Table of Contents
Here is a helpful rundown of the best books I have found on meat curing, dry curing, and smoking food; these are books I have re-read and used as references throughout this site, the best of the best!
Best Most Useful Meat Curing Books
- Salumi The Craft of Italy Dry Curing
- Home Production of Quality Meats & Sausages
- The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook
These ‘go-to books‘ are very useful for someone trying to learn dry curing and smoking; they’re all pitched slightly differently, but they have the same info.
When I started meat curing decades ago, there wasn’t much information I could find for the stuff I wanted to do, which was all about classic Italian whole muscle dry cure charcuterie. I started off smoking a lot of meat I caught in the rivers/sea or hunted for.
But when I got these booked below and got into the nitty-gritty details, I got the theory correct, which was much easier after that.
All the time, I still get asked about smoked meats and dry-cured meats – it’s a confusing subject until you understand salt and the many other factors that need to be balanced. Like anything, once you understand it, it’s not that scary.
So, there are two books I will focus on since I think these are the cornerstone of anyone wanting to learn the ropes about meat curing. After reading each (or one), you can develop your style or follow some of the classics.
The third book, Another Winner, covers many of the same; the River Cottage book covers both smoking and curing meat. However, it blends a more explorative culinary angle. Many chefs I know have loved the inspiration of this book. But I am advising on the bare-bone basics of using salt to preserve and enhance flavor – but focussing on the methodology in detail to a degree.
Then some other books are also excellent but aren’t into the details of these others, in my opinion, more on the inspirational/ideas side.
The internet has too many ideas and recipes that don’t come from an expert. Or brush over the basics; there are some nuances, and getting schooled up properly means you can follow the right way.
But these three books are from well-researched sources that have done their homework.
Storytime Side note
I was recently in the region around Parma, Italy, having a private tour of the mid-size Parma Ham (King of Italian Prosciutto) factory. Eighty-five thousand legs of Parma Ham a Year (at the time, they stocked Harrods in London). One of the owners said they lose 2-3% a year, which comes down to how the master salter applies the salt, not giving it enough, or many other subtle factors.
Now for dry curing in this advanced style with a minimum of 12 months hanging. I have about a 99% hit rate of success, but I don’t do 12-month meat curing often right now, mainly 3-6 months of dry curing.
By Ruhlman & Polcyn
What to Expect
- Full Intro to Classic Italian Dry Curing
- How to break a half pig into major curing muscles (Italian method)
- Recipes – Dry Cured Classic 8 muscles & Salami’s
- Cooking Recipes that Use Various Cured Meats
- Gear, Basics, and just the basics to get into it
With a balance of inspiration and information, Ruhlman & Polcyn try to demystify the complex and variations of Italian dry-cured salumi and salami. I just drove to the bottom of Italy and back over two months, I know about these variations – it’s mind-boggling from town to town.
This is a book of inspiration and a little poetic in tone.
I love it even though it is briefer than the Polish or English books below. It covers the heart and soul of dry-curing meat. The research these guys have done is awesome; they traveled across Italy and broke it down/simplified it, which is evident throughout the book.
Suppose Italian dry curing (and salami making) is at the heart of what you want. This is covered in a nutshell in this book.
From how to butcher a pig the whole muscle way, classic whole muscle dry curing recipes, salami recipes (cooked and dry-cured), plus some dishes to use the cured meat in. It has it all, enough detail to get stuck in. I have used many of these recipes as the basis for my home-cured experiments.
These are the same guys that produced another superb book before Salumi called Charcuterie; it focuses more on classic French charcuterie with some aspects of dry curing. So expect like some intro to dry curing but also pates, rillettes, confit, and savory forcemeat recipes.
Salumi book – buy here (for inspiration and recipes)
By Stanley Marianski & Adam Marianski
What to Expect
- INTENSE – Encyclopedia of Meat Curing, especially focussed on salami, sausages & emulsified sausage (think Mortadella)
- It is harder when English isn’t the first language – but whoever translated it did a good job
- Crazy level of detail – by far the most comprehensive book on salami
- Fish sausages – yes, covered (fresh Asian style with ginger and lemon zest)
- All aspects of smoking hot or cold in every imaginable way (not sure if I read about portable smokers – what I started with, wrote about them here, for camping or backyard gas grill action).
- Further detail on at-home and also some commercial devices
Textbook 700 pages in detail about Sausages and Salami (and some dry-cured things – like bresaola).
These Polish guys are scientific and love sausage and salami.
Covering off just about every imaginable question about curing meat and smoking. The science behind it and just in-depth covering of the craft.
When someone asks me a question and I need a reminder, I look for the answer in this book.
The authors put the recipes in to encourage folks to use them as a base and create their favorites.
Buy it through Amazon here.
By Steven Lamb
What to Expect
- Covering all the basics, it’s a tremendous mid-size book with a lovely English tone.
- Meat Curing and Smoking -with, of course, a UK flavor and angle
- Steven has visited and traveled enough to enhance the book with Mediterranean recipes and ideas
- There is more inspiration in this; it reads like a story as opposed to the Marianski book above.
Many years ago, I visited River Cottage; back in the day, I had every DVD they had put out (Smaller Holder / Down-Sizer UK TV Series). My brother and I introduced the meat curing and smoking course. I had a beautiful experience, but in 6 hours, you can’t get through much from a massive topic; we walked away with some basic ideas and knowledge (it’s become a bit elitist these days, like super pricey for a day course).
Over the last ten years or so, these guys have been practicing and making their own cured and smoked meats. When I did the course there, I think it drove Steve to learn more about the craft.
It’s a big book, and you can see that it is well-researched and goes down the path of a culinary adventure with lots of exciting and contrasting flavors.
The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook – Link to Amazon
Extra – Curing & Smoking Books about Inspiration
It is all about contrasting recipes and flavors, inspirational when looking at a range of international flavors, and turning every page gives you another idea.
I love this book; it touches on meat curing and smoking. But also has some ey openers around African, Moroccan, and many other tasty ideas.
The author, Diana, did a superb job.
Here is a link to check out the reviews on Amazon.