Curing Meat - The Basics - Cured Whole Muscle Meat 101
Curing Meat - The Basics
What Is Cured Whole-Muscle Meat?
Cured whole-muscle meats are any whole muscle cut of meat that you are going to cure and cook. Popular examples of this would be Bacon and Hams. Generally, these are larger, thicker cuts of meat that we want to cook slowly, so curing allows us to make sure the meat stays safe throughout the cooking process, and we sometimes need to use different methods to effectively apply the cure.
When curing bacon, you can inject the cure directly into the belly or rub the outside of the belly with a cure and allow osmosis to bring the cure to the center of the meat. Since bellies are generally a thinner cut of meat, either of these methods, as well as vacuum tumbling, works perfectly fine.
When we start talking about thicker cuts of meat, like ham, we need to either change the cure we are going to be using or change the method of introducing the cure. Dry rubbing a thick cut like this with a normal cure is going to cause problems, as the cure might lose its effectiveness before it fully penetrates the meat. For this reason, we always prefer to inject large whole-muscle meats with the cure solution and then follow that up with vacuum tumbling or brining in a 50% strength solution.
The meat must then be held to allow the cure to work in the meat. If you are using a traditional cure that contains Nitrites and no additives, then you will hold it for 5-7 days after injecting. If you are using a cure accelerator, you need to hold it overnight; and if you are vacuum tumbling, you can go almost directly to the smokehouse.
Since these cuts have been cured with Nitrates or Nitrites, they can be slow-smoked, and since the cuts are so thick, cooking times can be extreme. It is not uncommon for hams to take over 12 hours to be fully cooked.
Cured and fully cooked meats still need to be stored in the refrigerator; for the longest shelf life, they should be vacuum-packed first.
I think your curing time line is good for a ground product like you are describing.
I have made venison bacon like you described using a bread pan for the mold and then slicing after smoking.
Depending on how lean your beef is, you may want to add some fat to give it more of a bacon flavor/ texture and to help it fry up better.