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Cure questions from a beginner making Cajun tasso

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  • Anton32828
    Club Member
    • Jun 2018
    • 137
    • Weber 22 inch kettle grill
      Maverick ET-732 thermometer

    Cure questions from a beginner making Cajun tasso

    Hello all. I've been experimenting with different tasso recipes recently. I'm new to curing, so I have a lot of questions (of course). I figured the sausage sub-forum was the place to find experts on curing around here.

    I'm using one-inch-thick strips of pork loin or pork shoulder for my tasso. The recipe instructions are to dredge the pork slices in cure, then rest them on a rack for four hours. You then rinse off the cure, apply a rub, and hot-smoke the meat for a few hours to 160 degrees internal temperature.

    The short cure turns the meat pink throughout, and gives a nice ham flavor.

    Two questions about using a dry cure for a short time, specifically Michael Ruhlman's recipe:

    1) If the pork is pink throughout when it's cooked, does that mean it's fully cured? Or is there some point where the cure causes the chemical reaction for pink meat, but there's not enough cure to protect against botulism?

    2) The Ruhlman dry cure looks like it uses too much Prague powder per the USDA ppm guidelines for nitrite. Will the meat absorb too much nitrite using a dry cure, even if you rinse it off after the time specified by the recipe? I've read conflicting reports on this, and also on how nitrite dissipates during cooking.

    Background for context, though perhaps TL/DR:

    My first attempt at tasso was guided by two recipes I found online. One was from Michael Ruhlman's book, Charcuterie. The other was from the link below to "Life's a Tomato." Both are dry cures using Prague powder, but they are very short --- three or four hours.

    Ruhlman's dry cure: http://ruhlman.com/2011/02/the-forgi...ed-meat-bacon/
    Home-made Tasso: http://www.lifesatomato.com/2015/06/15/homemade-tasso/

    My question is about the cure process, not the spice rub from these recipes. I'm working on my own Tasso rub. Ruhlman's is garbage IMHO.

    Since I was experimenting, I did one batch for four hours and one for twelve hours overnight in the cure. The four-hour cure was tasty, but a lighter pink than the twelve-hour cure. The twelve-hour cure was a darker pink, but too salty.

    I then found Meathead's cure article on this site. His guidance about a wet cure makes sense from a food safety standpoint. Brine guarantees control over the PPM concentration. I tried a wet cure on some boneless pork chops as a test. I used some Cabela's sweet cure per the package directions, which said thin cuts should cure for 24 hours. But it didn't cure to the center of the chops, and the result was much less flavorful than the Ruhlman salt-box method.

    My job requires that I travel 4 - 5 days a week. So I don't have the ability to do a two or three day brine cure, except on vacation weeks. I'd like to get the dry cure process right, but keep within nitrite safety guidelines. One frustration I have with Ruhlman's book is that it doesn't bother to explain that part of the process. It just gives recipes.

    I also found Stan Marinski's "Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages," which is free to borrow via Amazon Kindle Prime. His tasso recipe uses a dry cure for 12 hours, and then smokes the meat with the cure still on it! His recipe looks like the correct ratio for using Prague powder in "comminuted meat" such as sausage, but I'm still not crazy about the idea of keeping the curing salt on the outside of the meat when I smoke it.

    I appreciate any help / comments from the community! I'll post my tasso recipe when I'm happy with it.
  • Spinaker
    • Nov 2014
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    We really can't comment on curing recipes from other sites. Many of them are not done correctly or they recommend concentrations that are not in line with safety standards. What many recipes and techniques don't tell you is that dry curing, is riskier and not as effective as wet curing. Wet curing will also allow for even curing. You won't have spot in the middle where the cure did not reach the center. This usually takes days, not hours. I would certainly question any recipe that says you can cure a piece of meat in only a few hours, especially dry cure.

    Please checked out Meatheads article on The Science of Curing, and use his calculator and recipes. They have been rigorously tested and reviewed. I am not trying to rain on your parade here, I just want make sure you are being safe and following proper curing techniques. That is not something most websites, books, forums or recipes have in mind.


    • Troutman
      Club Member
      • Aug 2017
      • 7605
      • aka Troutman Taco - Hanging Free in Tejas




        SOUS VIDE


      Well said BE CAREFUL !!!


      • Anton32828
        Club Member
        • Jun 2018
        • 137
        • Weber 22 inch kettle grill
          Maverick ET-732 thermometer

        I hear you on the safety thing. I've read Meathead's cure article, and Prof. Blonder's article at Genuine Ideas referenced by Meathead. So bear with me while I ask two follow-up questions:

        1) I need to cure 1-inch thick pork cuts weighing about a pound each. The wet cure calculator returns a cure time of roughly 1.4 days for my recipe using a basic sugar cure: 2 parts salt to one part sugar plus the calculator's dose of cure #1. As a start, I'm shooting for a 6% brine / 25 degrees salt level. Is there a problem if I have to leave the meat sitting in the ziplock cure bag in the refrigerator for five or six days while I travel?

        2) General question: is it cured if the color is fixed? Or is the color fixed before it's fully cured?

        You're right about all the websites and books out there that do NOT address safety. Most of them just give recipes without explanations of the issues. Or, worse, they refer to great grand-pappy's recipe for saltpeter cured meat; as if 100 years of food science hasn't made progress since great grand-pappy learned how to butcher a hog.


        • EdF
          EdF commented
          Editing a comment
          I don't think leaving it in the cure an extra couple of days is an issue, since (if I understand correctly) it's an "equilibrium cure". That means a certain level will be hit inside the meat, and then not change afterwords. Not quite sure what to say about the color. ps I've found Ruhlman knows his stuff.

        • johnec00
          johnec00 commented
          Editing a comment
          Maybe we have different editions, but my copy of Marianski's book says cure in the refrigerator for 2 days. Not that different from the 1.4 days Dr. Blonder's calculator recommends.
      • RonB
        Club Member
        • Apr 2016
        • 13313
        • Near Richmond VA
        • Weber Performer Deluxe
          Pizza insert
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          lots of probes.

        When the salt reaches equilibrium between the meat and the solution, no more salt will be absorbed. That is why it is critical to have the right amount of salt in the solution. Since the meat is cured at that point, and no more salt will be absorbed, extra time will not hurt. I'd just start it Sunday night, and remove the meat when you return home. Try it with a small amount of meat the first time - just to be sure. In other words, what Ed said...


        • Anton32828
          Anton32828 commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks EdF and RonB. Will do.
      • Anton32828
        Club Member
        • Jun 2018
        • 137
        • Weber 22 inch kettle grill
          Maverick ET-732 thermometer

        Hello johnec00, yes the Marianski book says to cure for two days. My concern was the fact that the cure mixture (with spices) is left on to smoke the meat. I imagine that the Marianski recipe is within the 150ppm limit for nitrite, but I haven't done the math yet.


        • ddmcwhirter
          Charter Member
          • Nov 2014
          • 140
          • Leon Springs northwest of San Antonio, Texas

          I seeing you fully cooked the tasso meat ("160 F"). No botulism in that. But, once cooked, as opposed to dried, I'd keep it refrigerated or frozen. Like a two week wet cure of brisket to make pastrami...as long as it's in the cure, all is good. But, once cooked, I think it has to be refrigerated and eventually frozen.




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