Curing meat and vegetables demand the usage of specific salts. While there is an array of curing salts available in the market, saltpeter vs. Prague powder remains the two most used curing salts in the market. Having said that, if you want to cure vegetables and meat, we are sharing the differences between both these salts. So, are you ready to find out the details?
Saltpeter vs Prague Powder
Prague powder is undeniably the most used curing mixture that is used to make cured meat items, especially the ones that need short curing and will be cooked. Some of these meat products include hot dogs, corned beef, fish, and other sausages. It has a shelf life of one year and one teaspoon of this powder mixed with water can be used to cure around five pounds of meat. It is widely used for meat processing and will create a pinkish hue on the meat and improve the shelf life.
For the most part, Prague powder is made of salt and salt will act as a preservative. The integration of salt in this powder sucks out water from the bacterial cells and also prevents the generation of bacteria, preventing the chances of botulism. In addition to salt, it has sodium nitrite which prevents bacterial growth. Having said that, the combination of sodium nitrite and salt helps preserve the food and adds antimicrobial properties.
Prague powder get its name from Prague because it was the first time used for curing the food items there. There are two varieties of Prague powder, number one and number two. For instance, the number two variety has sodium nitrate which breaks down over the course of time, and when there is no sodium nitrate left, the sausages will be cured and ready to eat. Having said that, it’s a promising choice for curing meats that take weeks or months to cure, such as country ham, pepperoni, and salami.
It tends to have a pink color, which ensures you don’t confuse it with ordinary salt, and its pink color adds pinkish color to the meat. As far as usage is concerned, it has to be used in smaller quantities because adding too much can make you sick. For instance, you only need to add a teaspoon for five pounds of meat, so do you see how less it’s to be used? To summarize, it has a salty flavor and cannot be consumed on its own, and can add flavor to the meat.
This is an iconic form of salt and is chemically known as potassium nitrate. Saltpeter occurs as the mineral niter but potassium nitrate is only one of the seven nitrogen compounds in saltpeter. While it’s used in fertilizers and is a main ingredient of gunpowder, it’s also used in the cooking industry. Saltpeter can be used for food preservation and is one of the most common ingredients available in salted meat, particularly in the Middle Ages.
In addition to preservation, it is also used in various food applications, including brine and charcuterie that’s used to cook corned beef. It is a legal food additive used in the EU and goes by the name E252 but people in New Zealand, the USA, and Australia also use it. Since it has nitrates, it can prevent botulism by stopping the generation of bacterial toxins. As far as food preparation is concerned, it is used as a thickening agent in West African cuisine.
In particular, it is used in stews and soups for adding thickness. In addition, it can be used for softening food and cutting down the cooking time when you are cooking tough meat or beans. In fact, it has become the main ingredient in various porridge recipes, including kunun kanwa. As for preservation, it can be used for curing ham, fish, and meat. Curing will take away the moisture and reduce bacterial generation but it must be used at regulated levels.
Saltpeter helps prevent botulism, so there are no chances of food poisoning. While many people use it at home to cure meat, it’s a commercially-used ingredient used for meat processing and curing. In addition, it will add a cured taste and texture to salami, ham, pastrami, and bacon. So, read the instructions on saltpeter packaging to be on the safer side!