Pink curing salt is a mixture of sodium chloride, sodium nitrite, and table salt to cure meat. It is generally the texture of table salt, and because of this, it is dyed pink to avoid confusion. Pink curing salt should only be used as directed as the sodium nitrite can be harmful if used in excess.
Though pink curing salt is used to cure meat, it is not present in finished, cured meats in a high enough dosage to cause issues and makes it entirely safe for the curing process.
It is used at one teaspoon per 5 pounds of ground meat.
Curing Prevents Botulism
Meats are cured to prevent botulism, and sodium nitrite prevents the growth of bacteria that could be harmful. The curing technique can be traced back to the Sumerians nearly 4000 years ago.
The curing process draws out moisture in the meat, where bacteria would grow. Pink curing salt, also known as Prague powder, is one of the top salts for curing all kinds of meats, including beef, poultry, and fish.
Substitutes for Pink Curing Salt
You can use a substitute for curing salt that does not contain nitrites. Other course salts and seasonings will draw moisture from the meat but may not protect the meat from bacteria growth.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan pink salt is among the favored substitutes for pink curing salt. The color of Himalayan pink salt comes from where it is mined in the mountains in Pakistan’s Punjab region. The color adds decoration to foods and is often found in sweet foods. It has more prominent grains, and like sea salt, Himalayan pink salt can be used in place of kosher salt. The flavor of Himalayan pink salt is a bit sharper, so depending on your taste, it may require less than a recipe requires.
= In general, substitute Himalayan pink salt as guided by its directions for curing meat per pound.
Coarse Sea Salt
Curing meats can be done with any salt, as in ancient times, they covered meats with salt to preserve. When using salt for curing, it should not be iodized, as iodine can leave an unpleasant taste in the meat.
Coarse sea salt is an option to replace pink curing salt. It does not contain nitrite or iodine.
= In general, substitute coarse sea salt as guided by its directions for curing meat per pound.
Kosher salt is not expensive and will mostly be free of additives, caking agents, and iodine. Note that iodine is added to many salts and subtlety changes the flavor, so check the label if you do not want iodized salt. The large crystal size comes from its use in the koshering process and makes it suitable for cooking.
= In general, substitute kosher salt as guided by its directions for curing meat per pound.
Is pink curing salt the same as Himalayan salt?
They are both pink in color, but they are not the same. Pink curing salt contains sodium nitrite, an inorganic sodium salt used as a food preservative to prevent botulism. Sodium nitrite is an antimicrobial food preservative, an antihypertensive agent, a food antioxidant, a poison, and an antidote to cyanide poisoning, so caution is needed when used.