About Meat Curing (Nitrite, Nitrate and Nitric Oxide)


The use of nitrites and nitrates in meat curing has been one of the most researched matters in food science for many years. Over the years I have dedicated an enormous amount of time to understand not just its chemistry, but also the history of its use. Here I want to list all the work I have done on the subject The one document where I try and pull everything together is Bacon Curing – a Historical Review. I deal with its chemistry in an elementary manner in Bacon & the Art of Living, my book on the history of meat curing in Chapter two, The Curing Molecule.

The quest has been for years to try and find a way to cure meat without using nitrites and nitrates directly. It has recently been discovered that nitrate and nitrite are of huge physiological importance to humans. As such, the value of a quest to eliminate it from food must be reconsidered. This leads me to as the question:

Nitrite Cured Meat: It’s Fantastic but is it also Bad?

Unfortunately, much of what follows is still subject to NDAs and therefore restricted access. In The Truth About Meat Curing: What the popular media do NOT want you to know! I start dealing with the health benefits of nitrates and nitrites.

It has been discovered in recent years that bacterial fermentation of meat yields nitric oxide which cures meat. A fundamental question follows namely if it is possible to have cured meat without any nitrites and nitrite present. I am not talking about using nitrite and nitrite but the newly developed meat fermentation systems. It is possible to effect curing without the use of nitrates and nitrites directly or indirectly. However, from a consideration of the various reactive nitrogen species, the question comes up if nitrite and nitrate will not eventually form in meat where nitric oxide is present.

Regarding Nitrite Free Curing Systems and RNS

Still, understanding the curing reaction should be the starting point for the serious meat curer. This led me to investigate the various reactions relevant to our trade.

Mechanisms of Meat Curing

Not just are the reactions beautiful and fascinating, but the history of its use and the development of the art of curing meat is without a question one of the most exciting stories never told!

Nitrate and Nitrite – their history and functionality

In the history of our art, one man stands tall as one of the most influential in the development of nitrite curing. I dedicate an entire section to the history of this remarkable man.

The Master Butcher from Prague, Ladislav NACHMÜLLNER

Nitrite curing was commercialized in 1918 and the impetus for its global spread following WW2 was the work of the Griffith Laboratories on the back of the work of Nachtmüllner. The German and American affinity for the direct use of sodium nitrite was however not shared internationally and in England in particular they have accessed nitrite for a very long time using bacterial fermentation of the brine itself. In the next section, I explore the development of curing systems pre-1918. In the next section, I review the major curing systems that have been used around the world since before nitrite curing became commonplace.

Bacon Curing Systems: From Antiquity till now.

In many of my earlier works, I still reflected on the quest for nitrite-free curing. Not all the considerations are irrelevant.

The Present and Future of Food Processing

In the following section, I reflect on some of the monumental developments in curing before the world wars.

The History of Bacon, Ingredients, and related technologies

I delve into the very early invention of the art.

The Salt Bridge

My Complete Work on Nitrites