In our previous post we started looking into meat preservation to save money during the continuous phases of loadshedding that have become part of our lives in South Africa. Today, we’ll be looking at curing – aka salting – meat for preservation.

You might be wondering how we can help you with curing meat. You see, cured meat needs to be stored in a refrigerator for at least a week before it goes into a dry, cool place. At Centigrade, we understand that your regular store bought fridge might have limited space and not be ideal for curing and we also realize that you’ll need somewhere cool and dark to store your cured meat.

That’s where we come in. With our custom Centigrade solutions we can help you with a walk-in home fridge that offers the space you need, as well as an insulated pantry/meat cave to store your cured meat. We’re all about meeting your needs.

Would you believe that curing goes as far back as ancient Egypt? The ancient Egyptians were the first to realize the preservation properties of salt, but it only really became popular in medieval Europe once salt was more widely available to the public.


Curing is one of the oldest known meat preservation methods and it’s also a unique process because it can be used effectively on most types of meat and it works for both cooked and raw meat as well. Curing dries your food, killing microbes and extending the lifespan of foods in the process.


What Is Cured Meat?

Cured meat is any meat that’s been preserved through the removal of moisture. By eliminating moisture from meat, it takes on new textural properties that are not conducive to the growth of bacteria. The most common way of achieving this is by using salt to draw the moisture out and create a new, more shelf-stable substance known as “cured meat.”


Man has been curing meat for centuries, mainly as a way to preserve their food. Most cultures found ways of curing meats through processes that remove moisture from the food through the use of salt.


While there are certain types of meats that will only cure properly if stored at room temperature, most meats should always be stored in cold environments, like walk-in refrigerators.


How to Cure Meat with Salt

There was a time when salt was more valuable than gold. As it has the power to prolong the shelf life of otherwise perishable foods, it’s no wonder why. The practice of curing foods with salt is simple to do and has been perfected over the years to create some of our favorite and well-known delicacies.


Dry Curing

To dry cure meat with salt, cover it entirely in salt for a full day. In order to make sure the meat is completely covered, fill a container with salt, place the meat on top, and pour more salt over until it’s buried. You can also add some flavorings (like celery seed and black pepper) at this point, if you want.


Equilibrium Curing

If you’re worried about wasting so much salt, there is another (more modern) method you can try. First, weigh the meat. Apply 3% of that weight’s worth of salt onto the meat, covering evenly and thoroughly, then use a vacuum sealer to seal everything up and let it sit in the refrigerator for about 5 days. This technique is called “equilibrium curing.”

Once the meat has had ample time to sit, you’ll notice that the texture will change dramatically. It should become tougher and dryer.

Warning Signs

If you notice a foul odor at any point in the process, that means that the salt was not properly applied and bacteria has begun to grow. There’s no way to save meat after rot has begun, so if you find any signs of bacteria, it should be thrown out right away.


Adding Flavours

After the meat is somewhat dehydrated, the fun begins: adding flavors! There are endless combinations of herbs and spices you can use to create your very own signature cured meats, such as prosciutto. Simply shake off the majority of the salt (it’s okay if some stays on the outside) and coat the meat in your own spice mixture.


Hang It to Dry

Once the spices have been applied, you can either wrap the meat in cheesecloth to keep the spices together or simply tie it with a series of butcher’s knots, using regular kitchen twine. The idea is to keep the meat in a tidy shape that’ll be easy to cut, while making sure that air can circulate around the entire piece.


So, as soon as you have everything neatly tied, hang it in the fridge until it’s done. 1 and 5 degrees Celsius is the best temperature range for storing meat (without freezing it). Use a marker to identify all your different meats—including the start weight and goal weight.


How Long Does It Take to Salt Cure Meat?

The meat should lose 35-40% of its total weight by the end of the process, and the only way to tell when the meat is finished curing is to weigh it. Follow this formula to find what the final weight should be: beginning weight X 0.65= final weight goal. The amount of time it takes for the meat to cure depends on the size of the meat. A small duck breast should take about 4-5 weeks. Large cuts of pork could take several months.


After you’ve left ample time for curing and the process is complete, it’s time to enjoy your creation!

Cured Sausage

Salami is one of the most well known kinds of cured sausage, and it’s been around for centuries. The main difference between cured sausage and other cured meats is that you actually mix the salt and seasonings with the meat in a meat grinder that best fits your needs, rather than simply covering  the outside of a complete cut.

Making your own sausage isn’t difficult, but it can take a lot of time. So why not get the most out of your efforts by curing it? One thing to keep in mind, though, is that many kinds of cured sausage must be stored at room temperature in order for the process to be effective.


Clearly, there are a lot of different methods for curing meat, but the same basic ingredients are important to all of them: salt, temperature, and time.


We’ve found some of the most common types of cured meats and put them in a nice list to get those taste buds excited about the prospect of curing your own meat.


Most Common Types of Cured Meats


Prosciutto is made from the whole hind leg of a pig (aka: the ham). Since prosciutto is both salt-cured and air-dried it’s totally safe to eat without cooking, making it the perfect addition to any salad or charcuterie board


Italian salami is traditionally made from lightly ground beef or pork combined with a variety of seasonings and animal fat, which is then stuffed into a casing. The sausage is hung up in a controlled room where the incredibly important fermentation process can begin. The more time salami has spent fermenting, the drier it will be, meaning certain types of salami will be juicier and fattier than others. This doesn’t make one type better than the other, you just have to see what you prefer



If you’ve ever had a pizza, then odds are you’ve had pepperoni. Pepperoni is made from a mixture of finely ground beef and pork, and a variety of seasonings are added to create that savory and slightly spicy flavor we all know and love.



Bacon is one of those magical foods that I still can’t believe exists, it’s smoky, salty and savory. It tastes so good it can even make Brussels sprouts delicious. This very special type of cured meat is typically made with smoked pork belly, but you can find other renditions ranging from turkey to lamb. Make sure to cook your bacon as it doesn’t cure for long enough to kill all the bacteria.



Pastrami is made out of beef and is cured in a seasoned brine for an extended period of time. After the brining process, pastrami is dried, smoked, and steamed. This might sound like a lot of work for a sandwich, but if you’ve ever had good pastrami then you know it’s more than worth it.


Corned beef

One of the most popular cured meats in the UK and the States, corned beef will usually be found in sandwiches or served with potatoes and cabbage. Made with beef (usually brisket) and cured in a seasoned brine, corned beef is incredibly flavorful and can be quite filling as it’s served in thicker slices than other types of cured meats.


Some of these sound really good! Hopefully we’ve inspired you to try some of these with us.

Next time, we’ll cover Meat Dehydrating and learn about the best way to do it, so be sure to look for our next article.


Enjoy curing!

Freeze Drying Meat