Raw meat has a very distinct taste. However, not all meat can be eaten raw. Furthermore, there’s a common misconception that dry-cured meat is the same as cooked meat. So, if you’re wondering if you can eat guanciale raw, I’m here to provide the answer.
Guanciale can be eaten raw if it has been dry-cured. However, raw salted guanciale shouldn’t be consumed uncooked, as raw pork may contain parasites.
In this guide, I’ll explain the difference between dry-cured and raw guanciale. Additionally, I’ll share the precautions you should undertake before consuming raw pork.
What Exactly Is Guanciale?
Guanciale is a type of Italian meat made from pork cheek or jowl. If you know your Italian, the name speaks for itself, as ‘guancia’ means cheek.
Generally, guanciale comes as one large piece of meat and is used for cooking. For example, you can melt it in a pan and use it instead of oil, or it can be one of the main ingredients in pasta dishes.
Typically, guanciale is cured, just like prosciutto or pancetta. The meat is rubbed with salt and left for up to two weeks. Then, the excess salt is washed off, and the guanciale is seasoned with herbs such as fennel, thyme, rosemary, and pepper.
The final step of curing guanciale is aging. The meat is dried for about two months until it’s ready to eat.
As salt is a natural preservative and all excess moisture is removed, cured guanciale can be stored at cool room temperature for months. Also, it doesn’t have to be cooked.
Can You Eat Raw Pork?
Unlike a steak, pork shouldn’t be eaten raw or even rare.
Meat is considered rare when you can see blood on the inside. In addition, pork is vulnerable to certain living organisms found in other living stock and gets killed at high temperatures.
Thus, undercooked pork can potentially make you very sick.
The two types of parasites commonly found in pork are Trichinella spiralis and Taenia solium. Unfortunately, both tiny microorganisms can only be detected under a microscope.
The good news is that parasites in pork loin die at temperatures as low as 60° Fahrenheit when cooked for over 15 minutes. At this temperature, pork remains slightly pink on the inside.
Ground pork requires higher temperatures to be deemed safe, though today we’re talking about guanciale.
What’s the Difference Between Salted and Cured Guanciale?
Salted raw guanciale resembles other meats that are typically served on a charcuterie board. However, its darker color may be deceiving, suggesting that you can eat it raw.
Even though salt helps slow down the deterioration process and preserve meat for months, it’s different from cooking: It doesn’t kill the living organisms that may already contaminate the meat.
Therefore, it’s crucial to rinse salted raw guanciale and cook it before consuming it to kill all the microorganisms. Why rinse, you may ask? As the salt has been in contact with raw pork for a long time, it may be potentially contaminated, too.
But what about dry-cured guanciale? Generally, dry-cured meats can be consumed raw as the salt curation dehydrates them. Bacteria can’t breed without moisture, and some types of microorganisms die upon coming in contact with salt.
However, with pork, the risk still persists, and you should follow certain precautions. We advise you to rinse the meat of the salt it has been cured in and always ensure it isn’t spoiled before eating.
To conclude, the difference between salted raw and cured guanciale is the water content. While both variations aren’t cooked, cured guanciale is dried for months.
Thus, it’s free from any excess moisture, and its dryness doesn’t let microorganisms thrive. Salt on its own only slows down the spoilage process but kills neither Trichinella spiralis nor Taenia solium.
The Fat Is Safe
Unlike the meat itself, salted pork fat can be safely eaten raw, including the fatty part of the guanciale.
In fact, raw pig fat, or salo, is a traditional dish in Ukraine which is even deemed healthy in moderate doses. It’s typically thinly sliced or diced and consumed with cooked potatoes or served on rye bread.
The same goes for fat on the guanciale. You can remove it before cooking raw guanciale to eat separately, but don’t forget to rinse the excess salt first. That’s because harmful microorganisms only penetrate the pork meat but not fat.
If you prefer raw or slightly undercooked meat to thoroughly cooked, you should only risk eating guanciale that way if you follow the safety advice. After all, not every pig is contaminated with harmful living organisms.
The truth is that contamination by Trichinella or Taenia worms is extremely rare. When shopping for meat, avoid fake guanciale produced in the US or Canada. Instead, try to find authentic Italian meat.
If that’s not possible, ask the butcher for a certificate of traceability. Such documentation indicates the farm a pig comes from and whether the necessary sanitary inspections have been conducted.
If you want to risk it, check the traceability certificates in advance.
Finally, you can experiment with different cooking times and temperatures to find the perfect balance between safety and raw taste.
Cook guanciale for at least 15 minutes at 55° Fahrenheit and go for lower temperatures if you like your meat rawer than most people.
Now that you know the answer to the question of whether or not you can eat guanciale raw, you can safely enjoy this delicious Italian meat.
No matter how tempting raw meat is, we advise you not to consume it unless it has been dry-cured or cooked for at least 15 minutes. If you still wish to risk it, pay attention to the quality and origin of the guanciale you buy, or make it yourself.