What is Morton Tender Quick, and can you use it instead of regular pink curing salt? More to the point, is one of these products better than the other? Let’s take a closer look so you can decide which one will best suit your needs.
Morton Tender Quick vs Pink Salt
Both Morton Tender Quick and pink curing salt—also known as Prague powder—are used to preserve meat products. It’s important to use them sparingly, as they contain compounds that can be toxic in large quantities. There are two different types of pink curing salt—#1 and #2—so be sure to select the right kind.
Morton Tender Quick: An Overview
Morton is a popular brand that’s had a handle on the salt market for a number of years. Their Tender Quick isn’t just any salt, but a compound that contains curing agents designed to preserve meat instead of simply adding flavor.
Sodium nitrate is the key ingredient in Morton Tender Quick. It also contains sodium nitrite and other elements. As we’ll discuss in more detail later on, it’s important not to confuse this product with regular table salt.
About Pink Salt
First of all, we need to point out that we’re talking about pink curing salt here, not pink Himalayan sea salt. The former is used as a preservative, while the latter is simply rock salt that has a pinkish hue.
Like Morton Tender Quick, pink curing salt contains sodium nitrite. This compound allows meat to age without spoiling. It also gives it a distinctive pink or red color, depending on what type you’re using.
Prague powder is another term for this type of salt. It can be divided into two categories: Prague powder #1 or #2. The former is used for curing processes of 30 days or fewer, while the latter is reserved for longer cures.
Another key difference: Prague powder #2 contains sodium nitrate, while #1 does not. As the curing progresses, this compound will break down and become sodium nitrite, thereby preserving the meat for a longer period of time.
How It Works
Curing salts work by preventing the botulinum toxin from setting up camp. This is a type of bacteria that’s present in water and soil. When the spores become airborne, they can land on food, where they reproduce and create toxins that can make you sick.
The nitrites in the curing salt prevent bacterial growth, thereby eliminating the risk of foodborne illness. That’s why cured meats keep longer than ones that haven’t been given this treatment.
A Word of Caution
It’s important to understand that Morton Tender Quick and pink curing salt can’t be used in place of table salt.
Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are toxic when consumed in large doses. It’s safe to use a small amount to cure your meat products, but if you were to sprinkle it on your food as you would table salt, the results would be catastrophic.
Morton Tender Quick vs Pink Salt: The Breakdown
Morton Tender Quick consists of salt, sugar, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, and propylene glycol.
As we pointed out, Prague powder #1 does not include sodium nitrate. Instead, it relies on a blend of 6.25 percent sodium nitrite and 93.75 percent sodium chloride to get the job done.
Since Prague powder #2 contains sodium nitrate as well, it has more in common with Morton Tender Quick than #1 does. However, that doesn’t mean they can be used interchangeably. Be sure to read the directions so you’ll know how much to use.
When deciding which product to use, be aware that Morton does not recommend using Tender Quick on pork belly. This means the product is unsuitable if you want to make your own bacon.
The reason for this has to do with the fat content of pork belly, which is the preferred cut for homemade bacon. The fat content can vary depending on the cut, which makes it difficult to predict how much Tender Quick you should use and how long the meat should be cured.
With this information in hand, we would suggest using Prague powder if you’re curing pork belly. Save the Tender Quick for beef brisket.
One final note: Morton Tender Quick isn’t approved for commercial use. It’s fine for home curing, but if you’re working in a restaurant or selling your cured meat products to the general public, you’ll need to stick with Prague powder.
Morton Tender Quick is usually available at a lower price than Prague powder. This may vary depending on how much you want to buy, but in general, Tender Quick tends to be cheaper.
Home chefs who want to try curing their own meat should consider using Tender Quick if they’re on a tight budget.
Morton recommends using 1/2 ounce, or 1 tablespoon, of Tender Quick for every pound of meat. Therefore, if you’re curing 4 pounds of meat, you’ll need 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup.
By contrast, Prague powder is far more concentrated. A single ounce (or 2 tablespoons) is sufficient for curing 25 pounds of meat. So, while it may be slightly more expensive than Morton’s product, you also won’t go through it as quickly.
The Bottom Line
We hope you’ve found our roundup of Morton Tender Quick vs pink salt to be useful and enlightening.
We would recommend keeping both products on hand if you intend to cure meat on a regular basis. Both products are affordable and should last for a long time, as they’re meant to be used sparingly.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!