If you've ever been to a tapas bar, hosted a dinner party, or visited your local deli, then you've probably come across a cured meat or two. One of the oldest food preservation and flavoring techniques, cured meats come in dozens of varieties around the world, making it pretty confusing if you're trying to figure out what's what. This list covers some of the most popular types of cured meats, and you're guaranteed to be an expert when you're done reading it.

1. Prosciutto

Prosciutto is made from the whole hind leg of a pig (aka: the ham) and is one of many Italian-style cured meats. Since prosciutto is both salt-cured and air-dried it's totally safe to eat without cooking it, making it the perfect addition to any salad or charcuterie board. You'll find the meat sliced very thinly, as it has a slightly chewy texture that can be overwhelming if eaten in large chunks. 

#SpoonTip: Looking for a new appetizer to whip out at parties? Try making prosciutto wrapped melon. The authentic Italian dish is the perfect combination of salty and sweet.

2. Salami

Italian salami is traditionally made from lightly ground beef or pork combined with a variety of seasonings and animals fat, which is then stuffed into a casing. The sausage is hung up in a controlled room where the incredibly important fermentation process can begin. The more time salami has spent fermenting, the drier it will be, meaning certain types of salami will be juicier and fattier than others. This doesn't make one type better than the other, you just have to see what you prefer! I don't recommend cooking salami as this will make the fat separate.  You're probably better off using it in a charcuterie board or in a sandwich. 

3. Spanish chorizo

Odds are you're probably more familiar with Mexican chorizo, but Spanish chorizo is a must-try if you're a fan of cured meats. Spanish chorizo is made with pork and is commonly classified into two types, sweet or spicy. The distinction between the two comes from one of chorizo's main ingredients, paprika, and the amount of moisture left in the end product. Try highlighting the spiciness of the chorizo by making Spanish paella.

4. Pepperoni

If you've ever had a pizza, then odds are you've had pepperoni. Created by Italian-Americans in the 1900s, pepperoni is made from a mixture of finely ground beef and pork, and a variety of seasonings are added to create that savory and slightly spicy flavor we all know and love. Pepperoni can be eaten uncooked, but I prefer it roasted in the oven as the flavor gets stronger and it adds some much-needed texture.

5. Bacon

Bacon is one of those magical foods that I still can't believe exists, it's smoky, salty and savory (or what I refer to as "the holy trinity of S's"). It tastes so good it can even make Brussels sprouts delicious. This very special type of cured meat is typically made with smoked pork belly, but you can find other renditions ranging from turkey to lamb. Make sure to cook your bacon as it doesn't cure for long enough to kill all the bacteria. 

6. Pancetta

While often confused with prosciutto, pancetta is actually more similar to bacon. Both of these cured meats are made with pork belly, but unlike bacon pancetta isn't smoked. Make sure to cook your pancetta before digging in, maybe with some pasta?

7. Pastrami

A deli staple, pastrami is made out of beef and is cured in a seasoned brine for an extended period of time. After the brining process, pastrami is dried, smoked, and steamed. This might sound like a lot of work for a sandwich, but if you've ever had good pastrami then you know it's more than worth it. 

8. Lardo

As the name implies, lardo is made with cured and seasoned pork fat, specifically from the pig's back (as opposed to bacon, which is made with fat from the belly area). Because the texture and flavor of lardo is so rich you'll usually find it sliced thinly and served with bread. 

9. Coppa/Capocollo

Made with pork shoulder, coppa is seasoned with wine (usually red), garlic, and other seasonings before it's salt-cured and air-dried. Often more expensive than other Italian cured meats, you'll find coppa has a delicate texture with a fatty and spicy flavor. I'd say it's best served on its own, but you could always add it to pasta if you wanted to.

10. Saucisson

Essentially a French version of salami, saucisson is made with dry-cured pork and has a distinct salty and savory flavor. You can find different types of saucisson, including versions with cheese, dried fruits, or nuts in them. If you're feeling fancy, you should try making a French cassoulet with saucisson.

11. Jamón serrano

One of the most popular additions to any charcuterie board, this style of dry-cured Spanish ham has been dated back to the Roman Empire. Serrano ham is made with a variety of different pigs so you'll notice different textures and flavors depending on which producer you buy from and what sort of cut you get (sliced, whole, or cubed). It's best served with bread.

12. Jamón ibérico

The main difference between ibérico ham and serrano ham is the type of pig that's used. While serrano ham is made with pretty much any pig, ibérico ham must be made with black iberian pigs. The flavor is richer and fattier than other cured meats, and it's no surprise that it's usually the priciest thing on a charcuterie board.

13. Bologna

Traditional bologna (not the pink stuff you find in the supermarket) can be made out of almost any protein, but the most authentic version is made with pork. Heavily seasoned, bologna uses myrtle berries to achieve its distinct peppery flavor. If you're not a fan of bologna, odds are you just haven't had a good one. This sausage packs a load of flavor and is perfect for all sorts of recipes.

14. Guanciale

The traditional addition to carbonara, guanciale is yet another Italian-style cured meat (we sure have a lot of those, huh?). Made out of pork jowl (the cheek), this product is incredibly salty and has a lot of fat, making it the perfect thing to cook and season your food with. 

15. Lap Cheong/Kunchiang

If you live in Asia, then odds are you've come across these bright red sausages before. Originating in China, lap cheong is a dried sausage with a slightly sweet flavor and a hint of 5-spice. With a harder texture than other sausages on this list, you'll commonly find it served in other dishes. I'm a simple girl and like to have my lap cheong with congee, there's something super comforting about it.

16. Soppressata

Like many other types of Italian sausages, soppressata is made with cured ground meat. However, the exact cuts of meat used will depend on which region of Italy you're getting your soppressata from. If you're getting soppressata in Tuscany, you'll probably end up eating some leftover pig parts like the tongue or head. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact, I'm a big fan of off-cuts, but if you aren't a fan of that then you can always try the soppressata from Calabria, which only uses ground pork thighs. Soppressata is heavily seasoned and is a great addition to recipes with other proteins.

17. Andouille

Originally from France, andouille sausage has evolved to become one of the most popular sausages in the States, especially in the South where it's a key ingredient in Cajun and Creole cuisine. Andouille sausage is seasoned with garlic, onion, peppers, and wine and has a distinct smoky flavor, making it the perfect addition to gumbo.

#SpoonTip: If you can't get your hands on andouille sausage, you could always use Mexican chorizo or kielbasa in the recipe instead.

18. Blood Sausage

Pretty much every country in the world has their own version of blood sausage. In France it's called boudin noir, in the UK it's known as black pudding, in Spain and parts of Latin America it's called morcilla. While every version has its own redeeming qualities, we're specifically talking about the Spanish morcilla, which is boiled then hung and cured. While the idea of eating blood might sound scary, the flavor is incredibly complex and delicious, especially when it's served with potatoes.

19. Kielbasa

Kielbasa sausage is a staple in Polish cuisine and can be found at almost every occasion — including weddings! There are over a dozen varieties of kielbasa and some are smoked, some made with turkey, and some air dried. Give yourself a taste of Poland with a traditional kielbasa and cabbage dish.

20. Isaan Sausage

As one of the most popular sausages in Thailand, I knew I couldn't forget this one. Sai grok Isaan, is a fermented sausage made with ground pork and garlic. You'll also find rice or noodles inside as a binding ingredient. Usually eaten with sticky rice, this is the perfect street snack to indulge in if you're ever in Thailand.

21. Mortadella

One of the thickest sausages you'll find (no, that isn't a joke), mortadella is made out of pork that's finely ground until it's essentially a paste. Also coming from Bologna, you'll notice a variety of similarities between mortadella and bologna sausages like the texture and flavor profile. Reminiscent of many other deli meats, mortadella is a great addition to sandwiches or paninis.

22. Corned beef

One of the most popular cured meats in the UK and the States, corned beef will usually be found in sandwiches or served with potatoes and cabbage. Made with beef (usually brisket) and cured in a seasoned brine, corned beef is incredibly flavorful and can be quite filling as it's served in thicker slices than other types of cured meats. 

23. Katsuobushi

Considered the hardest food in the world, katsuobushi is a Japanese dried, fermented, and smoked fish product. Traditionally made with skipjack tuna, katsuobushi has an extremely salty and fishy flavor that makes it the perfect addition to soups and stocks. A key ingredient in Japanese cooking, you can only eat katsuoboshi uncooked when it's shaved very thinly (where it gives off the appearance of "dancing").

Now that you know the most popular types of cured meats, you can go to the deli counter with confidence and never wonder what the difference been pancetta and prosciutto is again.