Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Store-bought food labeled uncured is actually uncured.

The simple fact is that you cannot make things like bacon, corned beef, lox, and ham without curing. The confusion arises because the US Government defines curing as treatment with synthetic nitrates/nitrites to inhibit bacterial growth, and that’s all. So food without those things is legally called “uncured.” But for centuries, curing has traditionally meant rubbing meat with salt, spices, and maybe sugar, or exposing it to a brine, and letting it sit for a while before cooking, and that’s still what’s done. So, in the store, “uncured” means simply “no synthetic nitrates/nitrites.”

But to complicate things, note that I specify “synthetic” nitrates/nitrites. If naturally derived nitrates/nitrites (usually from celery) are used, the meat can still be called uncured. Of course, the synthetic and natural chemicals are exactly the same, so this is just silly, but what can you do.

And if you are worried that nitrates/nitrites are bad for health, please see Avoid cured meats because of nitrates/nitrites.

One response to “Store-bought food labeled uncured is actually uncured.

  1. Lola G December 28, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Thank you. I’ve wondered about this.

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