If you're stepping into the adult world and are planning your own dinner party, a charcuterie board filled with a delicious spread is a great way to greet your guests. The word charcuterie is a French word that means  delicatessen. It is the art of preparing and displaying various types of fruit, fruit spreads, cheeses, olives, cured meat, and whatever else you might like on a wooden board. If you've never made your own charcuterie board before, you might be wondering, "what is cured meat?" This is an excellent question to ask since it will be the star of your charcuterie board.

What is Cured Meat?

Curing is a term used to define the process of preserving meat by either salting, brining, aging, drying, or canning. Curing was invented to keep meat fresh and prevent it from spoiling (remember, refrigerators are a relatively new invention). Whenever meat is cured, it has salt rubbed into it or salt is a part of the brining process. It's important that salt is always added when curing because it draws the moisture from the meat. With less moisture, the meat can be saved longer before consuming. Depending on the size of the meat cut, curing meat can take up to several weeks.

Popular Types of Cured Meat

Although curing meat can involve the same steps, there are many types of meat that can be cured. Each part of the pork or beef that is cured can involve a different amount of time and ingredients that can vastly change the color and the flavor. Many of the following cured meats can be found in the supermarket or are even artisanally made. 


If you've had pepperoni pizza before, you've had cured meat! Pepperoni is a spicy air-dried sausage made from pork and beef that's been mixed with spices and cured. It can be wrapped in cheese and eaten on its own.


Salami, aka Salumi (the plural form), is also a well-known favorite that most people have tried before. It's great on sandwiches and of course charcuterie boards with cheese. Salami is made from pork mixed in with different amount of spices and cured. Salami is not necessarily spicy and packs a good amount of flavor from the spices. This part of the pig is studded with fat, which adds a richness to the salami.


Mortadella is a blend of pork, garlic, spices, and pistachios. The meat is silky and you can really taste the complexity of the spices. The white studded part of the mortadella is the neck fat from the pig. Mortadella also goes great on a sandwich with provolone cheese.


Whenever you see pancetta, know that it's a delicious type of pork fat that's essentially Italian bacon. Pacetta comes from the pork belly, which is similar to American bacon. It has a deeper flavor than bacon though and contains much less grease. It's amazing in pasta or thinly sliced on its own.


Proscuitto is a classic that most people associate cured meat with. When sliced thin, it's amazing to have on a charcuterie board. It goes great on top of pizza, pasta and even wrapped with vegetables. Proscuitto is often sliced directly from the hind leg of the cured pig. The quality of the prosciutto depends on how it's cured.

Cured meat can be an amazing component added onto any charcuterie board. The only thing left to do now is experiment a little. The only way to know for sure if you like or dislike a specific cured meat is to try it for yourself. That way you can decide which will go great with that wine and cheese you bought. Happy dining!