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Saltpeter: Love it, hate it, scared of it?

UnConundrumUnConundrum Posts: 536
edited 11:37AM in EggHead Forum
We frequently visit Montreal, and for years I've been bringing home the spice blend used by Schwartz's for smoked beef. I buy it in bulk (Usually about 5 pounds) so there's no ingredients list, but I'm pretty sure they have saltpeter in it.

About two weeks ago I did an 18# chuck for our staff, and my wife asked that I use the Montreal seasoning. It's been years since I used it on something that big, so I seasoned it up, pretty liberally, and let it sit for about 3 hours before it went in the egg. That roast was the most tender I've ever done, and the smoke ring was to die for. A good inch and a half into the meat.... seriously.... My wife says it's the best I've ever done, although the source of the meat, and the cooking process was always the same.

I did a little research on saltpeter and learned that it was a tenderizer and preservative. It's actually potassium nitrate that turns into a nitrite, that isn't the best for us, but... we haven't stopped eating pastrami sausage, or hot dogs either. It's also used in cigarettes, ice cream and toothpaste for sensitive teeth. So, I was wondering why it's never mentioned here either alone, or as a rub ingredient.

BTW, according to everything I've read, the theory that it affects your sex life is an urban legend. confirming link


  • civil eggineercivil eggineer Posts: 1,547
    Legend has it the Army used to put it into the mashed potatoes to limit any unauthorized tent pitching, :ohmy: if ya know what I mean. :laugh:
  • UnConundrumUnConundrum Posts: 536
    I've read that the rumors are true, but ineffective ;)
  • DynaGreaseballDynaGreaseball Posts: 1,409
    I went to military high school. Rumor was that they put it in our food too.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    it's quite likely what gave you that smoke ring, too...

    the smoke ring is a chemical reaction where nitrates/nitrites in smoke form nitric acid and react with the hemoglobin and myoglobin in the meat. if the nitrites come from somewhere else, it'll do the same thing.'s why ham is pink, hotdogs, etc.
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • RivermuteRivermute Posts: 35
    Nothing to be scared of if used properly. Educate yourself. They aren't scary chemicals if used with respect.
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