If you’re familiar with pork meat cuts, you probably know a little bit about capicola and prosciutto. These two cured types of meat are very popular and many people think that they are interchangeable, but are they really?
Keep in mind that a meat option can be similar but there will always be differences in the end.
While you might be able to substitute them or use them similarly, you should be familiar with the differences and understand just how these unique qualities might affect your meal in the end.
What is the difference between capicola and prosciutto? The primary difference between the two is that capicola comes from the neck and shoulders of the pig, while prosciutto comes from the hindquarters. Capicola has a shorter curing time since it’s a smaller cut.
The process for curing these meats is also quite different when you look at the details.
In this guide, we will share with you just what the differences are between capicola and prosciutto.
We will walk you through all of the details so you can understand just how they differ and what you may need to plan for if you purchased the wrong one.
Stick with us to learn more about capicola vs. prosciutto and their differences.
The Differences Between Capicola and Prosciutto
This guide will give you a comprehensive overview of each of these meat options.
We will talk about them individually to give you a rundown of just what they are and then we will do a review that compares them in a quick summary for your reference.
Let’s get started!
What is Capicola?
Capicola is a cured meat made from pork. This meat comes directly from the neck and shoulders area of a pig near the coppa muscle which is perhaps where the name came from.
This meat is smoked and aged and typically only takes about 6 months to age, which is substantially shorter than the curing time for prosciutto.
When you purchase capicola from the store or a meat vendor, it typically comes in a casing that looks a lot like salami and can come in a variety of different seasoning and flavor options.
Sometimes it has a simple flavor with just salt and other times it might include paprika.
Capicola is a dry-cured meat that is used as a cold cut. You might see it alongside cheese and crackers on a charcuterie board. It is sliced very thin and has a lot of flavor to it.
You will quickly be addicted to that flavor when you take a bite. The meat comes from Italy and is tender when cut or consumed.
The most common misconception between capicola and prosciutto is that they are both cured so they must be the same. While we understand the logic, it’s simply not true. Flavor, texture, and appearance will vary quite a bit.
In fact, capicola always comes from pork, but did you know that sometimes prosciutto is actually taken from other animals?
Pork might be the primary meat but it’s also been known to come from lamb, goat, cow, and other animals as well. It will be labeled as such if it is anything but pork.
If you look at these meats in comparison, capicola tends to be small. It is a noticeably small cut of meat when compared to the other. It also tends to be more cost-friendly when you compare the two against each other.
This cost difference is not only because it’s a smaller portion of meat but also because it takes less time to cure it and prepare it for the market.
In terms of taste and texture, capicola has a lower fat content. This is why it is so tender to eat or cut. The reduced fat means you won’t get any tough pieces because of fat around the edges and you certainly won’t get a bit of just fat either.
The fat that is part of the meat is spread out so it looks nice and has a tender, consistent texture.
Even the basic color of the two meats is different with capicola having a deep red color to it once it has been cured.
What is Prosciutto?
Now that we’ve seen what makes capicola so special, let’s take a look at prosciutto in comparison.
This meat typically does come from a pig but as we mentioned earlier, it might come from a different animal as well. If the label doesn’t tell you differently, you can assume that it is from a pig.
Prosciutto comes from the hindquarters of the pig (or other animals). One unique difference is that this cut of meat is very large and sometimes is even sold as the whole leg and quarter piece.
Prosciutto takes far longer to cure and prepare with a process that is nearly 24 months long. It is packaged far differently and requires more time because it is so much larger than capicola.
This meat is covered in fat and skin from the pig. It is never cured with any seasoning except salt so the flavors don’t vary much from one to the other.
Prosciutto is still a dry and cured meat that has an Italian background. In fact, it has become one of the most popular cured meats throughout the globe.
Prosciutto is a fatty cut and it has a rich, buttery flavor and texture. The extra fat can sometimes lead to some tough bites on pieces of the meat as well.
Many people cook it like ham, but you can eat it raw as well thanks to the salt and the extended aging of the curing process.
While prosciutto is sometimes sold as the whole leg, the meat typically comes from the high or the hind leg quarters of a pig. It is rarely cooked or smoked during the curing process but it can be.
If you compare the appearance of prosciutto to capicola, prosciutto is much larger and the color is also significantly lighter. While capicola is a rich red color, prosciutto is a light color like ham.
Remember that it can come from other animals besides just pigs but it will always be labeled as such in these instances.
Prosciutto tends to be quite a bit more expensive to purchase compared to capicola. This is because the cut of meat is substantially larger but also because it takes far more time and attention to cure it.
The curing process can take up to 24 months, which attributes to the cost to purchase.
When it comes to taste and texture, prosciutto has quite a bit more fat as the leg is wrapped in both fat and skin. The edges have fat around them, making some cuts tougher around the edges. The flavor is still delightful.
Now that we’ve talked a little bit about capicola vs. prosciutto, let’s take a look at the comparison.
When it comes down to it, you’ll be able to note the differences between capicola and prosciutto simply if you’ve tried them both.
Prosciutto is very large, sometimes even sold as a full leg. Capicola is much smaller and sold more like a roll of salami.
The aging and curing process for capicola is only about 6 months while prosciutto could take up to 24 months. Prosciutto is always cured with just salt while capicola sometimes adds paprika and other flavors.
Capicola comes from the shoulder and neck area and always comes from a pig. Prosciutto comes from the thigh and leg area usually comes from pigs but sometimes comes from other animals like goats, cows, and lambs.
The colors and textures are very different with capicola being much darker as it is smoked. Capicola is soft and smooth and tender, served in thin slices. Prosciutto is sometimes tougher and chewier because of the fat and skin around it.
We hope that you found this guide to capicola vs. prosciutto to be a valuable resource for knowing and understanding the differences between the two. You should have a clear representation by now.
Check out the following questions for some additional details that might be useful!
What is the Difference in Packaging of Capicola and Prosciutto?
Capicola is always sold in a roll like salami. Prosciutto can be sold in different forms. It might come as a full leg or it might come in thin slices like ham or even ham steak styles.
Why is Capicola Cheaper than Prosciutto?
The difference in cost has to do with the size and amount of meat as well as the processes to cure and prepare the meat for purchase. Prosciutto is larger and takes much longer to prepare.
Do You Have to Cook Capicola or Prosciutto?
Both of these can be cooked but they can also just be dried and cured instead. Prosciutto can be eaten raw when you purchase it because of the curing process.
Capicola may need to be baked but it could instead be salted and cured for use like lunchmeat as well.