Famous for its high-quality and savory flavor, prosciutto is among the most delicious dry-cured meats.
This native Italian delicacy is made by salting high-quality pork legs and allowing them to dry and age for months to bring out its characteristic savory flavor.
The salting process does not involve any heating, so prosciutto is typically raw meat in its original form.
So, should prosciutto be cooked or eaten raw? The simple answer is prosciutto is best eaten raw so that you can experience the distinctive texture and savory flavor provided by its artistic dry-curing process.
But there are more interesting things about this exotic meat product that you may want to stick around and learn.
So, let’s dive right into it.
What is Prosciutto
Prosciutto is a salty, delicate ham made from pig’s hind legs meat (bacon and pancetta). Once the pork legs are cleaned, they are heavily salted with sea salt and left in a cool, dry environment for a few weeks.
The salting process eliminates excess moisture, creating an inconducive environment for bacteria growth. It also gives the meat a unique savory flavor.
Is Prosciutto Cooked or Raw in Package?
There are two types of prosciuttos: prosciutto Crudo and prosciutto Cotto.
Prosciutto Crudo is raw/uncooked ham that has been cured, whereas Prosciutto Cotto refers to cooked ham.
This information is usually indicated on the packaging material.
How Do You Know If It is Cooked or Raw?
You can identify whether the prosciutto has been processed or not, as the package will indicate what type of prosciutto you are getting.
If prosciutto has the statement on the package label saying that it requires cooking, for instance, “cook thoroughly,” it should also display cooking directions. It should clearly indicate that cooking is needed.
Raw ham is pinkish-red in color and grayish-white after cooking. Prosciutto that has not been cured should be labeled “Fresh” or “Uncured.”
This also applies to cooked ham, which should be labeled “Cooked Uncured Ham.”
Can you Eat Prosciutto Raw Out of Package?
As long as it’s dry-cured or processed in style like Parma ham, prosciutto can be eaten raw.
It may seem a bit crazy to think you are eating something raw, but prosciutto is not entirely raw since it has been salt-cured, preserved, and then dried.
That’s why it is called dry-cured meat, just like dry-cured pancetta or salami.
Do You Need to Cook Prosciutto?
Because prosciutto goes through a dry-aging process that involves salting the meat to eliminate moisture and prevent bacteria growth, it’s generally considered safe to consume raw and doesn’t need to be cooked. It’s also very tasty.
Sure, you can cook prosciutto, but you might destroy the texture and flavor by doing so.
Prosciutto starts as a raw piece of meat (a whole pork leg), then dried and cured for months. That’s enough to make it edible in its raw form since the meat is no longer raw.
I have been eating and enjoying raw prosciutto for years with no issues, and most food manufacturers don’t recommend cooking prosciutto for safe consumption.
So, How Do You Prepare Prosciutto?
The flavor of prosciutto relies heavily on the pig used and its feed.
You can prepare prosciutto in a similar way to cooking a traditional ham. Besides, you can use it in most recipes that call for ham.
Here are three of my favorite recipes for prosciutto.
- Olive oil
- Dried Italian herbs
- Salt and pepper
- A half-pound spaghetti
- 1 chopped small onion
- 12-ounce cup diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
- Preheat a skillet over medium-level heat with one tablespoon olive oil.
- Chop thinly sliced prosciutto into ½-inch wide strips.
- Cook the prosciutto in the skillet for 3-4 minutes, until it turns crispy.
- You can use the crisped prosciutto as a garnish to add extra flavor to sauces and pasta or sprinkle it over cooked meat.
White Fish Wrapped in Prosciutto
- Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat with 2 teaspoons olive oil.
- Season a white fish fillet, such as haddock, cod, or pollock, with 2 teaspoons of Italian herbs.
- Wrap the seasoned white fish with a thin slice of prosciutto.
- Cook the fish in the skillet for 3-4 minutes on each side. The fish should flake with a fork while the prosciutto will be crispy.
Pasta With Prosciutto
- Preheat a skillet over medium heat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
- Place a large pot on the cooker filled with water and cook a half pound spaghetti according to the directions in the package
- Fry 1 small chopped onion, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1 cup diced prosciutto in the skillet for 6-8 minutes
- Over medium-low heat, cook until the mixture is heated through and toss with the spaghetti
How Do You Eat Prosciutto?
I’m one of those strong believers that prosciutto is best eaten raw. Those delicate, salty slices of prosciutto carry so much flavor, making it stand out the way it is.
You can also eat it with some cheese or on a cracker and trust me, it tastes amazing!
My favorite way of enjoying this tasty meat is pairing it with pieces of fresh mozzarella. Add some melon to your prosciutto or cheese, like honeydew or cantaloupe melon.
This will make for a wonderful flavor combination that will leave you impressed.
You can also enjoy it by simply placing it within bread slices. Try using Italian or French bread or even flatbread crackers.
This combination will give you a tasty miniature sandwich or a pairing that will leave the prosciutto as a true star dish.
Is Prosciutto Healthy and Safe to Eat?
Prosciutto is a healthy cold cut that can be included in a well-balanced diet. It’s a savory way to add minerals, proteins, vitamins (B1, B6, B12, and PP), and flavor to your meal.
Prosciutto is also easy to digest thanks to proteins, vitamins, and minerals, making it a perfect dish for children and athletes.
Since no chemical compounds such as nitrites are used during the curing process, prosciutto is less harmful than other processed meats, such as sausage and bacon.
However, excess consumption of prosciutto can raise salt levels in your body, potentially leading to stroke, heart disease, or high blood pressure. As such, it’s best to eat prosciutto in moderation.
Does Prosciutto Need to be Refrigerated?
Once you open a prosciutto package, you need to refrigerate it. Although the meat is generally cured and vacuum-sealed, opening a package will let in oxygen. From that moment, it should not be stored at room temperature.
Make sure the packaging is tightly closed before keeping it in the fridge. Also, you should never leave your prosciutto opened for more than a week in the refrigerator since it will dry out and eventually develop a sour taste.
Can You Eat Prosciutto Raw When Pregnant?
Prosciutto is not safe for expectant mothers unless it is heated or cooked. Although there’s only a small chance you may get food poisoning from eating raw prosciutto, there is a risk of bacterial contamination that may be harmful to pregnant mothers and their unborn babies.
Heating or cooking prosciutto will kill bacteria, making it safe for consumption.
Other people who should avoid eating uncooked prosciutto are those with weakened immune systems.
They might not be able to fight off the potential bacteria contained in raw meats. Although the risk is low, it’s worth being cautious just to be on the safe side.
Where to Buy Prosciutto
Prosciutto can typically be found at delis, butchers, or specialty food stores.
You can purchase prosciutto Crudo in pre-sliced water-thin pieces or a whole leg to use as a masterpiece to a lavish dinner.