Salami has a unique place in the culinary traditions of the US and Europe. But as it consists of fermented and air-dried meat, many people wonder if you can eat salami raw.
If the answer is yes, you’d have a delicious meal without cooking, ready to consume right away.
Let’s find out more about this tasty sausage and see if it’s safe to eat raw.
Is Salami Cooked or Raw?
Even though salami is uncooked, it’s not entirely raw. It’s cured sausage that resembles raw meat due to its marbled appearance.
In general, it comes in maroon or dark red textures that mimic the look of red meat. While it starts as raw in the early stages of production, it doesn’t stay that way.
Another reason people think salami is raw is because it looks like raw sausage, which is stuffed with raw meat and requires cooking.
However, salami and raw sausage have other similarities. Both comprise finely chopped or ground meat, spices, and fat. They’re also stuffed into various casings, such as pig intestines.
Still, there are apparent differences between the two. Most notably, raw sausage is much paler and duller than any salami.
Some Italian variants include cooking in the manufacturing process. For instance, Cotto salami is smoked or cooked after curing to provide a particular flavor. Without either procedure, the food is considered raw and not meant for eating.
How Is Salami Safe to Eat if It’s Not Cooked?
Many people wonder how you can eat salami raw without getting sick. The answer is simple – salami is safe to eat raw due to the way it’s processed.
The production consists of three stages: raw material preparation, fermentation, and drying.
The first phase includes grinding meat (usually beef or pork) and mixing it with various ingredients, such as pepper, yeast, spices, and sugar. The other two stages are much more important for the food’s safety.
Fermentation helps create the salami’s texture, flavor, as well as protection from harmful microbes. It promotes several chemical reactions within the meat.
It’s hung in humid and warm conditions for up to three days, encouraging the growth of fermenting bacteria. This process keeps salami fresh for much longer and helps stave off harmful microorganisms.
Afterward, the manufacturers add sugar to feed the curing bacteria. In turn, the microorganisms release lactic acid to lower the meat’s pH and coagulate the proteins, reducing salami’s water-holding capacity.
Apart from imparting a strong flavor, the acid also makes the food inhospitable for pathogenic bacteria.
Once it’s been fermented, salami needs to be dried. This procedure renders the casing reasonably airtight and minimizes permeability. In addition, a white cover of either flour or mold helps deter oxidation and fat rancidity.
Drying and ripening are vital factors that trigger water loss, forming a hard shell on the salami’s surface and decreasing the risk of spoilage and disease.
Curing salts (nitrites or nitrates) can also be added to provide extra color and prevent contamination by bacteria. Combined with salt, acidity, and dryness, it makes fully cured salami safe to eat.
Salami is a tasty and versatile snack. Here are the answers to some common questions about this popular food choice.
What Is the Difference Between Cured Salami and Uncured Salami?
One of the most significant differences between cured and uncured salami is that uncured products feature natural curing substances, like celery powder, which are transformed into nitrites when processed.
As a result, uncured salami comes with labels saying, ‘No nitrites or nitrates added except for those found naturally in celery juice or powder.’
Cured salami can usually be recognized by its texture. Salted meat has slightly denser muscle fibers due to protein contraction, delivering a unique texture.
In addition, uncured salami is paler than cured products. Another way to tell the difference between the two types of meat is to check the flavor. Curing creates distinct tastes from the good bacteria, enzymes, and yeast, which differs significantly from uncured variants.
Overall, the distinction boils down to the method of preservation. Cured sausages rely on additives and chemicals, whereas uncured salami uses natural flavorings and salts. Foodservice operators generally offer both types to provide their customers with multiple options.
However, some people opt for uncured salami since they’re allergic to nitrites and nitrates, thinking it’s healthier. But this isn’t the case.
Uncured salami still contains nitrates. The only difference is that they’re derived from beets, celery, or other fruit or vegetables and transformed into nitrites. In cured salami, these substances are in the form of man-made sodium nitrites.
How Do You Eat Uncured Salami?
You can eat uncured salami, both cooked and raw. It contains the same substances as cured sausage to preserve the contents and stave off dangerous bacteria.
As for its shelf life, uncured salami can be safe to consume for up to two months if stored correctly in freezers. After that, it can be safe for even longer, but the meat maintains its peak quality during this period.
So, if you plan on freezing salami, make sure it hasn’t been sitting in your fridge; otherwise, it can go bad.
Here are some of the most common signs of foul salami:
Change in Color
While salami’s color typically ranges from dark red to light pink, it’s normal to see sections with white mold. They contain good bacteria to help preserve salami and keep harmful bacteria from developing.
However, if left open for too long, harmful microbes will grow over time.
They usually appear as green, black, brown, or gray fuzzy spots. Get rid of your salami as soon as you notice any of these spots. White fuzzy mold, however, is okay to eat – click here to learn more.
Salami is known for its distinct smell that’s a bit cheesy and acidic. It can even be reminiscent of bleach. In other foods, this is a huge red flag, indicating the item has gone bad. But since salami is home to natural mold, these smells are fine.
That said, not all strange smells are alright. For example, if salami stinks like rotten eggs or sewage, it’s time to throw it away.
Spoilt salami is either extra hard or slimy and wet. Each combination is a clear indicator that it shouldn’t go anywhere near your mouth.
Even if you don’t like discarding food, consuming suspicious items exposes you to severe health risks.
Can I Eat Cold Salami?
Cold salami is perfectly fine to eat. This is the whole point of the drying process – turning fresh meat into food that can last for several months without freezing or refrigeration.
Although cold salami is palatable, eating it can be too risky for some people. Pregnant women, in particular, should steer clear of it altogether. This is because salami contains nitrates that can harm the fetus. They can also spread nasty bacteria called Listeria, especially if the meat is homemade.
Listeria triggers Listeriosis, a disease that can become evident between 12 and 30 days after consuming salami. It can lead to defects in the fetus, miscarriage, and many other pregnancy problems.
Undercooked salami can also be a source of bacteria-caused toxoplasma infection. In addition, it can be passed to the child and bring about visual impairments, learning disabilities, and even death.
Another huge problem with poorly cooked salami is the risk of food poisoning. On top of that, this food is high in sodium and salt, hurting both mother and child.
While eating salami from stores, carnivals, and street vendors is a hazard during pregnancy, even homemade products pose significant health risks, especially when undercooked. Reheating the meat until it starts steaming helps kill bacteria, but there’s still potential for contamination.
Moreover, cooking doesn’t remove nitrates, paving the way for another health problem.
Taking this into account, pregnant women should avoid eating both cold and cooked salami. Despite being delicious, it’s not nutritious enough, containing cholesterol and fat, resulting in hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Its high concentration of salt isn’t recommended, either.
Does Salami Have to Be Cooked?
Unlike most meats, salami doesn’t have to be cooked. Instead, it’s safe to consume raw due to fermentation and drying processes that prevent bacteria from inhabiting it.
Nonetheless, you can still cook salami enough to warm it up if you want to add it to a sandwich or hot dish. Moreover, cooking it doesn’t take very long – you just need to slightly brown the meat to bring out the delicious juices.
Two of the most famous examples of cooked salami include roasted coppa and mortadella. They come in smoked or cooked casings and sometimes undergo curing, while other products aren’t cured or fermented during the production.
Another great idea is to fry salami. It’s a simple culinary practice that doesn’t take much skill.
All you need to do is drop your salami into a hot pan and wait for the edges to start curling up like rose petals. As the beef or pork fat renders out, it will begin to caramelize and crisp, resulting in a savory dish.
As for its lifetime, cooked salami can last around 14 days in your fridge unopened and about seven days once you open it. Your best bet is to use the freezer to prolong its shelf life. Frozen cooked salami can keep for approximately two months.
When it comes to uncured salamis, their shelf life can be shorter due to a lack of artificial nitrates. However, their lifespan can vary significantly, so it’s best to check the use-by date on your packaging.
In terms of unrefrigerated and unopened dry salami, it can remain edible for six weeks or so. Also, you can store it in your fridge indefinitely without deterioration.
However, keeping it at room temperature is recommended for only up to two hours. So, if salami stays in warm conditions for anything longer than that, it shouldn’t be returned to the fridge.
Other forms, such as sliced salami, can last around three weeks in your refrigerator and two months in your freezer. However, once cut, bacteria can quickly reach the meat and contaminate it.
Here are some more tips on preserving salami:
- Store salami in the same conditions as red wine (between 59 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit and 75% humidity).
- As salami is a live product, it continues to cure (dehydrate) over time, and you’ll need to control its dehydration. To promote this natural process, store it in a brown paper sandwich bag, which is porous and allows the meat to breathe. Alternatively, you can go for dry tea towels or baking paper.
- You can hang or store salami in your pantry during colder months. However, your best option is in the fridge once the indoor temperature is consistently above 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures can cause melting and make the product less desirable to consume.
- Don’t put the meat in a plastic container. It can prevent salami from breathing and impede the drying process.
- Leave salami in its original packaging until you want to use some or all of it.
- Don’t wrap the meat in clingwrap. Otherwise, the trapped air stagnates to form mildew.
- Eat salami as soon as you cut it, and don’t remove an unnecessary amount of skin. Instead, cut just enough to access the part of salami you need. The meat can’t last for long without skin, even if you store it in your fridge.
- Once the salami is sliced, cover it tightly with appropriate materials around the cut surface and place it in the fridge.
So, can you eat salami raw? The answer is yes – it’s OK to eat this sausage without cooking it. Instead, it undergoes stringent production to help ensure no microbes can hurt you while consuming it.
If eating raw food isn’t your cup of tea, you can also cook or fry salami. This way, you’ll receive stunning juices that can take the dish’s flavor to the next level.
Just make sure not to eat too much salami. Instead, consume appropriate amounts to avoid unnecessary strain on your body.