Basic Dry Cure - Morton's Tender Quick substitute
From Habanero Smoker

This recipe/formula basically comes from Charcuterie, by Ruhlman and Polcyn. It is a general formula for a dry cure mix that you may come across in other books. The formula is 2 parts salt, 1 part sugar plus 10% of their combined weight of cure #1. Ruhlman lists this formula in the sub section “Dry Cures”; but then liberally rounds off the amount of cure #1 in his recipe.

The below recipe is a little different than what is published in his books. As stated, Ruhlman liberally rounded off the amount of cure #1 that should be added. The amount of cure #1 that should be added is 2.4 ounces. His rounding off lists the amount of cure #1 at 2 ounces, this reduces cure #1 by almost a half-ounce. Bringing the amount of cure #1 to 2.4 ounces brings the percentage of cure #1 up to 10% of the total weight of salt and sugar combined. This also brings the percentage of sodium nitrite more accurately to 1%. Making these adjustments I've found it to be a good substitute for Morton's Tender Quick.

Since I am stating this to be a good substitute for Morton Tender Quick, I am also using pickling salt (canning salt, pure salt, non-iodized table salt can also be used since they have the same grain size), and white granulated sugar be used, instead of kosher salt or dextrose. This is so the volume measurement for the Basic Dry Cure is more corresponding to the measurement of Morton Tender Quick. If you use kosher salt that comes in various crystal sizes, and/or use dextrose that will add more volume to your cure mix, it will not measure by volume the same as Tender Quick. If you feel the need to use kosher salt and/or dextrose, you would be better off weighing the mixture made with kosher salt and/or dextrose to get the correct amount; or use the mix for dredging.

Basic Dry Cure:
  • *1 pound/450 grams pickling salt
  • 8 ounces/225 grams granulated sugar
  • 2.4 ounces/68 grams pink salt (InstaCure #1; or DQ Powder; or Prague Powder #1; or Cure #1; or TCM)
    Makes about 3 1/2 cups
  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. It is important to mix this thoroughly to ensure that the pink salt and other ingredients are equally distributed.
    • I used a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (do not use the whisk). I mixed the ingredients at speed #2 for two minutes. Scraped the sides and mixed for two more minutes.
  2. The proper usage is 1 tablespoon per pound. The same as Morton Tender Quick.

  3. Store in an air tight container away from sunlight, and it will last indefinitely.
    • If hard lumps form during storage discard and make a new batch. If the lumps fall apart easily with a little pressure the cure is still good to use.
  4. To use the Basic Cure Mix as part of your favorite curing recipes, measure out the amount per pound that your need, then you can add your additional seasonings such as additional sugar, garlic, onions and/or herbs (do not add additional salt).

Additional Instructions/Notes:

*Pickling Salt in the United States is a standard grain size the same size as table salt. In Canada you may find that pickling salt to be much larger crystals. In this case use a non-iodized table salt, or any pure salt with a similar size grain.

If like the flavor of Turbinado sugar, and if you have some patients you can use that instead of granulated sugar. Turbinado sugar comes in large crystals, but in a dry cure you want all ingredients about the same size so that they evenly mix, and don't separate during storage. So you will need to grind the Turbinado sugar to white sugar granular size, without turning it into powder form. I have a small blade grinder and the best way I've found to do this is to pulse 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time until you get the right uniformity. There are about 8 tablespoons in 8 ounces of Turbinado sugar.

Comment by Habanero Smoker: I like Morton's Tender Quick for it convenience, but most of today's recipes call for pink salt, and Morton's TQ is not easy to find in my area. I have a plenty of pink salt, and I was happy when I came across this recipe. I've been using this cure a lot, not only as a substitute for Morton's Tender Quick, but it is handy to have this cure mixture on hand instead of starting from scratch each time I want to cure bacon, or pastrami.

  • Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. Charcuterie. The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. NY/London. W.M. Morton Co.; 2005