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What’s A Good Tender Quick Substitute?

Tender quick substitute
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The deliciousness of cured meats is hard to beat, whether its sizzling hot smoked bacon, droëwors from South Africa, or indulging in a charcuterie board.

Curing meat is a practice that has its roots in the third century BC, and is basically a salt-based concoction along with other ingredients such as spices, sugar, and nitrates.

Morton Tender Quick, just as the name would suggest is a fast cure product that’s packed with all the essential ingredients to cure meat, poultry, fish and game.

However, there might be myriad reasons why you’d want to look for a Tender Quick substitute, most notably due to the product’s unavailability or the fact that it does contain a tad bit of sodium nitrate.

If you’re looking for a substitute for Tender Quick, then my answer is Yes and No.

Hence, there is no substitute for Tender Quick if you want the exact same composition of ingredients.

But you will find alternatives to Tender Quick, which are hailed as being much better for the curing process.

You can use Prague #1 as a Tender Quick substitute which is close to composition of ingredients. You can also make homemade substitute for tender quick.

Once you understand the different properties of Tender quick substitutes have, you are then able to decide which one is best for you to use.

What is Morton Quick?

Conceived in 1848, Morton Salt is an American food company that produces an assortment of salts for the food, industrial, and agricultural segment.

Tender Quick is one of the company’s bestselling brands, and is billed as an excellent meat curing formulation in its segment.

Tender Quick is a blend of several different ingredients including salt, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.

It offers twofold benefits — helps maintain the meat’s color and flavor, and prevents the growth of E. coli, and other bacteria that cause illnesses.

Even though Tender Quick can be used to cure an array of meats, it works particularly well with smaller cuts of meat such as spareribs, pork chops, poultry, salmon, chad, sablefish, and to preserve your meats, while adding irresistible flavor.

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Is Tender Quick Healthy?

Short answer is Yes, and here’s why!

Tender Quick is a premixed, ready to use curing product that contains several different ingredients, and not just one!

Salt is the main preserving ingredient in Tender Quick, followed by sugar, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite that serve as curing agents when they turn into gas.

The breakdown of this composition is 5% sodium nitrite, 5% sodium nitrate, 70% salt, 29% sugar, and less than 1% propylene glycol.

While salt and sugar are common, must-have ingredients in most recipes, the addition of sodium nitrate is what raises eyebrows for some chefs.

But sodium nitrate fights off harmful bacteria in both processed and cured meats, and also gives them their pink coloration.

In terms of safety, sodium nitrate can be poisonous, and can cause various diseases, only when used in large quantities.

However, its use in Tender Quick is literally non-existent, making it a 100 percent healthy curing agent.

Is Tender Quick the same as Meat Tenderizer?

Even though Tender Quick and Meat Tenderizer are often confused for each other, they are two different products that perform different tasks.

Meat tenderizer is classified as a seasoning, and is not a Tender Quick substitute, but rather a naturally derived enzyme powder.

This powder is sprinkled over the meat to break down the meat fibers to make the meat more tender, and easy to swallow.

Tender Quick contains the preservatives sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, which work towards preventing bacterial growth when curing meats for a long time. It is a not a meat tenderizer, and should not be used at higher levels.

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What is Tender Quick Used for? How do You Use Tender Quick?

Tender quick is formulated as a curing salt, and contains several high grade salts and other ingredients.

It can be used to cure poultry, meat, game, salmon, sablefish, shad, and can also be used for dry as well as sweet pickle curing.

Tender Quick and Morton sugar Cure can be used interchangeably, where both are considered fast cures, but the latter includes dextrose, and a packet of spice mix.

Both products are not seasonings or meat tenderizers, and aren’t interchangeable with other meat curing products such as Cure #1 or Cure #2.

Before using Tender Quick, you should maintain the meat at temperatures between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, unless air-drying.

The salt content in Tender Quick may be excessive for certain recipes, so soak the cured meats or fish in cold water, then air-dry before cooking or grilling.

For dry-curing, mix Tender Quick with the other ingredients thoroughly before applying it to the meat or fish.

When brining, it is important to use distilled water to avoid impurities, and nonreactive containers.

Start by dissolving one cup of Tender Quick in four cups of water, place the meat in the brine, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Substitute for Tender Quick  

There are several recipes that recommend using Tender Quick rather than any other curing products.

But Morton Tender Quick may not always be the best option, especially when used as a wet brine. So, if you’re wondering if there’s a substitute for Tender Quick, the answer is Yes and No.

Remember, Tender Quick is a mix of ingredients in different quantities, which is not the same as other meat curing products.

Hence, there is no substitute for Tender Quick if you want the exact same composition of ingredients.

But on a brighter note, there are alternatives to Tender Quick, which are hailed as being much better for the curing process.

Prague #1 – Substitute for Tender Quick

Prague #1, often dubbed as Tinted Cure or Pink Curing is a top rated curing salt concentrate that can be used to cure up to 100 lbs of meat, sausage, and jerky.

It provides a distinct flavor, helps prevent discoloration, and can be used for the preserving and curing of semi dry and cooked meats such as bacon, ham, fish, pastrami, and corned beef.

One of the noteworthy features of Prague #1 is it contains natural colorings, and no anti-caking agents.

It is as close as you can get to a substitute for Tender Quick, given that it contains 6.25% sodium nitrite, and 93.75% sodium chloride as per USDA and FDA guidelines.

Homemade Substitute for Tender Quick

If you don’t want to buy a readymade substitute for Tender Quick, you can make your own in the comfort of your home.

To smoke meats over a long period of time, and at low temperatures, you simply need to mix one ounce of sodium nitrate (6.25%), and 1 lbs of table salt or sea salt in a bowl.

To cure meats that won’t require cooking or refrigeration such as for salami, pepperoni, and other dry sausages, mix one ounce of sodium nitrate (6.25%), 0.64 ounces of sodium nitrate (4%) and 1 lbs of table salt or sea salt in a bowl.

Sugar cures are great for ham, bacon and pork meats, for which mix 4 lbs salt, 1 1/2 lbs sugar and 3 ounces saltpeter in a bowl.

You can add your preferred seasonings to any of the aforementioned homemade Tender Quick substitutes including spices and herbs.

Wrapping Up

Tender Quick is an award worthy product, but is hard to get your hands on!

A great Tender Quick substitute is also made by Morton — Smoke Flavored Sugar Cure, but unfortunately has been discontinued by the manufacturer.

But there’s no need to break a sweat just yet, because you can use any of the Tender Quick substitutes mentioned on this list to add flavor, color to your meats, and extend their shelf life.

Homemade Tender Quick substitutes may also be a better option for you as they give you complete control over the ingredients you want to use, and cure meat your way.




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