Oh, the cure adds lots of flavor!
Pork without cure, is roast pork. Pork WITH cure, is ham. Beef without cure, hamburger. Beef WITH cure, corned beef.
Cure gives smoked meat, like jerky, the nice red color you associate with commercial jerky like Jack Links. Without cure, the meat is grey or leather colored.
Marianski says, in his book Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages,
“Meat cured only with salt, will have a better flavor but will also develop an objectionable dark color. Adding nitrites to meat will improve flavor, prevent food poisoning, tenderize the meat, and develop the pink color widely known and associated with smoked meats.”
Using cure1, with NaNO2, gives more bacterial resistance to all the standard pathogens, but particularly to botulism. The USFDA Jerky guidelines specify achieving a time-temp lethality combination for jerky WHILE MEAT IS STILL MOIST, and THEN drying… but a lot of home producers don’t do this, just letting it get dry before it gets 112 minutes at 131f, or 37min at 135f, etc. This dries surface before bacteria is killed, allowing them to create a coat that lets their spores survive well above even the 160f level. So, using cure1 gives added protection against this non-recommended but often used jerky production method.
My position is that NaNO2 cure is beneficial in every way I can think of–flavor, color, food safety, and adding a pad against substandard production. I can’t see a reason to ever NOT use it, unless someone can’t eat nitrites, celery, beets, lettuce, etc.
Hope that helps!