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Cured Meat

Cured meat is a type of preserved meat. Salt, sugar, nitrates or nitrites are used for curing the meat. Often smoking of meat is also involved. Bacon, salami, kippered herring, ham are a few examples of cured meat. It is bright red in color and has a regular flavor along with a salty taste. All meats like goat, boar, beef, sheep, goose can be salted and cured.


Curing of meat dates back to very ancient times even before Christ. It was done for a purpose of preserving the meats. Salt in very high concentrations was used to prevent the growth of micro organisms. In 1800’s, nitrates started being used which helped in color fixation of meat.

Types of cured meat

  • Cured raw meat – Heat application is not a part of curing in this type of curing meat. Controlled temperature needs to be maintained during the complete process of curing and ripening.
  • Cured cooked meat – Once the meat is cured, the meat mass is heated. It is either pasteurized or sterilized.

Ingredients used for curing of meat

Salt – Salt is a most commonly and widely used ingredient. It removes water by creating an osmotic pressure. 20% salt concentration is required to preserve the meat. The water soluble proteins come to the exterior of the meat and coagulate when heated.

Sugar – Sugar is important for alleviating the salty and harsh flavor of salt. It also acts as food for beneficial microorganisms.

Nitrates and nitrites – Nitrate and nitrites are used as color fixating agents. They help to brighten the red color of the meat and its retention for long. The use of nitrates and nitrites has been banned in many countries as they are carcinogen.

Types of curing

  • Dry curing – Dry salt is rubbed on the meat pieces and the pieces are stacked in tanks. Due to osmosis, water oozes out of the meat. This water is drained out from the tank. The pile of meat is rearranged to promote uniform curing. The duration of curing takes several weeks depending on the size of the meat. Spices, salts and other ingredients are also added to enhance the flavor of the meat.
  • Dry – wet curing – First the meats are dry cured and then piled in the tank. A saturated salt solution is then added to the tank.
  • Smoking – Cured meat is hung at a height over smoke or fire. It is cooked by the fumes. It also develops a peculiar flavor.

Popular dishes with cured meat

  • Ham, bacon and sausages are served as breakfast. They are also served as a filling for sandwiches.
  • They are used as a topping for pizza, pasta and salad.

Health and Nutrition Facts

Pork sausage

Serving size – 1 oz (28 g)

Calories – 85 cal, Fat – 7 g, Sodium – 180 mg, Protein – 4 g

  • Pork sausage is low in calories, high in fat, sodium and protein. It should be consumed by people suffering from heart diseases. As it is high in protein, it is good for body builders and growing children.
  • Sausages made of lean cuts of meat should be preferred over the regular ones as they are low in fat and higher in protein content. Tenderloin, sirloin are examples of lean cuts.


Serving size - 1 oz (28 g)

Calories - 121 cal, Fat - 11 g, Saturated fat - 6 g, Sodium - 312 mg, Protein - 4 g

  • Pancetta is low in calories, high in fat, sodium and protein. People suffering from cardiovascular diseases should avoid consuming it regularly. It contains good quality animal protein and should be consumed by body builders and children.
  • People who are on a diet should consumed pancetta made of lean meat as it is low im fat.


Serving size - 1 oz (28 g)

Calories- 71 cal, Fat - 5 g, Sodium - 480 mg, Protein - 8 g

  • Prosciutto is a type of cold cut cured meat which is low in calories, has medium fat, very high sodium and high protein. It should be avoided by people suffering from hypertension.
  • As it is high in protein, it is very good for building muscle tone.
  • People who are on a diet can consume prosciutto.

Beef salami

Serving size - 1 oz (28 g)

Calories - 67 cal, Fat - 5.77 g, Sodium - 300 mg, Protein - 3.8 g

  • Beef salami is low in calories, contains medium fat, high sodium and high protein.
  • It should be avoided by people suffering from hypertension.
  • People who are on a diet should consume such high protein foods. Salami made of lean cuts of meat are preferred as they contain less fat.

All cured meats are high in salt and hence contain high sodium. They should strictly be avoided by hypertensive patients. Lean meats are always healthier than regular meats.