Cured ham is a popular choice because of its unique taste. The process of curing is what gives the meat its bold flavor. Did you know that there are two ways to cure a ham? It is important to know if the ham you buy is dry cured or wet cured, as this will make a difference in how you cook, serve, and store the meat. To help you be better prepared for food handling safety, let’s take a look at the difference between the two and what that means for you, the consumer.
- Dry Cured Ham is cured without the use of water (as the name implies). The meat is preserved by burying it in salt or rubbing it with salt and other spices (black pepper, sugar, etc.) Then the ham is hung up to dry for a long period of time– months in fact. This dehydrates the meat, making it even more “dry” if you will. Then it can be smoked to intensify the flavor. Dry cured ham is served uncooked (usually). One popular example of dry cured ham is Prosciutto di Parma.
- Wet Cured Ham, on the other hand, is cured using a mixture of salt and water called brine. Other ingredients can be added to the brine, including sugar, liquid smoke, nitrites, and other flavorings. This is the more popular cured ham that most people eat and are familiar with. Read the label of your wet cured ham for safe cooking and handling instructions—some are sold uncooked while some are precooked and ready to eat.
Cured ham can be safe in the refrigerator from anywhere from 3 days to 3 months depending on what type it is. It is important to your health that you know what kind of cured ham you are dealing with and follow the food safety instructions from the FDA found here.