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How to Make Charcuterie at Home (Ideas with Overview)

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.

(Last Updated On: January 18, 2024)

It’s a fascinating world when you start making charcuterie at home; there are many ways how to go about it, and, of course, it depends on what you want to have a go with.

Charcuterie Projects Difficulty and Approximate Time

Charcuterie Difficulty Approx Time
to Make
Pate /Rillettes2/10Few Hours
Vege Preserves/Flavoring2/1015-60 mins
Cold Smoke Vegetables (time it takes to cold smoking different foods)3/1030-60 mins
Hot Smoked Fish, Meat4/104-16 hours (curing and drying)
Fresh Sausages4/104 – 8 hours
Dry Curing Meat in a Regular Fridge 5/107-10 days (curing & drying)
Cold Smoked Meat 6/10 a few weeks
Dry Cured (Hung / Curing Chamber) 7/102 weeks – 24 months
Dry Cured Salami & Emulsified Salami 7/10weeks or months

Many of the techniques are ancient and bathed in history, and I mean really old history (Roman times for prosciutto, for instance -pork, salt, time & a cool moisture environment – oh and incredible passion and food culture helps).

For the last few decades, I have been exploring various charcuterie & meat-curing styles. As the world melds together, the different charcuterie styles are being merged. It’s super exciting to be a part of.

Here is a quick breakdown from easiest to more in-depth projects. Quite a few of the projects at the bottom of the table are long-term and or need some dedication – the outcomes can, however, be spectacular. Charcuterie is the ultimate slow food!

Charcuterie Selection of Cured Meats

Of course, these are generalizations about the time and effort – I hope it helps someone new to charcuterie.

I thought it would be useful just to see the many options available to cure, pickle or smoke something at home.

What Does Dry Cured Mean?

Charcuterie Salami making
Stuffing some Hungarian dry-cured salami with a friend

Dry-cured meats are a big part of charcuterie and the charcuterie board that has become so popular. It uses a dry salt cure to draw moisture out and intensify the flavor (if you are interested in discovering why I think charcuterie has become so popular, check out this post).

Most folks know about dry-cured bacon since it’s so popular, basically using a dry salt cure before the cold smoking (sometimes hot smoking aspects).

So all the glories of prosciutto, braesola, lonza, pancetta & coppa – are all classic Italian dry cured meats.

Of course, hanging smaller bits of meat to start with is much easier than going for a full leg of prosciutto pork. Having a curing chamber is not essential, but it does help if you get seriously into it.

So, what Charcuterie do you want to start with?

For a first time at charcuterie, I would suggest something like these,

  • Rillette – preserving in fat
  • Hot Smoking Fish, Sausages in a Portable Smoker
  • Preserving or flavor-enhancing some Vegetables or Olives for a Charcuterie Platter
Hot Smoked Fish Portable Smoker large
Hot Smoked Fish from my Portable Smoker

Gear or Tools for Charcuterie

For pickling or rillettes you may have what you need already, decent jars is about it, plus the food ingredients. You are cooking rather than placing meat in a jar or ramekin.

A simple portable smoker, an outdoor heat source, and some smoking wood are all you need to do simple direct hot smoking. I have used a camping portable smoker for a very long term – a simple device that produces a whole different angle on flavor.

Although indoor smokers are coming to the market as well.

Here is a hot smoking guide I wrote, and also smoking fish on a gas grill BBQ.

Buying plain olives and throwing in some herbs, garlic, or spices – can create a whole new level of appreciation. Another easy addition to a charcuterie platter is quick pickling cucumbers.

Let me go into some detail about these; for starter options, I will put some links below to other more in-depth options you might want to read about.

Breakdown of Each Technique

Steps to Make a French Meat Rillette

  1. Cook the meat until tender
  2. Add and mix some desired spices, herbs, etc
  3. place in ramekin or jar and cover with fat
  4. Make sure meat is covered in fat (duck fat is common)
  5. Remove and smear on toast to enjoy

Here is an easy pork rillette recipe from NY Times,

Steps to Make Liver Pate

  1. Cook liver with spices and flavors
  2. blend up until fine
  3. Put in jar with butter on top to seal and block oxygen

Here is a chicken liver pate recipe from drizzle and dip that you will love.

Marinating or Quick Pickling Vegetables

It is such a great addition to the charcuterie board; one of my favorites is to choose a basic brined jar of olives from the grocer, then throw some ‘hard’ herbs like rosemary in with slivers of garlic and cracked pepper.

It gives a flavor bomb to those olives! You can customize it to any flavor you like.

Simple pickling vegetables contrasts and cuts through the fat of the dry cured meat like prosciutto or pancetta, I find it refreshes the palate, for cheeses as well cheese and pickle are classic.

Pickled Cucumber, here is a recipe on Culinaria blog for the quickest of pickles!

Dry Cured Meat Charcuterie in a Regular Fridge

How to Thinly Slice Cured Meat (Methods & Pictures)
Cured Meat from my kitchen fridge

This is a technique I have been trialing a fair bit; the key to success is the minimal amount of fat and under 7 oz / 200 grams of meat. It is an excellent way to be introduced to the idea of ‘preserving’ a small bit of beef, venison, or pork.

To be thinly sliced and appreciated with loved ones.

If you want more information, I wrote a comprehensive post here on charcuterie dry curing in a kitchen fridge.

Cold Smoked Charcuterie Meat

Not sure why so many people see cold smoking as being complicated, it’s doesn’t take much kit and the key is to just have something that is fully cured, cold smoked in reasonably high humidity and cool temperature (at night works well in my area during the warmer months.

If you want to get your head around trying some delicious homemade cold-smoked charcuterie, check out a full post I wrote here on how to cold smoke.

Making Dry Cured Meats in a Curing Chamber

To start with, you can get the right environment, but it’s actually going to be a bit of trial and error.

Building a curing chamber is the way to go, if you want to get the a full rundown on the equipment you need, I wrote a full breakdown to help guide those wanting to put together a curing chamber. It starts with an old fridge or wine fridge generally.

Check out how to build a curing chamber here.

The gest is that you need to control the humidity and temperature – then keep those bugs off and create beautiful dry cured meats.

Salami & Salumi

If you want to get into this, I wrote a post just going over the subtle difference between these classic types of Italian meat curing here.

Wild Game vs. Farmed

Fish that are caught or meat that I harvest, I like to make extra effort with – since it normally took extra effort to procure.

Cold Smoking – Full Guide I wrote

Dry Curing Meat in a Regular Fridge – step by step

Dry Curing with salt – different techniques

Cold Smoking can be done easily on your gas grill BBQ with a small cold smoke-generating device.

You can use just salt and spices with the meat for dry cured charcuterie in your regular kitchen fridge. However, nowadays, it is a good idea to use pink curing salt (for under 30 days of curing – pink curing salt No. 1 is the way to go).

Long Term Dry Curing & Salami making can be done with some DIY hacking, but I would always recommend doing it properly if that’s what you want to get into. In saying that, you will want to get the basics done first.

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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