HCC 008| Difference Between Sodium Nitrate, Nitrite and Pink Curing Salt

In this video I answer a common question about the difference between sodium nitrite, nitrate and pink curing salt. Understanding the difference will give you much more control when creating your own Charcuterie products.

If you would like to have a question answered in an upcoming video, send it to jacob [at] stellaculinary.com.

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There are 14 Comments

jacob burton's picture

Thanks Brian. Glad you enjoyed the video. I haven't had a chance to check out that book yet but I just put it in my Amazon que. Thanks for the suggestion.

pericowest's picture

Hello chef,


I have a half  prosciutto (about like the one you had in your walk in when I was there).

Problem is I took the wrapper off when I first sliced it. After I did that I wrapped it in plastic wrap and kept it in the fridge. It is developing  mold on the exterior. Should I trim off the mold, ignore it, or trim and reapply NaCl and a nitrate?


jacob burton's picture

If it's white mold you're fine, just trim it off and wrap loosely in plastic wrap. If the mold is green or fuzzy, you need to throw it out. I assume that the pancetta is already cured? If not, then wrap it in cheese cloth instead of plastic wrap.

pericowest's picture

Sad, but it is green mold.

The real thing, Italian Parma ham, pricey loss at about $19 a pound.

Sparhawlk's picture

This video answered so many questions. Having bought a pot of Sodium Nitrate and then realising I really needed Sodium Nitrite. I then got a bit nervous as it seamed I was accumulating a bit of a chemistry set in mu Kitchen. This video calmed my nerves.
I do have a question though,
Your curing mix is basically cut with 2% Sodium Nitrite. This is then used over what ever product you intend to cure. If I mix up the basic recipe for Pink Salt 93.75 Sodium Chloride and 6.25% Sodium Nitrite, this then needs to be further cut with Sodium Chloride as per the recipes in Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.
Is this correct
If I wanted to add sodium nitrate for a longer cure how much should I add
Hope this wasn't to log
Thanks once again for a great video

jacob burton's picture

Just to clarify, I use 0.2% sodium nitrite in my formulation, not 2%. So for every 1,000 grams of sodium chloride, I'll add 2 grams of sodium nitrite.

Yes, you can make your own version of "pink" curing salt using the ratios described in this video. That salt is then cut with additional sodium chloride, as specified in many Charcuterie recipes, including the ones contained within Ruhlman and Polcyn's book (which I highly recommend).

As far as how much nitrate you need, that really depends on the recipe, what it is you're curing, and the duration of the cure. However, even when I cure something for as long as 6-9 months, I use only sodium nitrite, with good results. Nitrate is only needed in rare occasions for much longer cures, and even that is debatable.

Sparhawlk's picture

Really clear video and answered nearly all my immediate questions.  

If I wanted to mix a suitable cure such as insta cure 2 how much sodium nitrate should be mixed in per 1000g salt to your standard mix?

Thank you for explaining things so well

Regards Andrew Sharpe

jacob burton's picture

Hi Sparhawlk, I'm glad you enjoyed the video.

Just to clarify, instacure #2 contains sodium nitrATE, where as for most of my curing applications, I prefer sodium nitrITE, as discussed in the video.

So my 1000g kosher salt mix containing 2g sodium nitrite sets my nitrite percentage at 0.2%. This is just a standard baseline that I fine works universally well for me, whether I'm dry salting or creating a nitrite brine for curing. Some recipes will call for nitrite amounts as high as 1% though based on the salt, so there will be some variations.

Instacure #1 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite, meaning every 100g of instacure #1 contains 6.25g nitrite, so every 33 grams contains 2.06 grams of nitrite. This means in every 33g of instacure #1, you'll have 31g salt (sodium chloride) and 2g sodium nitirte.

So if you mix 33 grams of instacure #1 with 969 grams of kosher salt, you'll have 1000g of curing salt with 0.2% sodium nitrite. The 0.2% ratio is one that I use almost universally for my cured meats because it fits my preferences and needs, but you'll find other recipes will call for different ratios.

Let me know if you have any more questions.


Elizabete's picture

I am currently living in Latvia and have not found prepared pink or curing salt. I managed to find potassium nitrate on the internet ( not too many dood sites will send to Latvia). I know that I need to mix the potassium nitrate with salt to make the mix, but I have a few questions.

1. In your video you talk about sodium nitrate and nitrite. Does the potassium work the same way?

2. What proportion do I mix the potassium nitrate with salt?

3. I do not plan on making large quantities of cured meats. Just some corned beed and some ham to start (I can't find a nice large "American" style ham that I am used to).

I am very afrad of adding too much potassium nitrate in the mix, which I almost did today.


jacob burton's picture

Hi Elizabete, welcome to Stella Culinary.

For most curing purposes, potassium nitrate is interchangeable with sodium nitrate, assuming you're still mixing it with some salt. But as discussed in the video, nitrate is eventually metabolized into nitrite overtime, which is why it's usually used in longer curing process; you get a slow nitrite release from the nitrate.

But the nitrite is doing the heavy lifting in the curing process.

This is why I prefer to use nitrite in most of my curing applications. I find it gives me more control over the end product, and I'll rarely use nitrate.

However, even curing mixes that contain nitrate, will also contain some nitrite, to get the curing process jump started. So you're unfortunately going to have to track down some form of sodium nitrite.

velascomike's picture

Hello Chef Jacob.

Very good and informative video, thanks.

I am considering making bacon at home. I have trouble finding a curing salt in Mexico and realized that I can make my own using available sodium nitrite. That would be easy.

I also read that the lethal dose of sodium nitrite is only 4 grams and I am scared of the risk it takes. Specially with the excess sodium nitrite I would have on hand after making the curing salt (they sell it on a 1 kg size). Do you have any recommendations on safe handling the sodium nitrite and also the prepared cured salt? Should I try dying it pink?

Thanks for you help

Ari's picture

Couldn't get my hands on pure sodium nitrite or salpeter. however, I got a 6% curing salt. 

Should I simply use my 6% curing salt instead? or should I subtract and calculate 6% sodium nitrite out of my curing salt, which will force me to add a much larger amount of curing salt to the brine