What is Uncured Ham, Really?

What is Uncured Ham, Really?

Uncured meat often gets a bad rap as yet another food label in the health industry that we should be monitoring. However, unlike most things related to health, uncured meat isn't tough to understand. To start with, there are two types of cured meat and while one deserves the poor reputation, the other simplifies the curing process and is arguably better for your health. Most ham that is commercially produced is a cured variety in which you purchase and serve. However, more and more companies are now providing uncuredpork products, and you might be wondering what's going on. What isuncured ham? Is it safe to eat? Is it better for you? How does the taste differ? Keep scrolling as we answer all of your questions aboutuncured hamhelp you decide if it's the right meat for you. 

What is Cured Ham?

To give you a better idea about whatuncured ham is, let's first discuss what cured meat is. The chances are, unless labeled otherwise, the ham you purchase at the grocery store is cured ham. When curing ham the two most common curing methods are wet curing and brine curing. The curing process involves injecting the pork with a mixture of chemicals such as sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, and sodium erythorbate along with other ingredientslike salt, brown sugar, water, and flavorings. After the ham is injected it is then fully cooked, in either a smoker or an oven. When creating commercially produced meats, to speed up the process, the ham is placed into a convection oven. This process can be accomplished in just six hours, whereas smoking can take several days. Though using a convection oven is much faster, it's not as natural as smoking; as a result, additional chemicals are added to the ham to achieve the same "smoky" flavor that smoking pork produces. Whether the meat is smoked or cooked, the brine and the high cooking temperatures work together to kill bacteria and create a ham that is cooked and safe to eat.

In short, if you purchase a ham that is labeled as cured, smoked, or baked this, it is likely "pre-cooked" and safe to eat. Most ham that is sold on shelves to consumers or purchased at the deli is already cured.

What isUncured Ham?

Now that we're aware of what cured ham is let's discuss the burning question - what isuncured ham?Uncured ham, also labeled as "fresh ham" is the same cut as cured ham. The difference?Uncured ham is not injected with the same chemical brine, smoke, or flavorings that are used in cured meat. When purchasinguncured ham, you may notice that it has a slightly different, yetnaturally occurring color than the cured ham you're used to. This coloring difference is because the nitrates used in the brine of cured meat often increase the reddish-pink color of cured ham. Contrary to its name, uncured meatis actually cured. It just undergoes a different, more natural curing processed than that of traditionally cured meat. 

Curing, at its very root, is the method of preserving meat through the use of acid, salt, and sugar. This preservation process works to remove excess water from the meat and prevent it from spoiling. When curing meat naturally, produce like celery and beets are used in combination with seasonings and fresh sea salt to create a delicious meat cure that is free of chemicals. Not only is the uncured meat process free of synthetically-sourced nitrates and artificial flavors, but it's also better for you and much more flavorful! Throughout the natural curing process, the flavor and texture of the meat develop, turning the ham into a delicious treat that's ready to eat.

When shopping for uncured meats, aside from an uncured label, many types of meat will have an additional label of "sodium nitrate-free." This label is essential to look for, as products that contain sodium nitrate can potentially put your health at risk.

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Is eatinguncured ham safe?

Due to its labeling, many people wonder if theuncured ham is still safe to eat. Despite its name,uncured ham is cured, just in a more natural way. Upon reaching the consumer, unless otherwise stated, most uncured meat has been thoroughly cooked. This means that all you have to do is throw the ham in the oven, warm it to your desired temperature, serve it, and enjoy it! In fact, most people believe thatuncured hams are a healthier alternative. Many are labeled organic or natural, meaning that you won't get any of the synthetically-sourced nitrates used in many cured hams.

What are the Health Risks of Uncured Meats? 

Does cured or uncured meat involve higher health risks? When purchasing meat, it's important to read all labels. First, you'll need to understand that nitrates and nitrites are not the same. Your body converts nitrates into nitrites, which your stomach then turns into nitrosamines. Nitrosamine is a carcinogen, which has often been linked to cancer. 

The great thing about uncured meats is that they are cured using natural ingredients such as celery, beets, and sea salt. While several vegetables (like celery) still contain nitrates, Vitamin C found in those vegetables prevents the nitrites from being turned into nitrosamines. 

When shopping for cured or uncured meats, we recommend opting for the uncured versions. If anything, this will give you piece-of-mind knowing that your meat was not cured using chemicals. Plus, if you follow a particular diet and are wondering “is uncured ham paleo” or “is bacon keto”, we are happy to relay that when prepared properly, uncured ham and bacon are compliant with such lifestyles. Read the ingredients, get to know the brand, and choose products that are made to be both flavorful and great for you! 

How to Cook anUncured Ham?

Anuncured ham can be cooked the same way as a cured ham. When purchasing uncured meats, nearly all of them are fully cooked before purchase. So, it's just a matter of reheating it to your liking and serving it alongside your favorite recipe.

For an even more flavorful result, we recommend purchasing meat like our 100% Berkshire, naturally uncured,honey glazed spiral cut ham. Sure to be like nothing you have ever tasted, the natural cure and sweet honey glaze make for one of the most delicious meals you've ever had. Made pre-glazed and wrapped in foil, it will be the simplest to prepare and enjoy. 

Where to Find the BestUncured Ham?

Want to find the best ham? Purchasing the best ham starts with knowing who you're buying from. At Tender Belly, our standards for pork are incredibly high. We're devoted to making bacon and ham that proves just how good it can be! Understanding the difference between cured vs uncured bacon and ham will serve you well when deciding which product labels to choose from at the grocery store.

Those at Tender Belly understand that crafting the finest pork takes time. This is why we give our hogs time at all stages of the process - starting from the very beginning. From birth, our hogs are given time to mature. They're raised on crate-free family farms, fed all-vegetarian diets, and no antibiotics ever - making for incredible happy hogs! All of our hams are then cured with our signature dry rub made from specialty spices, fresh ground juniper berries, and late-season Vermont maple syrup. Why? Because we understand that it takes the best to make the best! And the best is what we strive to deliver. 

Like we said, good ham takes time. Dry-cured for twelve days and Cherrywood-smoked for eight hours, the industry may think we're crazy, but we don't care! Everything we do at Tender Belly is with respect for our customers, the animals, and the environment. Because of this, we make a daily decision to choose farms over crates and natural ingredients over artificial ones. 

To top it all off, we never brine. We give each meat twelve full days to soak up the incredible flavors of our signature dry rub. This means that you get more meat per package and that that same meat will have a rich and meaty texture even after you cook it. 

So, what is uncured ham? Simply put,uncured ham is a ham that undergoes a much more natural curing process. The main difference between uncured and cured ham is the use of synthetically sourced nitrates, which can turn into carcinogenic chemicals. To ensure that you're eating the best ham money can buy, we urge you to understand the chemicals used and when available to purchaseuncured ham

When purchasinguncured ham, the added health benefits won't be the only thing you gain. Because such real, flavorsome ingredients are used in the natural curing process,uncured hamis often much more flavorful than cured ham. When high-quality, healthy ingredients are combined with the perfect slow cooking process, it is sure to create one of the best ham experiences you've ever had. From preparing a low carb breakfast to hosting a large dinner party, there is enough uncured ham to go around for everyone to enjoy at any occasion. 

At Tender Belly, we set our standards high and don't expect you to settle for anything less! It's our mission to radiate excellence in every ham we sell, and ouruncured ham is one of our favorites. Devoted to providing you with ham that is superior in both flavor and quality, we put in the extra effort. Some may even say that we’re pork obsessed perfectionists. Hey, we're not complaining. 




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