This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
>From Perry Noid:
Drying meat is NOT "curing" it!!! Drying meat is preserving it. "Curing
meat" is treating it with a chemical to prevent food poisoning. I think
you're pretty safe drying store bought beef in a dehydrator, because
there's oxygen present which prevents botulism, and indians often dried
meat by simply laying them out on rocks in the hot sun. But i wouldn't
trust simply drying wild game or pork, unless you're an Indian who has
developed a natural resistance to parasites.
BUT IF YOU ARE GOING TO SMOKE YOUR MEAT THEN ***YOU DAMN BETTER FIGURE
OUT WHAT CURING REALLY IS*** because smoking does a real good job of
creating the 3 conditions necessary to trigger botulism: moisture,
temerature (about 40 to 140 F i think) and lack of oxygen. This
sometimes occurs when people try to cook their turkey crammed full of
stuffing, especially when it has sat full of stuffing in the
refrigerator all night.
Botulism doesn't always occur when those 3 conditios are met, and some
people dodge the bullet for a while, and infact botulism is rare, but
when it happens it is *very* deadly, mostly because you don't know
you're sick until you are really sick. In a survival situation where
going to the hospital is impossible, you can drink a slurry of charcoal
to save your life which is simply the charred, blackened bits of wood
from last night's campfire that is ground up and drank with water.
Charcoal will absorb certain poisons.
certain chemicals can block botulism. I think old timers used things
like potassium nitrate and salt or something, not sure. But the modern
"cure" that practically all commercial producers who smoke meat use
specialized cures, which i think are made up of a combination of sodimum
nitrate and sodimum nitrite. There gobbs of different brand names
(Prague Powder and Insta-cure) but they are all basically the same two
types, one for meat to be refrigerated or even recooked, and the second
for dried meat not to be refrigerated nor recooked. But the perscribed
amount of cure is disolved into a brine solution in which the meat is
soaked for a number of hours or days, depending on the type of meat and
the size. In addition to this, some people with electric smokers will
run their smoker without the dampwood chips so it acts like a big
dehydrator and dry the meat out before applying the smoke, which keeps
the 3 conditions botulism from being met and providing a further margain
It is really inexpensive and requires very little. 5 lbs costs about $20
and is enough to "cure" about 1600 lbs of beef, fish, whatever. That's
sure a lot cheaper than a trip to the emergency room.
Here's a soarce for both types: Insta-Cure #1 and Insta-Cure #2.
The Sausage Maker, Inc.
All commercially smoked meat and all jerky is required by law to be
"cured" using these same cures. The "cure" also adds to the color and
taste of the meat. It also adds shelflife to the meat you simply dry in
a dehydrator. A good book on the subject is also money well spent.