how does curing something like salmon or ham actually work and make it safe to eat?

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how does curing something like salmon or ham actually work and make it safe to eat?

In: Chemistry
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Whatever curing agent is used (salt, sugar, honey, smoke, etc) draws out excess moisture and creates an environment where nasty stuff that can make you sick can’t survive.

Short answer: salt kills microbes.

Long answer: by increasing the salt and solute concentration in a piece of meat, osmotic pressure will pull water out of any present microorganisms, killing them or at the very least inhibiting their growth.

Some, but not all, meats are also cured with the addition of nitrates and nitrites, but these are relatively toxic to humans and are possibly carcinogenic, so their use is declining somewhat.