A butcher in an apron prepares to slice a large piece of cured ham on a wooden counter.

Does Prosciutto Go Bad? (Whole & Sliced)

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Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

I’ve savored Prosciutto, both sliced and whole; often, visitors ask whether this preserved dry-cured meat goes bad, so here is the answer.

If you’re a fan of cured meats, you’re in the right place – my blog, Eat Cured Meat, is all about the slowest food around!

Prosciutto is one of the most famous Italian cured meats used in appetizers and pasta dishes.

This thinly shaved pork has a delightfully salty-sweet flavor. However, it can potentially be ‘too dry’ or make you sick if you eat it past its expiration date. 

Prosciutto lasts a long time but eventually goes bad. Its shelf life depends on how it is packaged and stored. Sliced fresh prosciutto only lasts a few days, while the whole prosciutto cured and dried pork leg can last for many years in hermetically sealed packaging. 

Prosciutto can last a long time if it’s properly stored. However, you need to know how to inspect it to ensure it’s still safe to eat. Keep reading to learn more about how long different forms of prosciutto can be stored without going bad. 

All Prosciutto Goes Bad Eventually

Even though prosciutto is a form of cured pork, this curing process only partially preserves the meat. Like all meat, prosciutto will eventually begin to break down from bacteria in the environment and rot.

Umbrian prosciutto 3 large
Spoleto, Umbria, Italy – many of these prosciutto are 1-3 years old and just hang in this funky deli/restaurant.

Proper packaging and refrigeration can slow the process of the prosciutto going bad, but these safeguards won’t stop it entirely. 

How Long Does Prosciutto Last Before Going Bad? 

The amount of time prosciutto can be stored before spoiling depends entirely on how it is packaged and stored.

The shelf life of whole vacuum-sealed prosciutto pieces is much longer than that of pre-sliced fresh prosciutto in the grocery deli section.

For my experimenting and testing at home, I’ve found that 2-3 years is the maximum I will vacpac store the prosciutto in the fridge, with no light – ideally in a brown paper bag.

I vacuum pack all my finished whole-muscle dry-cured meats in reusable sous vide bags. They have lasted 1-2 years without issues.

Here’s a breakdown of the shelf life expectations you can have for each type of prosciutto: 

  • Freshly sliced prosciutto: Freshly sliced prosciutto from the grocery store will only last 5-7 days in the refrigerator before spoiling. Sliced prosciutto is very perishable because the flat slices of meat give bacteria plenty of surface area to colonize. (Source: Foods Guy)
  • Whole Prosciutto: Whole vacuum-sealed prosciutto pieces can be stored up to 12 months in refrigeration as long as the packaging hasn’t been broken. Once the hermetic seal has been broken and the prosciutto has been partially sliced, the piece of pork can be stored in refrigeration for up to 40 days. (Source: Parma Crown)
  • Frozen prosciutto: Freezing prosciutto is not generally recommended as a storage option since freezing and defrosting the meat can have severe negative impacts on the flavor and texture. Once frozen, a piece of prosciutto can last in the freeze for up to three months without spoiling. 

I’ve had a friend who brought a frozen piece of Parma prosciutto on a hunting trip. We sliced it and ate it with no issues. But he had no idea it was cured/dried meat!

Since prosciutto may spoil when it’s 5 days old or when it’s 130 days old, depending on how it has been stored and packaged, it’s up to the person storing it to ensure that the packaging date is properly marked and they know how to tell whether the meat has begun to spoil. 

As with all spoiled meat, it is far safer to throw questionable prosciutto out and get some fresh from the store than it is to be hospitalized with food poisoning – common sense tries to prevail.

Prosciutto parma ham in parma
Prosciutto Parma Ham in ……Parma – the sweetest cured mat I have had (24 months dried/aged this one)

How Does Prosciutto Last So Long?

The reason that whole prosciutto can last so long in the fridge is that prosciutto is created by caking the leg of pork in salt. This is an art and craft in itself, it is then carefully dried over 9 months to 3 years to develop flavor and lose weight. Unwanted bacteria do not like the low water activity that this procedure produces. 

How to Tell If Prosciutto Has Gone Bad

Like many types of meat, it can be fairly easy to tell when prosciutto is beginning to go bad.

Humans have evolved for hundreds of years to be able to tell when food is safe to eat or not, so don’t be afraid to depend on your senses to determine whether prosciutto can still be eaten if you’re not entirely sure of the expiration date. 

Below you’ll find a few indicators that your prosciutto has begun to spoil. If you see these qualities in your prosciutto, discard it and replace it rather than taking a chance on food poisoning. 

  • Coloring: Fresh prosciutto should have a rosy-red, brownish-red, or pinkish color throughout, with white stripes of fat running through the meat. If your prosciutto has begun to take on a grayish color or a greenish tint, this is a clear indicator that it is spoiling and should be thrown out. (Source: eHow)
  • Smell: Fresh prosciutto should smell salty and sweet, with secondary notes of the pepper or herbs it was preserved in. If you smell any bitter or sour notes coming from the meat, this is usually a sign that the meat has gone off. 
  • Dryness: When it gets too dry if it is sliced – it’s not pleasant to eat anymore.

Note that it isn’t a good idea to taste prosciutto that you think is questionable to tell whether it’s spoiled or not.

Even just eating a little bit of spoiled pork can cause you to become violently ill if it’s contaminated with harmful bacteria. 

Prosciutto Lasts a Long Time if Stored Properly

If you want to store prosciutto for a long time without it going bad, it’s probably worth the trouble for you to purchase a large vacuum-packed whole prosciutto rather than pre-packaged slices.

Buying whole vacuum-sealed prosciutto for fridge storage will give you a lot more wiggle room when it comes to how long the meat will last before spoiling.

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.


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Comments

  1. I am curing Prosciutto for the first time and it has only been hanging wrapped in cheesecloth for 6 months. The Prosciutto smells good and looks good but we live in a very dry climate and I am concerned that it may be getting too dry and I should open it and eat it. is there any way to know for sure?

  2. Is Prosciutto Italiano still good after been on the counter for 3hrs.

  3. Should a leg of prosciutto been refrigerated it it is sealed plastic in a box. I am trying to decide if mine went bad. It has never been opened but was not refrigerated. Thank you for you help
    Nhamman3410@gmail.com

    1. Author

      Its preserved meat, and vac packed from the sounds of it. As long as its not at hot temperatures. Can’t see why it would be bad. Its preserved. Sniff it and trust your nose!
      The Romans 2000 years ago, didn’t have fridges, just winter and caves. All the best, Tom

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