Types of Cured Meats

Cured meats have come a long way, making their way to the most sophisticated dinner tables. Exotic varieties of ham and salami are a must for charcuterie boards, while a breakfast spread is only complete with bacon and sausages. Cured meats are delicious and super convenient, with a long shelf life and easy preparation. But what does ‘cured’ mean when it comes to meat?

What Does Curing Meat Mean

Curing is a time-tested method of preserving meat by effectively removing moisture and eliminating harmful bacteria and microbes. It also prevents them from growing again by leaving no moisture in the meat fibers, so the meat remains edible for weeks or even months. Preserving meat in this way has been around for a long time, even before refrigeration was invented.

Various techniques exist for curing meat, with salt curing as the fundamental method. In this approach, salt is utilized to draw out moisture from the meat through osmosis, ultimately evaporating it. Natural or synthetic nitrates are often added to the salt to regulate moisture loss and maintain the meat’s taste, flavor, and color.

Sometimes, sugars such as honey or corn syrup are introduced to balance the sharpness of the salt while also fostering the growth of beneficial bacteria. Additional methods of dehydrating meat include smoking or drying it in sunlight.

Can You Eat Cured Meat Raw?

While you may have heard that it’s safe to consume salami and bologna straight from their packaging, you might not have dared to try it yet. Cured meats are no longer technically considered ‘raw’ despite being uncooked. That’s why some cured meats are safe to eat without further cooking.

List of Different Types of Cured Meat

There are various types of cured meats involving different varieties of meat and curing processes. 

Cured Meats
NameWhat is itTypical AdditivesHow to Eat
BaconCured pork belly, typically smokedSalt and sugar; contains nitrates and nitritesFried or baked for breakfast, used in sandwiches or salads
PancettaItalian cured pork bellySalt and pepper; contains nitrates and nitritesOften used in pasta dishes, salads, or as a pizza topping
Corned BeefBeef brisket cured with salt and pickling spicesSalt and sugar; contains nitrates and nitritesOften boiled or used in sandwiches, especially in Reubens
PastramiBeef brisket rubbed with spices, smoked, and steamedSalt and spice blendTypically used in sandwiches, like the classic Reuben
BresaolaAir-dried, salted beef, typically served thinly slicedSalt, pepper, and other spicesSliced thin and served as a cold appetizer or in salads
GuancialeCured pork jowl seasoned with black pepper and chiliSalt, sugar, and black pepper; can contain nitrates and nitritesUsed in pasta dishes like carbonara or Amatriciana
LardoCured pork fatback seasoned with herbs and spicesSalt, rosemary, and other herbs and spicesSliced thin and served on bread or in pasta dishes
LonzinoAir-dried cured pork loinSalt, sugar, and pepper; can contain nitrates and nitritesSliced thin and eaten as is, often in sandwiches
Cured meat from the hind leg of a pig, with varieties based on how they are prepared, may or may not contain nitrates and nitrites.
ProsciuttoUnsmoked, uncooked, dry-cured hamTypically only salt; May contain nitrates and nitrites Sliced thinly and eaten raw, often in antipasti, sandwiches, or in charcuterie
SpeckSmoked and dry-cured ham, similar to prosciutto but with a distinct flavorSalt, spices like juniper berries, and peppercorns; May contain nitrates and nitritesSliced thin and served as is, in salads, or on bread
Jamón (Ibérico and Serrano)Spanish dry-cured ham, Ibérico from Iberian pigs, Serrano from other breedsMainly salt, with other seasoningsSliced thin and enjoyed on its own or with bread,  served in charcuterie boards
Group of ground cured meat with salt, sugar, herbs, and spices; generally contains nitrates and nitrites.
SalamiVarious types of cured sausage, air-dried or fermentedSalt, pepper, sugar, added seasoningSliced and served on its own, in sandwiches, or in charcuterie
PepperoniAmerican or Italian fermented dry salami, usually made with beef and porkSalt, sugar, with paprika and chili pepperOften used as a pizza topping or in sandwiches
SoppressataItalian air-dried salami, often made with porkSalt, pepper, garlic, and sometimes wineSliced and enjoyed on its own or in antipasti
FinocchionaItalian air-dried salami flavored with fennel seedsSalt, pepper, and fennel seedsSliced and enjoyed on its own or in sandwiches
ChorizoSpanish or Mexican sausage, fermented and curedSalt, paprika, and garlicCooked and used in a variety of dishes, like paella, tapas, or added to charcuterie boards
BolognaAmerican or Italian cooked smoked sausage made from beef and porkSalt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, fennel, and other spicesOften sliced and used in sandwiches or diced in salads
MortadellaItalian sausage or cold cut, made of finely hashed porkSalt, black pepper, and sometimes pistachiosSliced and used in sandwiches or as part of a charcuterie
KielbasaPolish sausage, typically smoked and made with pork or a mix of meatsSalt, garlic, and pepperGrilled, boiled, or pan-fried; often served with sauerkraut
NdujaSpicy, spreadable pork salumi from Calabria, ItalySalt and hot pepper, sometimes with sugarSpread on bread, used in pasta dishes, or as a pizza topping
Blood SausageSausage made with blood, often pork, mixed with filler ingredientsMainly salt, with sugar, honey, and spicesCooked and served as a component in various dishes
Capocollo (Coppa)Italian cured pork shoulder or neck, seasoned and air-driedMainly salt, sometimes with sugarSliced thin and used in sandwiches, salads, or on its own
AndouilleSmoked sausage made using pork, originating from FranceMainly salt, sometimes with sugarUsed in Cajun and Creole dishes, like gumbo or jambalaya
Chinese SausageVarious types of sausages in Chinese cuisine, often sweet or savorySalt, sugar, soy sauce, and sometimes alcoholCooked and used in stir-fries or steamed dishes
SaucissonFrench-style dry-cured sausage made with pork or a mix of meatsSalt, sometimes sugar, and spicesSliced and enjoyed on its own or as part of a charcuterie
CulatelloItalian cured meat made from the boned hind leg of a pigMainly salt, sometimes with sugarSliced thin and enjoyed on its own or with bread
SoujoukDried, spicy sausage originating from the Middle EastSalt, sugar, red pepper, and garlicCooked and served in various dishes, sandwiches, or wraps
KabanosPolish smoked sausage, often made with pork or a mix of meatsMainly salt, sometimes with sugarEaten as a snack or with bread, cheese, and pickles
CervelatSwiss or French smoked sausage, often made with pork or beefMainly salt, sometimes with sugarCooked and served in various dishes or grilled
PaioPortuguese smoked sausage, typically made with porkMainly salt, sometimes with sugarOften grilled or cooked and served in stews or soups
Sai krok Esan (Isaan Sausage)Thai fermented sausage, often made with pork or beefSalt, sugar, and sometimes garlicGrilled and served with sticky rice or in various dishes
LandjägerCorsican cured meat, with spices like black pepper, garlic, caraway, and coriander, Mainly salt, sometimes with sugarCooked and served in various dishes or as part of a charcuterie

Most of these contain nitrates, a chemical that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. So, you can go for brands that offer options a bit safer than nitrate-cured meats, like nitrate-free bacon and sausages. They use celery juice instead of synthetic nitrates. While it lowers the health concerns tied to cured meats, it’s still a good idea to enjoy them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.


How long does cured meat last?

Unopened packages of cured meats can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, while they stay good for 2-3 months in the freezer. Once opened, they should be kept in the freezer and consumed within 5-7 days.