What Is Prosciutto and Is It Actually as Fancy as You Think?

Every once in a while on social media, one of those posts will go viral that asks, “what is something that you thought was super fancy as a kid but later learned wasn’t?” Common answers include things like Milanos or Red Lobster, but, for me, it’s prosciutto. It always exemplified fanciness. As an adult, it was something of a shock to discover you can pick it up at any grocery store for a few bucks and just eat it whenever. So that’s the first lesson: You can buy prosciutto at a grocery store. Ready to learn more? Join me in learning everything there is to know about this smoked meat and you too can become a prosciutto pro. 

Okay, first things first. How do you pronounce prosciutto? It sounds like “pruh-shoo-toe.” Though some people pronounce it just “pruh-shoot,” this is not technically correct, so feel free to throw the extra syllable on there when you’re ordering this delicacy. As far as spelling “prosciutto” goes, I can’t help you—I’ve had to write it like 20 times for this article and I’ve had to use spell check almost every single time. 

What meat is prosciutto?

The answer is ham. But, as it turns out, “ham” has a much broader meaning than you might expect. For proof, I have to recommend the “List of Hams” Wikipedia page, which breaks down different forms of ham from around the world. So, to be specific, prosciutto is a thinly sliced, Italian-style, uncooked, dry-cured, unsmoked ham. 

How is prosciutto made? 

The ham is cleaned, thoroughly salted, and left to sit for about two months. After that, it’s pressed to remove the blood, washed until the salt is fully gone, and left to dry. Finally, it’s hung up in the air for a long time, sometimes over a year. Prosciutto is generally not smoked, which is another preservation process that meats can go through, which adds additional flavor. Fortunately, prosciutto is plenty flavorful on its own.

So wait, is prosciutto raw? 

Well, the answer is that while it is uncooked, the curing process eliminates water, which is what makes food bacteria grow. Cured meats are inhospitable environments for bacteria, which means you’re not likely to get food borne illnesses from any of them. Curing is kind of wild in that way—it’s an ancient process to make meats or other foods last without having to cook them. Pretty cool, ancient ancestors! 

Today, prosciutto is a popular food and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Apart from classing up a charcuterie platter, prosciutto is often served wrapped around melon. You can also put it in a salad, mix it in with pasta, or put it on a pizza. It’s hard to go wrong with prosciutto, really. It has a less salty profile than something like salami, but is very rich in flavor, and adds a nice savoriness to many dishes. 

That’s prosciutto in a nutshell—which, incidentally, also sounds pretty delicious!

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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