Prosciutto vs. Speck (Similarities and Differences Explained)

Many people have a weak spot for cured meats. Their unique flavor and texture make them a guilty pleasure for most meat lovers.

When talking about “fancier” cured meats, it’s impossible to leave out prosciutto. However, many aren’t familiar with prosciutto’s cousin, speck, and aren’t sure what makes them different.

When comparing prosciutto vs. speck, you’ll see they’re similar in many ways. The main difference between the two comes down to just one additional step in the production process. Read on to learn more.

prosciutto vs speck

What Is Prosciutto?

Prosciutto originates from Italy, and it’s a type of meat typically made from the pig’s hind leg.

Despite technological advances, the production of authentic prosciutto has remained traditional and hasn’t changed over the years.

The first step in the manufacturing process is cleaning the meat.

After that, a considerable amount of salt is added to it, thus removing the excess water and eliminating potentially harmful bacteria.

Moreover, a mixture of spices is also added to the meat.

Then, the salted prosciutto is pressed to expel the water and blood and is left to dry for around two months. After this period, the prosciutto is washed to remove the extra salt.

The final step is moving the meat to a dark room where it’s left until completely dry.

Several factors dictate the length of this period, such as the size of the meat, location, and the desired flavor.

The longer the meat is dried, the stronger the taste.

Typically, the production process of high-quality prosciutto lasts for at least nine months.

There are numerous varieties of prosciutto on the market, but the most popular one is Prosciutto di Parma.

It originates from Parma, a city in northern Italy. This type of prosciutto can only be made in Parma, and it never contains nitrites, nitrates, or any other additives.

What Is Speck?

Like prosciutto, speck is a type of cured ham originating in Italy, but it comes from a different region.

It’s usually made in Tyrol, an area that encompasses northern Italy and western Austria. This region is known for the German-Austrian influence on many aspects of the culture, including meat production.

In fact, “speck” means “bacon” in German, which is why many people are under the impression this ham comes from Germany.

The production process of speck is exceptionally similar to that of prosciutto.

First of all, it’s made from the same meat: the hind leg of a pig. Next, the initial phase is the same – the meat is cleaned, then added salt and spices.

After that, the meat is left to cure for several weeks, just like prosciutto. This process ensures no harmful bacteria or excess water jeopardizes the meat’s quality.

The last step of the manufacturing process is what makes speck so unique: smoking.

Smoking is usually done outside, creating a unique combination of smoke and fresh mountain air that contributes to the meat’s flavor.

The meat is smoked for about two or three hours each day, and the process typically lasts from one to three weeks.

After smoking, the meat is stored in a cellar and left to mature for about four to five months.

The most popular variety is a Tyrolean speck, and its strong tradition dates back to the 13th century.

What Are the Similarities Between Prosciutto and Speck?

The first similarity between these two types of meat is their origin.

Both come from Italy, though from different regions.

Also, both prosciutto and speck are protected by one of the European schemes of geographical indications and traditional specialties.

Prosciutto di Parma is probably the best-known type of prosciutto, and it has a PDO (protected designation of origin).

Tyrolean speck has a PGI status, which stands for “protected geographical indication.”

Another feature prosciutto and speck have in common is that they are both cured meats. Their manufacturing processes are very similar up until the last phase.

Unless you’re a cured meat lover, prosciutto and speck may even look similar. But, of course, true fans will be able to tell the difference merely by looking at them.

Lastly, both prosciutto and speck are excellent additions to charcuterie boards, pasta, and numerous other meals. They can also be a delicious snack when served on their own.

What Are the Differences Between Prosciutto and Speck?

Unlike prosciutto, speck is smoked before being left to mature.

Some call speck “smoked prosciutto.” Although the key difference is in the manufacturing process, it would be wrong to say it’s the only one.

One difference worth mentioning is the combination of spices used when making speck.

Typically, bay leaves and juniper berries are added to speck, which isn’t common when making prosciutto.

In fact, most types of prosciutto just feature salt and pepper, while speck almost always contains other spices.

The spice mix differs depending on the producer, and it’s often a secret passed down only to family members that continue the production.

This unique spice mix gives speck a more intense flavor. Due to a slightly different manufacturing process, speck features a deep, smoky flavor and a darker color.

It’s also denser and has an elastic texture.

Finally, speck tends to be leaner than prosciutto, containing less fat and more meat by weight.

Summary Table: Prosciutto vs. Speck

Let’s summarize the similarities and differences between the two types of meat:

 ProsciuttoSpeck
Cured MeatYesYes
OriginItalyItaly
MeatHind leg of a pigHind leg of a pig
VarietiesManyMany
ProtectedProsciutto di Parma has PDOTyrolean speck has PGI
Production ProcessTraditionalTraditional
German-Austrian InfluenceNoYes
FlavorMilderStronger
SmokedNoYes
SpicesTypically, only salt and pepperUsually bay leaves, juniper berries, or other spices
AppearanceLighter colorDarker, rich color
Meat-to-Fat RatioLowerHigher
UseCan be served on its own or on charcuterie boards, used as an appetizer, or added to dishesCan be served on its own or on charcuterie boards, used as an appetizer, or added to dishes
SlicedThinly slicedThinly sliced

In Summary

In the prosciutto vs. speck face-off, there’s no winner. Both are traditional, high-quality meats you really need to try if you haven’t already.

Prosciutto and speck feature excellent appearance, texture, and flavor, and which one you’ll choose depends solely on your preferences.

If you’re looking for a more intense flavor, choose speck. It offers a perfect blend of traditional Italian manufacturing processes with a northern influence.

On the other hand, if you want a milder taste and a lighter texture, prosciutto should be your choice.