Smoking Techniques > Curing

Corned beef

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Sory about the silly questions but I have a recipe for a corned beef recipe. Which I'm goin to smoker for pastrami. I bought a cross rib pot roast which isn't a brisket but that's all they had. this may be a silly question but it calles for coarse salt but I just have regular table salt. Is this fine?

Also I must add the recipe doesn't call or any cure. It does call for saltpetre tho. I kno this method is fine if your stoping at just a corned roast. But will it be fine if I plan on smokimg after?

There are a couple of issues with using table salt.

First, it is ground a lot finer than something like kosher salt, so you get a lot more salt into every cup.  Using table salt could cause you to over salt the meat.  (Note that there are conversion tables floating around this forum and the internet that will allow you to convert different brands and grinds of salt to a consistent mass.)

Second, table salt typically has iodine added to it, where kosher salt, pickling salt, sea salt, and the like do not.  I remember reading that the iodine will cause meat to taste better.

In regards to your recipe, the saltpetre is the curing agent.  Don't have a clue how to translate saltpetre into something like cure #1, but maybe others can help.

My concern about the possibility of skipping the cure is that you'll be in the 40 - 140 temp zone while making pastrami.  The salt from the pickling will provide some deterrent to bacteria growth, as will smoking.   And you could cold smoke, to keep the temp down.  But, I'm not sure it would be enough to be safe.  There are guys who hang out here that are knowledgeable on food safety and smoking.  Hopefully one of them will be along soon.  You might try re-posting this thread with a subject specifically designed to attract the attention of the folks you want.  Something that helps them understand you are planning to make pastrami from uncured corned beef. 

Thanks a lot tskeeter! You make some very valid points about the salt! Since I have no way to get #2 cure anytime soon. Maybe I will just corn in an use it for a corned beef dinner.
But anyone else have any more input would be appreciate.
Thanks again!

Habanero Smoker:
Can you post the brine recipe? I'm assuming you are going to cure this using a wet brine?

 I should be able to covert it to cure #1, and adjust the curing times, for you to use in the future. Saltpetre is not a dependable curing agent. I know people have been using it for ages, but since cure #1 with sodium nitrite has been on the market, that  is more reliable, consistent, and cures much faster than saltpetre.

If you want to go without the saltpeter or cure #1, and if it is a wet brine, you can use a 10% salt solution brine, and that concentration will provide enough salt to retard any harmful microbial growth while smoking/cooking in temperatures in the hot smoke range. A 10% brine is about 1 pound of salt per 1 gallon of liquid. When I make pastrami, I mainly use the cure for color and flavor, since I smoke/cook my pastrami above 200°F. So if you smoke/cook at 200°F or higher, you can use the brine recipe you have without saltpetre. Just note, if you use salt only you cooked pastrami will have a grayish color to it, like you would expect to see in a cooked pot roast, and lack the flavor associated with sodium nitrite.

If your roast is a very thick cut, you may want to inject, or if you don't have an injector you may want to slice it so it is less then 4" thick.

One other thing, sea salts contain many minerals that may have an effect on your finished product. It is better to avoid sea salts, and to stick with non-iodized table salt, canning salt, or Kosher salts.


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