If you love cured meat, then you can never resist a slice of sweet-salty prosciutto. Whether you eat it with cheese and melon or simply put some on your pizza, this cured pork meat is a real delicacy.
But how long is prosciutto good for? Sliced prosciutto may last up to 4 months in a vacuum-sealed bag and 2-3 days if wrapped in wax paper. Dry-cured prosciutto legs last from 6-12 months hung in a cool and dry room. A deboned prosciutto leg in a vacuum pack keeps well for 6 months if refrigerated.
In this article, you will learn all about the storage conditions and shelf life of prosciutto, as well as how to detect prosciutto that has gone bad.
How Long Does Prosciutto Last?
The shelf life of prosciutto depends on the variety you buy. However, it also has a lot to do with the storage conditions. If you have stored the prosciutto properly, you will get the most out of its shelf life.
If you want your prosciutto to keep well and always be fresh, we recommend just buying a package or two of sliced prosciutto.
Sliced prosciutto is also easier to find in the grocery store and easier to prepare. You probably won’t waste as much meat this way either.
The shelf life of sliced prosciutto varies depending on its packaging and how long it has been aged. Generally, it should last for 4 months in an unopened vacuum-sealed bag or 1-3 days wrapped in paper or plastic wrap.
As for whole prosciutto legs, it is certainly best to buy only one at a time. This way you won’t be in a rush to eat it.
Additionally, you will save a lot of storage space, whether it is in your pantry or in the fridge. A whole leg of dry-cured prosciutto that still has the bone in will maintain its best flavor and texture qualities for 6-12 months.
The shelf life of dry-cured prosciutto can be longer than 12 months if you haven’t yet sliced into it. But for the meaty, salty, and sweet flavor of this butter-like ham, we recommend you eat it within a year.
Once sliced, it should last another 2 months and should be refrigerated.
De-boned legs also have a long shelf life, so long as the packaging is intact and the fridge temperature is not higher than 50°F.
The shelf-life of a properly refrigerated vacuum-packed prosciutto leg is 6 months.
Prosciutto leg in a vacuum packaging may keep for longer than six months. Before you discard it, open the package and check on it.
How Long Is Prosciutto Good for Once Opened?
Sliced prosciutto should be consumed within 1-3 days of being opened and should be discarded after.
Once you remove a whole deboned prosciutto leg from its airtight packaging, use it within 2 months.
During this time, you may need to cut off some moldy or discolored areas on the leg. Doing this will prevent the contamination from spreading and keep the rest of the meat fresh.
While prosciutto kept for 2 months in the fridge will still taste delicious, note that the flavor will be much better within the first few weeks after you open the package.
Signs That Prosciutto Has Gone Bad
As with any meat product, you should be careful to not consume prosciutto that has gone bad.
Look for the following signs that your prosciutto has gone bad:
- Expiration Date – Prosciutto is not one of those products that you can eat past the expiration date. If it’s expired, it’s really expired.
- Discoloration – If you see any color changes on the prosciutto, it is high time you discarded it. The color of good prosciutto meat ranges from pale red to pink with the fat lines having an ivory color. Any green or blue spots on the meat are a sign of spoilage. It is also common for bad prosciutto to start turning gray.
- Bad Odor – Even if your prosciutto looks good but doesn’t smell good, discard it. Prosciutto should have a smell reminiscent of bacon. In a word, it should smell fresh.
- Slimy Texture – The slimy texture is a key indicator that the prosciutto has gone bad. This slippery and gooey coating on the meat appears as a result of the breakdown of lactic acid. Prosciutto that is still good should be dry and not feel slimy when pressed on with a finger.
Knowing the signs of bad prosciutto is essential for those who like enjoying this cured meat. We’re sure we don’t have to tell you this, but consuming spoiled prosciutto is not only a horrible experience but comes with many health risks.
If you follow this guide, however, you will probably get the most out of your Italian ham before it begins to spoil.
How to Store Prosciutto
Prosciutto, or ham in Italian, is taken from the hind leg of a pig. In general, there are two types of prosciutto.
Prosciutto cotto, or cooked prosciutto, and prosciutto crudo, uncooked prosciutto that has been dry-cured. The latter is more popular in the United States and is what people often refer to as prosciutto.
Especially if your ham is uncooked, you’ll need to make sure to store it properly. Improper storage conditions will result in the untimely spoilage of this product.
If you’ve bought a whole leg of prosciutto, here is how to store it depending on whether it is sliced, a boneless leg, or a leg that has the bone in.
Storing Sliced Prosciutto
Sliced prosciutto, the most accessible form in the United States, unfortunately spoils more easily than a full leg.
Whether your sliced prosciutto is vacuum-sealed or not, you should be storing it in your fridge, away from warm spots.
It should not be touching any other foods which have aromas that could affect the prosciutto’s taste or scent, like cheese or other meats.
You’ll want to eat your prosciutto slices sooner than later to experience the full quality that this Italian ham has to offer.
Storing a Bone-in Prosciutto Leg
You can store a whole leg of prosciutto at room temperature. Dry-cured meat can be safely kept in the pantry, cellar, or any cool room in the house where the temperature is not higher than 65°F.
All you need to do is to hang it somewhere dry and cool. If it is warm or humid where you live or there isn’t a cool room in your house, consider refrigerating the prosciutto instead.
You should always keep prosciutto out of the sun or away from any heat sources. You may be tempted to showcase your artisan prosciutto leg in your cooking area.
However, you will be risking letting your Italian ham go bad, as you can’t always control the temperature in your kitchen.
Storing a Deboned Prosciutto Leg
When the bone in the prosciutto leg is removed, it is usually sold vacuum-sealed. Removing the air from the packaging extends the shelf life of the prosciutto. Open this packaging only when you are going to use the prosciutto.
So long as the vacuum packaging on the boneless prosciutto is undamaged, it will keep nice and fresh. Cutting into the vacuum pack or damaging it accidentally will cause the ham to go bad quicker.
If this happens, remove the prosciutto from the packaging and store it wrapped in a wax paper or cling wrap. Aluminum foil will also work great for this reason.
You can also put a kitchen towel over the prosciutto leg wrapped in cling wrap as an added layer of protection. Store it in the fridge.
As prosciutto legs are too big to finish in a week, you should change the wrap on the leg, whether it’s foil, plastic, or paper, every week or more often.
Prosciutto is a fine product. If you don’t give it enough attention, it will quickly start to taste stale and not as tender and delicate.
Storing Prosciutto After Opening
Whether it is sliced prosciutto or a whole prosciutto leg sold in a vacuum pack, it should be refrigerated after opening.
Store prosciutto covered with wax paper, aluminum foil, or cling wrap to prevent it from drying out or touching other products in the fridge.
Additionally, prosciutto should be covered in order to prevent it from absorbing any odors.
As we’ve previously mentioned, cheese is one of the foods you should keep prosciutto away from.
While prosciutto and cheese are a culinary match made in heaven, when stored touching, the pungent aromas from the cheese change prosciutto’s flavor profile.
Does Prosciutto Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?
If it is not un-sliced dry-cured prosciutto stored in a cool room, then yes, it will go bad if not stored in the fridge.
When it comes to prosciutto in vacuum-sealed packaging, be it whole or sliced, prosciutto should be refrigerated at all times. Sliced prosciutto is especially perishable.
As prosciutto doesn’t contain any preservatives, it is important to practice food safety and store prosciutto properly following the expiration dates and instructions on the label.
Can You Freeze Prosciutto?
We don’t recommend freezing prosciutto, especially a whole leg of it. The texture and flavor of this cured ham will greatly suffer after the freezing and defrosting process.
From a standpoint of safety, however, yes you can technically freeze prosciutto. You can also freeze cooked ham, which will freeze better than prosciutto.
If you wrap it well with cling wrap and foil, you can keep prosciutto in the freezer for up to 3 months.
But, since it saves so well on its own, there’s really no reason to freeze it.