How to Remove Nitrates From Processed Meat

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Meat products, such hot dogs and deli meats, use a nitrate preservative, such as sodium nitrate, to mitigate the growth of microorganisms that could otherwise spoil the food. Removing nitrates from a food product is time-consuming and cumbersome, aside from it being nearly impossible for the average consumer to determine at what point all or most nitrates are removed. Most consumers would do well to avoid products containing nitrates rather than attempting to remove them. However, sodium nitrates are water-soluble, making it possible to remove some portion of them from a product.

Things You'll Need

  • Pot large enough for meat product
  • Water to cover meat product
  • Meat product, such as hot dogs, deli meats, or other food with sodium nitrates
  • Stove
Most commercial processed meats are preserved with nitrates.
Most commercial processed meats are preserved with nitrates.

Step 1

Place meat product in pot and cover with water.

Covered pot on oven
Covered pot on oven (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Step 2

Heat water and cook meat product. Cooking times and temperatures vary according to the size of the meat,and the concentration of preservative in the meat. The most-effective way to maximize removal of sodium nitrates from the meat is to cook the meat in water, drain away and discard the water, then cook again in fresh water. This process can be repeated numerous times when the goal is removal of preservatives for food quality.

Hot dogs in boiling water
Hot dogs in boiling water (Image: stephenkirsh/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 3

Determine whether or not nitrates have been removed from the meat product by taking the cooking water from the last cooking step of the meat, then completely evaporating the cooking water by boiling it off to reveal the presence or absence of a white powder residue. This white powder will be a mix of sodium nitrate and sodium chloride (table salt). The consumer who wishes to be completely rid of sodium nitrate in their preserved meat should continue cooking in fresh water until this white powder is no longer visible from evaporated cooking water.

Salt and shaker
Salt and shaker (Image: Levent Konuk/iStock/Getty Images)

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Tips & Warnings

  • For consumers interested in separating the sodium choride and sodium nitrate that remains in the white powder residue, high heat temperatures can help to separate the two. If the white powder is heated to 308 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the melting temperature of sodium nitrate, the sodium nitrate will melt away and leave the remaining sodium chloride, which has a much higher melting temperature (801 degrees Fahrenheit). This would be a difficult experiment to conduct with ordinary kitchen equipment.

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