Cured meats are a perfect way to inject a bit of decadence into any party or get-together. There’s a richness, but also a subtlety, to cured meats that makes them an absolute joy to savor.
There’s also the slightly exciting idea that you are eating the meat ‘raw’. Years of culinary history have taught us that eating raw meat is generally a bad idea, especially when it comes to poultry. So is it actually okay to eat cured meats?
One of the most popular and recognizable cured meats is prosciutto, which is cut from pork legs and features a characteristic red hue that makes it easy to recognize.
But is it actually safe to eat prosciutto in its raw form? Does it not need to be cooked before consumption? What happens if you eat it raw? And is prosciutto good or bad for you?
Despite their popularity, there are still many questions surrounding cured meats, especially prosciutto, so we decided to step in and help to answer them!
Got some burning questions of your own? Read on below to find the answers you seek!
Can Prosciutto Be Eaten Raw?
It is very safe to eat prosciutto without cooking it.
It’s important to highlight how prosciutto is actually made, and what ‘raw’ actually means in reference to it.
Prosciutto is first made by carefully slicing thin layers of meat from pork legs, and then leaving them to rest in a thick layer of salt for a good few weeks.
This process helps to keep bacteria from infecting the meat, as the salt sucks out all of the moisture from the meat so that there are no moist spots for bacteria to thrive in!
This explains why it is safe to eat it in a form that appears ‘raw’.
However, technically, prosciutto is not actually ‘raw’. ‘Raw’ is usually used to refer to meat in its most fresh form, freshly cut from the animal, and still packed with moisture.
The curing process of prosciutto withdraws all moisture from the meat, meaning that it does not technically conform to the standards we expect from ‘raw’ meat.
Is Prosciutto Healthy?
While you may not choose to eat prosciutto while on a strict diet, it is not entirely bad for you. The worst thing about prosciutto is its high sodium content.
Prosciutto has quite a high level of salt, which is how it gets its characteristic flavor, but if consumed too excessively, it could prove slightly dangerous.
However, despite this reputation, prosciutto is a far more healthy food option than bacon. However, it does still have high sodium and fat content, so once again, it’s important to exercise moderation when consuming prosciutto.
What Happens If You Cook Prosciutto?
If you cook prosciutto, you may notice that it crisps up slightly. This is not harmful in any way, and in fact, for many people, it is a delicacy unto itself!
Crispy prosciutto has a nice sense of texture to it that makes it truly pleasant to snack on, similar to bacon, but far less unhealthy!
What Different Types of Prosciutto Are There?
There are actually two very distinct types of prosciutto that you can try out, should they pique your interest.
The first is one we are all very familiar with, which is referred to as ‘Prosciutto Crudo’. This form of prosciutto is the type that is dry-cured with salt, to suck out the moisture, to keep it preserved.
The second form of prosciutto is referred to as ‘Prosciutto Cotto’, and this form differs quite massively. Prosciutto Cotto is actually cooked!
It is still very much the same cut of meat, from the pork leg, but the cooking process kills off the bacteria, which helps to keep the salt levels way down. No salt is needed to cure the prosciutto, so it, therefore, has a much lower sodium level.
The prosciutto is also not sweetened or altered in any way after the cooking process and is sold as pure as possible, which gives it a very unique and mature taste.
Can You Make Your Own Prosciutto?
It is entirely possible to create your own fresh prosciutto at home, with just a few things.
First, of course, you need to get a hold of a pork leg. Then, you simply slice it up however you want it, before leaving those slices to cure amongst a layer of salt.
This can usually take a few weeks, but you should make sure to check regularly on your prosciutto, to be sure that it is curing properly.
You can also slightly speed up the process by creating a saltwater solution and leaving the pork legs submerged in it for 3 to 4 weeks. This will allow you to cut off individual slices as you see fit when you are ready to serve them.
There are many handy guides online that you should be sure to check out to find out how you can make the perfect prosciutto for your tastes.
If you’ve been unsure about trying prosciutto, for fear of eating ‘raw’ meat, we hope that we’ve managed to quell some of your fears, and that you might be more willing to give it a try!
Prosciutto is perfectly healthy to eat, though you should definitely be sure to eat it in moderation, as it can be very high in salt content, and very high in fat.
Prosciutto is very rich in terms of flavor, so you should make sure to savor every bite, so overeating should not generally be too much of a concern.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the Best Way to Eat Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is very tasty even if it is just eaten by itself, as it is full of rich and complex flavors that change slightly with each bite. However, it does also pair greatly with certain foods. Thanks to its salty taste, prosciutto pairs really well with the subtle tastes of mozzarella and melon. This creates a perfect treat for the senses that takes full advantage of the great taste of prosciutto.
Can You Eat Packaged Prosciutto?
Prosciutto that has been packaged and then stocked in stores is perfectly safe to eat, as it has already been through the curing process, and is, therefore, safe to eat.
However, you should try to ensure that your prosciutto is well within its sell-by date, as otherwise, it would be rather unappetizing, and potentially unhealthy, with the risk of food poisoning.
Do You Have to Refrigerate Prosciutto?
You don’t technically have to keep prosciutto in the fridge, though you should definitely aim to.
The refrigerator will keep bacteria from thriving on the prosciutto, while also keeping it fresh for far longer than it would stay at room temperature.
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