Curing with salt and sugar may be called salting, salt-curing, sugar-curing or honey-curing. The application of pellets of salt, called "corns", is often called corning. Curing in a water solution or brine is called wet-curing or pickling. The curing of fish is sometimes called kippering.
Salt and sugar inhibit the growth of microorganisms by drawning water out of microbial cells by osmosis. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of bacteria. Smoking adds chemicals that reduce the concentration of salt required.
Nitrates and nitrites (found in nearly all processed meats) not only help kill bacteria, but also produce a characteristic flavor, and give meat a pink or red color. The use of nitrates and nitrites in food is controversial. (see: Nitrite curing)