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Jerky – Types of Cure

Curing is the preservation and flavoring process followed to allow for storage of food, in this case meat jerky.   And while salt may be the first cure that comes to mind, smoking and dehydration are also considered curing. A marinating process is usually used with the smoking and dehydration to enhance and/or add flavor to the final jerky product.  It should be noted that sugar is sometimes used as a cure as are nitrates and nitrite (the last two are found in commercial products). [1]

We’re going to take a look at the three ‘natural’ cures since it is our opinion that natural is better and healthier.  No nitrates.   And while both salt and sugar  may be found in the marinade ingredients, in past times, they have been used on their own as a cure.

Note: If you’re thinking about trying any of these cures for making jerky, we strongly advise further research into the correct process to follow as well as making yourself aware of any cautions involved. The information we’ve posted here is a very general overview and not intended to be used as a process to make jerky or any other ‘cured’ meat.


On its own, salt  was the primary ingredient in meat curing until the 19th century. It was used either as dry salt or brine. A concentration of up to 20% was required to kill most species of the unwanted bacteria.


Sugar was sometimes used in the forms of honey, corn syrup solids and maple syrup, i.e., sugar-cured hams. While sugar doesn’t add a lot to flavor, it does help to tone down the saltiness.


Smoking of food is exposing it to smoke from wood. Wet/damp wood and wood chips smoke the best. Favorite woods to use are:

  • Mesquite
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Apply
  • Cherry

The smoking process helps to seal the outer layer of the food product making it more difficult for the bacteria to enter.

There are 3 types of smoking:

  • Hot Smoking (BBQ style meat; Slow cooked meat results in tender meat)
  • Smoke Roasting (BBQ style meat over pit)
  • Cold Smoking (Does not cook the meat; smoker jerky.)

When using the cold smoking method to make jerky, it is important to remember that you are not cooking the meat, but drying it. Therefore, the meat should be sliced very thin to limit bacterial growth; and the meat slices should be completely dried.

For more information on making jerky in a smoker, visit this linkThe marinade products below are specifically for jerky – some flavored, some salt, but  all for making  jerky!







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