Although products labeled as ‘uncured’ in stores have become fairly common, the difference between cured and uncured ham, bacon, and other meat products continues to remain a mystery to most consumers.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about the uncured ham and how it compared to the traditional ‘cured’ ham you have been seeing in delis.
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Cured ham is what you generally purchase at the grocery store. The two most common curing methods are wet curing and brine curing.
The process involves injecting the pork with a mixture of chemicals and other ingredients such as salt, brown sugar, water, and flavorings.
Then, the ham is cooked in a smoker or oven. The brine and high cooking temperatures kill the bacteria together and produce a ham that is cooked and safe to eat.
Any ham labeled ‘cured, smoked, or baked’ is pre-cooked and safe to eat. Most ham that is sold on shelves to consumers or purchased at the deli is already cured.
Uncured ham may also be labeled as ‘fresh ham’.
Although this is the same cut as cured ham, it may not be injected with the same chemicals used in cured meat.
Contrary to popular belief, uncured ham is cured. Except, it undergoes a more natural curing process compared to traditionally cured ham.
Instead of chemicals like sodium nitrite, produce like celery and beets are used in combination with fresh seasonings to create a meat cure that is free of chemicals.
This leads to uncured ham being a healthier alternative, having a more naturally occurring color, and being much more flavourful.
Aside from an uncured label, many uncured hams may have an additional label of ‘sodium nitrate-free.
Is It Healthier?
Yes, the uncured ham may prove to be the healthier option of the two.
Uncured ham has less fat and less cholesterol than cooked ham, with more natural protein because it is less processed.
Uncured ham may also pose fewer health risks as it is cured using natural ingredients such as celery, beets, and sea salt.
Hence, it is always better to choose uncured ham as it is chemical-free and contains natural ingredients.
Although uncured ham may win when it comes to picking the healthier option, one may opt for cured ham if one suffers from high blood pressure.
This is because uncured hams contain too much salt, which is unideal for those that suffer from hypertension.
Characteristics Of Uncured Ham
Uncured Ham should have a compact consistency and pale pink or beige color, interrupted only by the white parts of intramuscular fat.
The flavor varies from sweet to strong, with a general salty flavor, especially in uncured meat.
This taste gets more intense and persistent as aging increases.
Cooking Uncured Ham
An uncured ham can be cooked the same way as cured ham.
Nearly all uncured meats are fully cooked before purchase. Thus, it’s just a matter of reheating the meat to your liking and serving it alongside your favorite recipe.
Temperature For Reheating Uncured Ham
A slow reheating process may be your best bet.
Starting with a low temperature of 250°, let the ham reach an internal temperature of 135°.
Then, add a glaze and turn the oven up to 400° to solidify the crust.
Disadvantages Of Uncured Ham
Uncured ham may be more expensive than traditionally cured ham.
This is because it may not be as widely available as traditional cured ham.
This is also the case as it has a shorter shelf life than traditional cured ham because of the lack of preservatives in uncured ham.
Which Ham To Buy?
The choice between buying cured or uncured ham boils down to personal preference.
Some may prefer the smoky flavor and convenience of cured ham, while others may find it too overpowering and processed.
Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide the type of ham they prefer. Be sure to read the labels carefully so you know what type of ham you’re getting.
How To Choose The Best Ham
When choosing ham, you should decide whether you want cured or uncured ham and check the expiration date to ensure the ham is still fresh.
Lastly, you should take a look at the nutritional label to see how much fat and sodium the ham contains.
These tips will ensure you choose the best ham for your specific needs.
How Much Ham Should One Eat
Regardless of cured or uncured ham, it is advisable to stay within the recommended consumption of two portions per week.
The best way to store cured and uncured ham is to wrap them in a tea towel and keep them away from heat and humidity.
Storing them at a temperature of around 40°F or lower is recommended to prevent spoilage from occurring.
This is because bacteria may start multiplying, swelling, and souring the product when stored at higher temperatures according to the USDA.
How Long Is Uncured Ham Good For
If stored properly, the uncured ham will last for 3-5 days in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
You may also extend its shelf life by canning, freezing, or vacuum sealing it.
You may freeze it for up to 2 months should you want to keep it longer.
How Do I Know If It’s Spoilt?
Uncured ham that has gone bad will typically have a sour smell.
Furthermore, it may also be slimy to the touch and have a greenish hue.
It’s best to throw the ham away if you see any of these signs.
In conclusion, uncured ham is a delicious and healthier alternative to traditional ham as it is lower in sodium and calories. It also is chemical-free and has a subtler flavor that many may prefer.
Regardless of the ham you choose to add to your recipe next, be sure to follow the above guidelines for reheating and choosing the best ham to cook up the best dinner!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
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