What Is Prague Powder?

A Guide to Buying and Cooking With Prague Powder

Prague powder in a bowl

The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

Prague powder #1 is a curing mixture used in making cured meat products that require short cures and will then be cooked, such as sausages, including hot dogs, fish, and corned beef.

Fast Facts

  • Preparation: One teaspoon of Prague powder mixed with cold water will cure about 5 pounds of meat.
  • Other Names: Prague Salt, Insta Cure #1, or pink curing salt #1
  • Shelf Life: One year

What Is Prague Powder #1?

Prague powder #1 used in meat processing. It generates a pinkish shade on the meat and extends its shelf life. It is made mostly of salt. Salt acts as a preservative through a process called osmosis, where the water within a cell is drawn out through the cell walls. Food spoilage and food poisoning are caused by single-celled organisms called bacteria. Salt pulls out the water from within the bacteria cells, killing them. Sugar does the same thing, which is why foods with high amounts of salt or sugar are among those that often don't require refrigeration. A special property of Prague powder #1 is that it prevents the growth of the deadly Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which causes botulism.

Its second ingredient, sodium nitrite, is a natural compound prevalent in soil and found in vegetables such as carrots and spinach (nitrogen is 78 percent of our atmosphere). Sodium nitrite is known to prevent the growth of bacteria. Combined, table salt mixed with sodium nitrite forms a highly effective food preservative, which also has antimicrobial properties.

Prague powder got its name since the process of adding sodium nitrite to meat for the purpose of curing it was first developed in Prague when it was part of the Habsburg Empire.


In addition to Prague powder #1, there is also Prague powder #2. This is made from sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, and table salt. Sodium nitrate in Prague powder #2 breaks down over time, turning into sodium nitrite. Eventually, no sodium nitrate will be left and the cured sausage will be ready to eat. Prague powder #2 is best for meats that take longer to cure (weeks to months) like hard salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, and country ham.

Prague Powder Uses

The pink coloring is added to Prague powder # 1 so that it won't be mistaken for ordinary salt. Prague powder is what makes cured meats pink in color; the Prague powder interacts with a component of the protein in meat called heme, which is the part of a red blood cell that gives blood its color.

How to Cook With Prague Powder

Prague powder #1 is only meant to be used in very small quantities. Accidentally adding Prague powder # 1 to food as you would normally salt would make you ill. For a five-pound piece of meat, use one teaspoon of Prague powder #1.

What Does It Taste Like?

Prague powder #1 is extremely salty and not meant to be eaten as is. It is colored pink to prevent confusing it with table salt. It adds salt and flavor to cured meats, only once they have been cured.

Prague Powder #1 Substitute

If you cannot find Prague powder #1, a good substitute is saltpeter, which is another name for potassium nitrate. It works by drawing the moisture out of the meat cells via osmosis, kills bacteria, and provides the same preservative benefits as curing salt.

Prague Powder #1 Recipes

Try one of these recipes for cured meats:

Where to Buy

Like a number of other food items, Prague powder # 1 can be found under different names, but its purpose and use in recipes remain the same. It is known as insta cure and modern cure, but you may also see it labeled as tinted curing mixture, TCM, tinted cure, curing salt, and pink salt. You can purchase Prague powder # 1 at online retailers that sell herbs, spices, and seasonings, at some hunting and sporting goods stores (Prague powder # 1 is a key ingredient in making jerky), and at major retailers and grocery stores that sell herbs and spices.


Keep Prague powder #1 in a cool dry location. Moisture will ruin the powder, so do not let it get wet. Some say the shelf life is indefinite as long as it is kept dry while others recommend a shelf life of one year.