Salt pork makes for an incredible addition to many dishes; it does come in different forms whether it’s bought or made at home as well.
I’ve both used many brands and made salt pork at home; through this helpful site on cured meat, salt pork does get questioned and queried a lot.
In its purest form, it’s salt and pork – that’s about it. However, many additives have been used for commercial versions.
I’ve enjoyed eating, making, and buying salt pork – it’s versatile.
This delicious option adds a distinct twist to the average flavor profile. But, since salt pork is known for its curation process, you might be curious if it can be consumed without being cooked.
Can Salt Pork Be Eaten Raw
Can salt pork be eaten raw? No, the salt is embedded and saturated into the salt pork during the curing process. You will need to cook the salt pork before consumption or soak it in fresh water to draw out the salt. While the meat is dry-cured, this does not mean that it is safe to eat raw.
This may or may not make sense to you- likely depending on your familiarity with salt pork and its various uses. At the end of the day, it is simply important to recognize that this particular cured meat will need to be cooked before you can consume it.
I’ve had salt pork, that I’ve made at home, last for 2 years. Its a preserved cured meat, but I kept it in the fridge for longevity.
It does sound like it might resemble other meats that would be included on a Charcuterie board.
But, do not let its appearance (like other cured meats) fool you into thinking that it is safe to be consumed without being cooked first.
It’s because dry cured meat for a charcuterie board has an edible amount of salt infused, whilst salt pork is fully saturated, too much for consumption without drawing the salt out of the meat.
Salt pork is often cured with a combination of salt, sugar, and nitrate in commercial methods, while traditional salt pork is cured with salt (along with sugar and other spices). The nitrates/nitrites can be optional for homemade salt pork.
Salt curing helps to preserve the meat and reduce unwanted bacterial growth, this happens due to the binding and diffusion of salt and water in the meat.
Therefore, when you pull salt pork out of its container (either a commercially sealed bag or the container in which you sealed it at home during the traditional salt pork curation process), it must be rinsed and cooked.
Or soaked in fresh water for at least 6 to 12 hours.
If you were to rinse the salt pork, you still need to cook it.
Salt pork (especially when commercially made) can also be wet cured and soaked in a brine (link to article dry vs wet curing) which would also imply that you would need to cook the meat before it is safe to consume.
It can also be needle injected with the salt wet brine, a common commercial technique to speed up the curing process.
How Does Salt Cure Meat?
Salt has long been used as the traditional ingredient for prolonging the shelf-life of meats.
For centuries if not thousands of years, people all over the world have perfected the craft of using every component that comes from an animal and ensuring that it has high longevity.
Salt was valuable and all about preservation.
Instead, many commercial and traditional meat producers use the curing process to enhance meat’s longevity and provide a safe way to consume meat.
Traditionally it wasn’t measured so much, and the saltbox or saturation method was used, which means immersing the meat in salt for a length of time.
This is how I’ve crafted salt pork as well.
Salt binds in the water, slowing water activity, and also can diffuse/extract water, this equates to creating an environment that minimizes unwanted bacteria that can spoil the meat.
Thus, meat can be salt-cured to substantially reduce unwanted bacteria and microorganisms that would otherwise make consuming it unsafe when raw or fresh.
Now if you’re interested in the methods of using salt I wrote all about old and new methods of meat curing at home here.
Why You Can Eat Dry-Cured Meat Raw (Not Salt Pork)
As charcuterie boards rise in popularity among friends and in fine dining establishments, you might begin to see more dry-cured meats appear on your table.
But, since they look like any other type of raw meat to someone who is not as familiar, it might be confusing why they can be eaten without being cooked.
Dry-cured meats can be eaten “raw” because the salt curation process dehydrates the meat through the process of osmosis and prevents bacterial growth.
While those who dry-cure their meats must be sure to follow safety precautions (and all dry-cured meat still comes with an inherent risk of not being cooked), it can be done safely so that the meat can be eaten “raw”.
A similar concept follows behind why you can eat a steak cooked medium rare (with a warm red to hot pink center).
In this scenario, the harmful bacteria have been destroyed through the cooking process.
In dry-cured meats, the harmful bacteria are not permitted to thrive, and the high salt concentration used in the curation process kills most of the microorganisms that cause food poisoning.
However, salt pork cannot be eaten raw even though the high salt concentration has been used in the curation process. Instead, the salt pork must be rinsed and cooked before it is safe to consume.