I often see hot dog weiners advertised as cured and uncured on their packaging. I didn’t know what this meant, so I decided to research it and share it here.
Before understanding the differences between cured and uncured meat, I need to briefly explain what curing is and what nitrites and nitrates are. This will be VERY BRIEF!
All meat starts out uncured. Curing is the process of preserving meats through the application of acid, salt, and/or sugar to remove water and prevent spoilage. The most common way to cure meat today is using salt or sodium nitrates. The main resulting differences between cured and uncured meats are the texture, color, and aroma.
NITRITES AND NITRATES
Nitrites and nitrates are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in water, soil, plants, and even our own bodies. One of the most used forms is a salt called sodium nitrate. It is exceptionally good at preserving meat and has been used for generations to preserve meat.
CURED VS. UNCURED
So, all preserved meats are cured, correct? Wrong! Amazingly, some obviously cured meats such as ham, bacon, etc., are sold as “uncured” in grocery stores. This is a regulatory quirk and marketing gimmick created by consumers demand to eat healthier and consume fewer chemicals in general. It’s a quirk because these meats are obviously preserved, but celery juice (or celery powder), rather than nitrites, is used to cure the meat. The naturally occurring nitrates in the celery juice turn into nitrites during the curing process, however, because nitrites technically haven’t been “added” by the manufacturer, the meat can be labeled as “uncured” even though the meat has been cured. Disappointing!
Whether nitrites and nitrates are a good or bad thing isn’t an easy answer. It largely depends on what foods they came from, how the meat was processed, the particular person ingesting them, etc.
- The FDA allows a small number of rodent hairs to be in processed meats.
- Meat can be treated with carbon monoxide to keep it red.
- The pink salmon you see in stores is pink because it’s been dyed pink.
- WiseGeek.com – What is the difference between cured and uncured bacon?
- LiguriaFoods.com – UNLOCKING THE MYSTERIES OF CURED VS. UNCURED MEAT
- Healthline.com – Cured vs. Uncured Bacon
- AltHealthWorks.com – They Told You These 15 Horrifying Facts About Processed Meat Were True. This is What They Didn’t Tell You