A variety of cured sausage showcasing different preparation methods: drycured, coldsmoked, fermented, and hotsmoked.

Is Cured Meat Always Cooked or Not (Examples and Explanations)

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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.

Cured meat is neither cooked nor raw Dry. Cured meat is often preserved by using salt, drying it, reducing cold smoke, and reducing acidity. The flavor is often enhanced with dry-cured meats due to this drying process, less water, more intensive flavor

Cured meat can be dry-cured salami, cooked salami, salt pork, dry-cured salumi, and many other variations.

Cured meats can be defined as having salt curing the meat. Some confusion has come about because people say nitrates/nitrites are a cure. When, in fact, they can be an ingredient in a cure recipe for meat.

Some cured meats, like hot dogs, frankfurters, and pastrami, are cured either using a dry or wet cure. However, they are cooked, sometimes hot smoked, to finish the product. These are not preserved cured meats.

I will go through these differences in detail below:

Cured meat covers a massive category.

From charcuterie (is all charcuterie raw? I wrote about this here), a centuries-old French tradition, to the need for protein that will last a long backpacking adventure, cured meat continues to rise in popularity worldwide.

I’ve been curing meat for nearly 20 years and have researched many cultures, so here is a short answer and a little more detail.

These distinguishing differences can be confusing for some, so it is important to check for the meat you plan to consume.

Examples (I’ll elaborate on these in the table and below):

Prosciutto = salt dry-cured pork leg, preserved, dry-cured.

Pastrami = Wet brined/cured but cooked meat, ready to eat

A collage of different types of sausages and salamis showcasing the cooked, spreadable ,emulsified and dry cured styles.
different types of sausages and salamis showcasing the cooked, spreadable ,emulsified and dry cured styles

Bacon = can be hot smoked/cooked to a safe temperature and then re-cooked or cold smoked and dried (ready to be cooked)

I’ve made all the above and taught how to make it.

Since curing meat does not imply that it is inherently cooked, it is important to check for the preparatory steps needed before you plan on chowing down on your cured meat without cooking it.

So here is a little more detail,

Details Cooked and UnCooked Cured Meats

To summarize and add more examples, see the table below for cooked and uncooked cured meats.

Meat TypeCooked or Preserved
ProsciuttoPreserved/Dry Cured
PastramiCooked/ Wet Cured
BaconCooked/Hot Smoked or Preserved/Cold Smoked
SalamiCooked/Hot Smoked or Preserved/Cold Smoked
HamCooked/Hot Smoked
Smoked SausageCooked/Hot Smoked
ChorizoCooked/Hot Smoked or Preserved/Cold Smoked
PepperoniCooked or Preserved
GuancialePreserved/Dry Cured
Corned BeefCooked/Wet Cured
BresaolaPreserved/Dry Cured
CoppaPreserved/Dry Cured
CapicolaPreserved/Dry Cured
PancettaPreserved/Dry Cured
Soppressata SalamiFermented/Preserved/Dry Cured
SpeckPreserved/Dry Cured/Cold Smoked
LardoPreserved/Dry Cured
Duck ProsciuttoPreserved/Dry Cured
Turkey BaconCooked/Hot Smoked
Kransky SausageCooked/Hot Smoked
Methods of curing meat with salt large 1
Cold-smoked, dry-cured, or not cold-smoked, all of these have lost 35% when you make cured meats at home. You want to lose that weight to make sure they’re preserved and safe to eat. Salt has inhibited the meat, and it has reached a ‘preserved’ state (and tasty too!).

You will find cured meat falling into a few main categories.

Knowing what each of these is (and a few common meats included in each category) can help you more clearly understand the broad aspects of cured meats.

Cooked Cured Meats

Charcoal hot smoked salmon large
‘Cured first’ and ready to be cooked and smoked at a low heat = hot smoked salmon

Some meats are cured and then cooked- either through smoking, cooking directly, or using moist heat. This implies that the meat is both cured and cooked, so it is obviously safe to eat. 

All the examples in the table above that are cooked/hot smoked fall into this category

Hot Smoked Bacon (Recooked)

Hot smoked bacon is another cured meat cooked (and more technically recooked).

Bacon generally falls into two different categories when it comes to smoking. It can be hot smoked or cold smoked- both options have their unique pros and cons.

With hot smoked bacon, though, you will be sure that the meat has been rid of any harmful bacteria that were not prevented during the curing process considering the heat at which the meat will be exposed to during the hot smoking process.

Hot-smoking bacon has become popular for a few reasons, the main ones being its smoky and cooked flavor. It does not offer quite the same smokey flavor that cold smoking will for this type of meat, but it is still comparable and enjoyable.

To enjoy hot smoked bacon, the procedure is pretty simple (at least on paper). The meat will be cut, cured, dried, hot smoked, dried, cooked (aka recooked), and permitted to rest before serving. You can enjoy this meat in many capacities including on your favorite sandwich, alongside your morning breakfast, or as a topping to a savory dinner.

Uncooked /Dry-Cured Meats

Salumi charcuterie cured meat
Dry Cured Meat Done At Home, Olive Wood Board From Italy!

Another category of cured meats is uncooked or dry-cured meats. The dry-curing process on many of these will render the meats ready to be consumed without the need for additional cooking. But, if you are concerned, it is best to check the particular meat you are planning to enjoy before biting in.

Parma Ham & Prosciutto (Dry-Cured Pork Legs)

Parma de Prosciutto and prosciutto are sweeter meats that add a delightful delicacy to any charcuterie board (or another type of plated offering). These meats come from the rear of the pork, primarily from the pork hind leg. 

Interestingly, Parma ham and prosciutto (prosciutto is eaten raw and I wrote why here) are dry-cured, a process in which the meats are cured with salt to considerably reduce unwanted bacteria that would otherwise make them unsafe to eat. 

During this process, the meat is dried with a salt cure that reduces its moisture content. 

After being cured and dried for at least 12 months, the Parma and prosciutto are safe to eat without cooking first.

Even though they look a little raw, on closer inspection, they don’t feel or smell like raw meat at all. Since they have been dry-cured, they will be safe to consume (the amino acid protein is actually easier to digest).

Lonza, Bresaola, Pancetta (Whole Muscle Dry-Cured Meat)

Lonza, bresaola, and pancetta are delightful meats often included in savory dishes. Their delicious addition will elevate the flavor profile of any dish. These meats are dry-cured, similar to the prosciutto above.

But, since they are dry-cured, they can be consumed upon being served. However, some people do use these types of meat incorporated into other dishes, so you may find that they have been cooked alongside another ingredient, which is still ok (Pancetta and Carbonara pasta is a classic)

Lonza, bresaola, and pancetta all come from whole muscles. These delicious meats can be enjoyed on a charcuterie board or add these proteins on top of a piece of bread for an afternoon snack.

Cold Smoked Dry-Cured Bacon

Cold-smoked dry-cured bacon is the counterpart to hot-smoked dry-cured bacon, and though it differs in preparation, it shares many of the same delights.

The dry-cured bacon is exposed to the right airflow, temperature, and humidity through the cold-smoking process.

In the cold-smoked process (as compared to the hot-smoked process) of dry-cured bacon, the bacon will have to rest for quite a bit longer as it dries to a weight loss (from its original weight) between 15-30%. 

Since it’s cooked before consumption, it’s often not dried to the extent of the dry cured meats such as Parma Prosciutto or Pancetta.

Regardless, once this meat has been prepared through the cold smoking process, it will be ready to consume. 

You can use it in the same way as any other bacon, but be sure to choose an option that will allow you to enjoy the rich flavor that will have come from this more technical, worth-the-wait smoking process.

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