Prosciutto isn’t the cheapest type of meat, and furthermore, homemade prosciutto takes a lot of time to prepare.
Thus, you certainly don’t want it to go bad after being left out of the fridge for too long. The issue is, it’s also a perfect treat for a party table that will be left out for hours. So, the question arises – how long does prosciutto last at room temperature?
Prosciutto leg can be stored at room temperature for months. However, other prosciutto types shouldn’t be left out of the fridge for long.
This guide will explain how to store certain types of prosciutto and how long they last at room temperature. I’ll also explain what happens to prosciutto when it’s not refrigerated and what the consequences may be. Read on to find out how to store your prosciutto safely.
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Can Prosciutto Be Left Out?
The best practice is to store prosciutto tightly wrapped in plastic, paper, or foil, in the fridge. Store-bought prosciutto often comes in resealable packaging.
If you leave prosciutto in contact with air, it may become dry and chewy. Also, prosciutto easily picks up other food flavors. You likely don’t want to mess up the very reason prosciutto is admired by so many people, so keep it away from pungent foods.
Tightly sealed in plastic, an unopened ham may last up to two months. Once it’s opened, consume it within four days at max.
So, can prosciutto be left out? It depends on how the meat was prepared and packed.
When sealed in a vacuum pack, prosciutto can be left out of the fridge for hours as no bacteria can contaminate it.
The same goes for cured prosciutto. Cured prosciutto leg can be safely stored at room temperature for months. Such meat is typically stored not in a fridge but rather in a cellar, pantry, or cool room.
Authentic cured prosciutto takes months to cure and must be trimmed with a clean knife to prevent bacteria from getting into the meat.
Thus, as long as the environment isn’t overly warm (over 65° Fahrenheit) or humid, the meat should be fine.
If the meat isn’t vacuum sealed or cured, it can still be left out of the fridge but not stored this way. Freshly cooked prosciutto (like prosciutto cotto) that’s sold sliced at the deli counter is usually simply wrapped in paper. Therefore, it’s vulnerable to bacteria and drying out.
How Long Is Prosciutto Good for at Room Temperature?
As mentioned above, how long prosciutto can last at room temperature depends on the preparation and packaging.
Properly cured prosciutto leg should stay good in a cool room for months. However, you may have to cut off the dried-out parts from time to time.
On the other hand, cooked prosciutto, or prosciutto cotto, shouldn’t be left out for an extended period. As with any freshly cooked meat, it can be left out for a few hours at most. That’s just enough to enjoy the meat at dinner.
However, if the meat stayed out overnight, you probably wouldn’t want to risk it. The same rule applies to sliced cured prosciutto, as it’s more exposed to oxygen than a cured leg.
The indicated times are only an estimate. It’s essential to know how to determine whether your prosciutto has gone bad, especially when it comes to the cooked variety.
First, fresh prosciutto cotto should be pale pink. If it turns grey, dark pink, or yellowish, it’s likely spoiled. Naturally, any signs of mold may also indicate that the prosciutto has gone bad.
Second, fresh prosciutto cotto smells similar to deli ham. If you notice signs of any other smell, it’s better to throw the meat away. However, prosciutto is excellent at picking up other food flavors. So, if no other signs of contamination are visible, check how well the meat was wrapped.
Finally, a slimy texture is another clear sign of spoiled prosciutto.
What Happens if Prosciutto Is Not Refrigerated?
The worst thing that can happen to unrefrigerated cured prosciutto leg is that some parts may dry out.
Such meat is first salted for about 70 days. As salt is a natural preservative, it slows down the deterioration process. Then, the meat is washed to remove the excess salt and dried thoroughly for about three months. Finally, the ham is layered with lard. Apart from giving the prosciutto a unique flavor, the lard helps prevent it from drying out too quickly.
So, combining two natural preservatives, salt and lard, and lack of oxygen in meat cells allows you to store it unrefrigerated.
Sliced ham, even if cured, is more exposed to oxygen and can therefore dry out quicker. However, it’s still unlikely to become contaminated with bacteria.
When left in humid environments, though, it can become moldy and unsafe to eat.
What you should be more careful about is the handling of cooked prosciutto. If not refrigerated, it goes bad in a matter of hours and can cause serious food poisoning.
As it doesn’t contain preservatives and is exposed to air, cooked prosciutto can quickly become contaminated with bacteria or even parasites. Even if it was prepared following all safety procedures in a store, the meat could still become contaminated at home.
For instance, if you cut it with an unclean knife, bacteria may get into the meat. As unrefrigerated prosciutto becomes a perfect ground for breeding bacteria, eating it may cause nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. Sometimes, this may even lead to hospitalization.
To conclude, unrefrigerated cured ham leg may change texture and flavor but is unlikely to cause food poisoning if prepared correctly. Of course, this only applies if the meat is handled correctly. Cooked unrefrigerated ham or sliced cured ham shouldn’t be consumed as it can become dangerous.
Hopefully, this guide has answered how long prosciutto lasts at room temperature in detail.
Although it provides estimated prosciutto storing times without refrigeration, you should always check the meat before eating it. Pay attention to the color, flavor, and texture of prosciutto at all times, regardless of its preparation method.
Then, enjoy your traditional Italian meat safely!