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Home » Blog » What sets Cured and Uncured Meat Apart?

What sets Cured and Uncured Meat Apart?

Crafted to keep meat fresh in the absence of refrigeration in earlier times, preserved meats such as bacon, prosciutto, and ham have been prepared through methods like smoking, salting, fermenting, and brining. Beyond just prolonging shelf life and reducing bacteria with ingredients like salt, this preservation, commonly known as curing, also imparts a rich flavor to meats often enjoyed on charcuterie boards or during breakfast.

When you’re at the grocery store, you might see packages of bacon or salami labeled as “cured” or “uncured.” But what’s the difference? Both are preserved, right? Yes, but there’s a key distinction based on the ingredients used to keep the meat fresh.

Cured vs. Uncured Meat

“Cured” meats use salts, spices, and synthetic stuff like sodium or potassium nitrites to make the meat last longer. These additives also give the meat its familiar pink color. On the other hand, “uncured” meats are preserved only using natural ingredients like salt, sugar, spices, and nitrites from veggies like beets or celery.

Now, why the fuss over synthetic additives? Some people worry about their health effects, like the risk of cancer or worsened asthma symptoms. To address these concerns, many producers are turning back to natural ingredients for curing.

Uncured meats might not last as long on the shelf, usually around 30 to 50 days less than cured meats. So, it’s essential to check the best-by dates and buy only what you need to avoid wasting food.

Preserving meat can be done in different ways – dry curing involves rubbing the meat with a mix of salt, sugar, and spices, while wet curing involves soaking the meat in a salty brine. Some methods even combine both.

Whether cured or uncured, the meat might undergo further processes like fermenting, smoking, or air-drying to add flavor and texture.

So, if you’re health-conscious, go for “uncured” meats with natural ingredients. But if you’re more concerned about shelf life, “cured” meats might be your pick, just remember they contain synthetic additives.

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Maya Clark
Maya Clark