Fresh vs Cured Sausage: How Are They Different?

In the world of sausage making, sausage is broadly broken down into two main types: fresh and cured. Do you know the difference between the two?

Here I’ll explain what each type is, get into some details about the similarities and differences of fresh vs cured sausage, and answer some commonly asked questions.

three rows of different types of sausages

What Does Cured Sausage Mean?

Although the word cured can conjure up all sorts of imagery when applied to sausages, it has nothing to do with the sausages having anything wrong with them, nor that the animal the meat came from had any kind of illness. Curing is a process used on many different food types, including meat, fish, and vegetables.

Curing is a process used to preserve meat and is very often done in sausage making. There are several ways curing can be done, but the most common is adding nitrates or nitrites to the sausage meat.

These additives reduce the water content in the sausage meat. This makes the meat less favorable for bacterial growth that can cause illnesses such as food poising, and therefore, makes the sausages safer to eat.

For this reason, cured sausages are often smoked, where they’re cooked “low and slow” (lower temperatures for a long period of time).

To learn more about curing in sausage making, click here.

log of salami on cutting board with salami slices next to it

What Does Fresh Sausage Mean?

To better understand the comparison to cured sausage, let’s talk about what sausage makers mean when they refer to “fresh sausage.”

When we say sausages are fresh, some people might think it means they’ve just been processed and are ready for sale or just purchased and prepared to be cooked and eaten.

While that might be true in a broader context, the actual definition of fresh sausage is sausage made from raw meat that hasn’t been cured. Note that this doesn’t mean that fresh sausage meat cannot contain flavoring or seasoning.

Since fresh sausages don’t have any preservatives, they can’t be stored at room temperature. If they’re not going to be cooked immediately after they’re made, they must be frozen or placed in a refrigerator until cooking.

When cooking fresh sausages, they’re often grilled or cooked in a pan on a stovetop at high heat.

raw sausages piled on scale

Fresh vs. Cured Sausage: Similarities and Differences

Similarities

  • Both are made from ground meat.
  • Both can be smoked.
  • Both can be frozen.
  • Definitions for each can differ depending on which country you are in.
  • All food safety principles must be applied and followed regarding cooking and storage.

Differences

  • Fresh sausage isn’t preserved, while cured is; therefore, fresh sausage has to be cooked and eaten immediately or frozen.
  • Cured sausage is pink or reddish in color.
  • Cured sausage is usually cooked at lower temperatures for long periods of time.
  • Cured sausage can be cold smoked, while fresh sausage cannot.
  • Fresh sausage doesn’t require a casing or a sausage skin; most cured sausages will have them.

Fresh vs Cured Sausage FAQ

Do You Have to Use Curing Salt for Sausage?

No, you don’t have to use curing salt for making sausage if you don’t want to. If you’re not using curing salt, you should make sure you’re cooking your sausage appropriately, at the right temperature.

Can You Eat Cured Sausage Raw?

There’s a common misconception that charcuterie (like salami, sopressata, chorizo, or saucisson sec) is raw meat because it’s cured and you don’t cook it on a grill or skillet before eating it.

The truth is that charcuterie isn’t raw meat but has been dry-cured (cured with curing salt and dried). You can define this as “ripening” rather than being cooked before being safe to eat.

During curing, raw meat is put into casings and then hung to dry. The sausage dries as water evaporates, and its flavor increases.

rows of cured sausage hanging to dry

Do You Need Cure if You’re Freezing Sausage?

The simple answer to this question is no. Freezing uncured sausage meat preserves it and prolongs its usability for up to 2 months. This means it will still be safe to cook and eat when thawed.

In Summary

Hopefully after reading this you have a better understanding of the differences and similarities between fresh and cured sausage.

Each appeal in different ways, and there are many ways in which both cured and fresh sausage can be prepared and enjoyed.