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Is ‘Cured’ Meat Actually Just Raw Meat?

Who decided that covering something in enough salt made it safe to eat?

I’m currently looking at my wife who’s laying down on the couch, trying to recover from a mild case of food poisoning. The most likely culprit of said food poisoning? A questionable charcuterie board flush with prosciutto, sopressata, salami and a variety of other cured meats. 

Rest assured, I feel great. I didn’t pluck anything from the charcuterie board because, with apologies to the centuries of humans who relied on curing meat, it’s 2022. I’m not about to voluntarily eat something deemed safe for consumption by desperate, starving sailors in the 17th century. 

Which brings me to the question at hand: Is cured meat raw, and hence ythe reason why my poor, loving wife feels like shit right now? Since many people equate “raw” with “uncooked,” it’s not a silly question, but the short answer is no

To be clear, “curing” meat is the process of using salt to slowly “pull” moisture from a piece of meat. Without moisture, the food becomes “inhospitable for the microbe growth that causes food spoilage,” thus making it safe to eat. The process of dry-curing was perfected over centuries, and continues to allow many people to safely consume cuts of meat whether due to a lack of access to widespread refrigeration or because it’s preferred. According to Guinness World Records, the most expensive leg of ham in the world is cured for up to five years

As long as it’s done properly, curing meat is essentially another form of cooking that uses salt instead of heat to make it safe for humans to eat. But just like any other form of cooked meat, cured meat still requires proper storage in a sealed, chilled container.  

And so, it likely wasn’t that the meat was cured that doomed my better half to 24 hours of nausea. After all, during our honeymoon in Spain we suffered no illness after eating a slice of cured ham that had been carved right off the bone in front of us. Instead, it was likely that the meat was expired (we must not have refrigerated it properly).

Again, though, I completely dodged this bullet. Save for indulging in local delicacies, cured meat is a little too slimy and salty for my taste. I’m more of a meat-and-potatoes type of guy.