Cured vs. Uncured Salami: Differences & Which Is Better?

cured vs uncured salami
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We all know that salami is made from cured meat, but it can be confusing to see a label that says “Uncured.” If salami is typically cured, then how can one be uncured? And what are the differences between cured and uncured salami?

Cured salami uses artificial curing ingredients. Uncured salami simply means the curing process used no artificial nitrites and nitrates. The meat is still safe to eat, but it was cured with natural ingredients. 

To help clear things up, I’ll go into detail about what differentiates cured from uncured salami, and write my opinion on which one is better.

What Does Cured Salami Mean?

The term “cured salami” might sound redundant, considering salami is cured, but the distinction is actually quite important.

Anything marked as “cured” means that the manufacturer used artificial nitrites and nitrates to process the meat. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with this process, some consumers prefer to avoid these artificial preservatives for various reasons.

What Does Uncured Salami Mean?

Just like how its cured counterpart sounds redundant, the name “uncured salami” can be quite misleading. After all, the name gives the impression that this particular salami hasn’t gone through the curing process and can be unsafe to eat.

Contrary to its name, uncured salami still goes through the same process as cured salami but with natural preservatives. Instead of artificial nitrates, uncured salami makers use natural ingredients such as celery juice to achieve the same delicious product.

Differences in Preparation

There aren’t many differences in preparation between cured and uncured salami. Manufacturers still season their ground meat with their preferred seasoning before stuffing them inside a casing. The newly-made sausage will then undergo the curing process before getting sold in stores.

The main difference is when manufacturers add their preferred curing agent. Salami with artificial preservatives has added nitrates so the curing process can be more closely controlled, while uncured ones rely on naturally-occurring nitrates to finish the job.


Dry Salami vs. Hard Salami: Differences & Which Is Better?

Differences in Ingredients

The ingredient differences between the two salami kinds are few but distinct. As mentioned earlier, cured salami works with artificial nitrates for its curing process. Meanwhile, uncured salami receives a treatment of slightly more salt and a natural ingredient with nitrates, such as celery powder.

Aside from the preservative difference, a pack of cured vs uncured salami from the same maker should contain the same seasonings. However, uncured salami is usually made from beef or pork because those meats respond well to natural preservatives. Salami made from other sources, such as chicken, will likely have artificial nitrates.

Differences in Appearance

Their appearance is where the significant differences start.

The meat used in cured salami retains its deep pink to reddish color because of the artificial nitrates used. That’s because, during the curing process, the nitrate doesn’t destroy the meat’s oxyhemoglobin, which gives fresh meat its red color. [1

On the other hand, the meat’s oxyhemoglobin breaks down once it comes in contact with salt. The result is a color change – the meat loses its deep red hue and becomes pale pink instead.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a pale-colored salami. It’s simply a matter of preference on whether you want something brightly colored or slightly pale on your charcuterie board.

cured salami is more red than uncured salami

Differences in Taste

Even when served in a blind taste test, the difference between cured and uncured salami is enough to help me identify them.

Cured salami uses significantly less salt and has more tang than its uncured counterpart. That’s because the salami doesn’t have to rely on salt for curing. Its overall flavor is more pronounced because there isn’t as much salt to interact with the other ingredients.

Meanwhile, uncured salami is noticeably saltier. After all, part of the curing process relies on salt and natural nitrates. As a result, the additional salt mutes the seasonings used to make the salami.

Differences in Storage

Salamis also have different storage requirements. Storing them incorrectly can cause problems and might lead to unintended consequences.

Cured salami has a longer shelf life than its uncured counterpart, so I always finish the uncured one first. [2] Artificial nitrates prevent the cured meat from spoiling as fast, allowing me to keep them around for longer. Uncured salami relies on time and natural chemical changes to finish the curing job, so it doesn’t last as long.

To help counteract this problem, I usually buy a smaller portion of uncured salami than a cured one. That way, I can keep both kinds for when the craving strikes without risking spoilage.

Differences in Nutritional Values

I’m not going to discuss the potential carcinogenic effects of artificial nitrates; instead, I will focus on the nutritional differences between cured and uncured salami. These figures are based on a 28-gram serving, which is roughly about 4-5 slices depending on the brand. Also, remember that these numbers are to be used as guidelines only; other brands have different values. [3] [4]

Cured Salami, SlicesUncured Salami, Slices
Total Fat10 g10 g
Cholesterol25 mg30 mg
Sodium460 mg450 mg
Protein6 g6 g

I noticed that some uncured salami brands sold in stores have slightly less sodium content than their cured counterparts despite using more salt to accommodate the lack of artificial nitrates. That’s because uncured salami brands are typically marked as “organic,” so manufacturers try to use alternative flavoring ingredients to make the product seem better.

Which Is Better: Cured or Uncured Salami?

Deciding which is better between cured and uncured salami largely depends on preference. Some people avoid artificial nitrates, while others don’t mind their presence.

In terms of storage and taste, I personally prefer cured over uncured. Cured salami lasts longer and offers a more intense flavor than an uncured one. It also has a tangy profile I can’t find in uncured salami.

That’s not to say I don’t like uncured salami, either. Its gentler flavor can satisfy a craving that a cured salami can’t. They both have their place and time, so there’s no reason why cured and uncured salami can’t coexist on the same plate.

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