alone would generally be sufficient for whole muscles (as is seemingly apparent from the absence of pink salt in Ruhlman’s recipes), but absolutely critical for products containing ground meat. I highly recommend everyone endeavoring into the world of charcuterie read the Marianski brother’s bible.
I’m sorry I can’t endorse buying 2 tablespoons of #2 for $4, but go buy a pound somewhere for $10 and use it with confidence at .25%.December 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm #7535
Thanks for taking the time to explain. I pretty new to this and just trying to put it all together.
Which book by the Marianski brothers are you referring to? A quick search on Amazon turned up several.December 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm #7536
I’m referring to the Art of Making Fermented Sausages. While they don’t discuss curing whole muscles, they do a great job of describing the science of bacteria in layman’s terms.December 11, 2013 at 7:37 pm #7538
Thanks for the advice, I just ordered the book, plus downloaded the Kindle version of their newer book “Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages”December 13, 2013 at 9:38 am #7558
I did not know that “Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages” existed. THANK YOU for the recommendation. It appears to be as useful as the original book I referenced or perhaps more so.
I ordered it too, but only read a small portion of it thus far.
I love the introduction where he writes that he doesn’t want us just blindly following the recipes, but to also understand the how and why of the entire process! Awesome book! 5 stars!
I just hope my recommendation did not encourage you to spend more $$ on redundant information.December 28, 2013 at 11:01 pm #7635
Definitely a good read, slow going though. A lot of info, I’ll be reading it through more than once I’m sure.
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