The National Center for Home Food Preservation
Guide and Literature Review Series:
Smoking and Curing


Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation
Literature Review and Critical Preservation Points

Document Use | Preface | Table of Contents | References

1. Introduction to Curing and Smoking

Preservation of foods with the use of salt has been practiced throughout human history. Simple necessity determined that cuts of meat could be preserved by treating them with a salt solution or by packing them in dry salt. Salt inhibits most spoilage by reducing the amount of water available for microbial growth.

Salting as a means of preserving foods antedates written history. The Mesopotamians (3000 B.C.E.) generally used salt to preserve meat and fish. Early Roman writers such as Cato (234-149 B.C.E.) clearly explained the need to salt perishable meats and vegetables to preserve them (Pariza 1997).

Smoking meat imparts an attractive and appealing sensory property, in addition to preserving meats. Smoking has three preservation mechanisms: (1) heat, (2) chemical, and (3) surface dehydration. Heat from smoke cooking can kill microorganisms, depending on time and temperatures used. Some chemical compounds in wood smoke have an antimicrobial effect, contributing to food preservation, but these compounds are generally insufficient by themselves.

    For more information, please refer to the following resources:
  1. Food Preservation in the Roman Empire (Mack 2001).
  2. The Art of Preserving: How Cooks in Colonial Virginia Imitated Nature to Control It (Eden 1999).
  3. Secrets of Salt Curing: The Oldest Food Preservation Technique (Campbell 2001).
  4. The Importance of Salt (Cowen 1999).

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Document Use | Preface | Table of Contents | References