Cured meats are a guilty pleasure for many steak lovers. Most people enjoy the superior quality and rich taste that emanate from the meat curing process.
Prosciutto is one of those cured meat cuisines that can be so addictive with their mouth-watering flavor. However, those who love them find one negative thing to say: They’re ridiculously expensive.
So, I sought to find out why this exotic dish gets its hefty price tag, and here is what I pulled out.
Prosciutto is mainly expensive because it requires a lengthy and complicated process to make. Meat selection, expensive additives, the long curing process, and high ingredient importation costs also contribute to prosciutto’s high prices.
In this post, we look at this Italian delicacy and all the fuss around its price. Read on to learn why prosciutto is so expensive and if it’s worth the price.
What is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is a popular meaty dish native to Italy. The word “prosciutto” translates to “ham” in Italian, giving away its main ingredient. Prosciutto is only made from a pig’s hind legs and is aged through a dry-curing process.
There are two basic types of prosciuttos, prosciutto cotto and prosciutto crudo. The former refers to cooked prosciutto, while the latter is raw but cured.
The quality of prosciutto depends on the curing process, region, and the strict quality controls that go into the production.
How Much Does Prosciutto Cost per Pound?
As we’ve already established, there are different types of prosciutto, and their qualities vary depending on a few factors. However, all types of prosciutto are more expensive than regular ham.
In the US, a pound of prosciutto costs anywhere between $8 and $20 depending on quality.
The Most Expensive Prosciutto Ever Sold
Prosciutto can be mindbogglingly expensive, especially when served in a high-end restaurant.
According to the insider, Jamon Iberico is the most expensive cured ham and one of the most expensive meats in the world. A single leg of this classy prosciutto can cost upwards of $4500!
Jamon Iberico is made from the rear leg of a black Iberian pig, a rare breed found in the western and southern regions of the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal and Spain.
What Is So Special About Prosciutto?
There are many things that make prosciutto stand out among other types of ham and meats in general. Properly cured prosciutto has a rich, distinctive flavor that is unrivaled by other raw or cooked meats.
Prosciutto also requires an immense level of skill and time to cure correctly. It takes months or even years before prosciutto can be served on a plate.
So, What Makes It So Expensive?
There are equally as many things that make prosciutto expensive. Here are some of the main ones:
The Curing Process
The process involved in curing prosciutto is by no means simple. As a matter of fact, it is a complex and lengthy process that can take months or even years depending on how the prosciutto is being made.
Curing is one of the oldest food preparation techniques, dating back to Roman times, and requires a fair amount of experience and expertise to execute correctly.
During the process, the meat is salted, which helps dehydrate and preserve it. Salting also protects the prosciutto from bacteria throughout the curing process.
Sometimes curing can also involve other processes such as spicing, cooking, smoking, and nitrite treatment.
This might also be the reason you’ll find many types of prosciuttos, as each goes through a different curing process.
Apart from curing, there’s another long process you must go through while making prosciutto, the drying phase. Once the meat has been salted and rinsed thoroughly, it is required to dry.
The drying phase can vary depending on individual taste. Sometimes, the meat can be left to dry for up to 36 months!
Being such a long investment, the chef must sell the prosciutto at high prices.
While the traditional method of making prosciutto only requires salt, most people prefer additives to enhance the meat’s flavor. For example, additives like nitrates are used in the curing process to enrich the color and flavor of the prosciutto.
Since these additives are costly, they contribute to the prosciutto’s high prices.
As we’ve already established, prosciutto is an Italian dish. Therefore, if you want to enjoy the purest form of the meat, you have to ship the whole of it or some of the best ingredients from Italy.
While a few local sellers offer prosciutto for a lower price, they don’t offer the same mouth-watering experience you get with the imported stuff.
The price of prosciutto also depends on the quality of pigs used, their age, nutrition, and age. For instance, prosciutto from black Iberian pigs is expensive because they are rare, and the meat is premium quality.
Similarly, the meat would be more expensive if the pigs used were naturally fed, meaning they were allowed to roam and eat grass and herbs.
The prosciutto would be cheaper if the pigs were fed on commercial feed, but it would end up being low quality.
Read Also: Why is Sashimi More Expensive Than Nigiri?
Types of Prosciuttos with Prices
There are many types of prosciutto in the US. Here are the main ones:
1. Pio Tosini Prosciutto DI Parma: $20 per Pound
This special prosciutto comes from Parma, Italy, which many consider the home of premium prosciutto.
Pio Tosini Prosciutto di Parma mostly consists of an imported 20 lbs leg. It is aged for 20 months or thereabout with nothing but salt.
2. Parmacotto Prosciutto Cotto: $13 per Pound
The difference between prosciutto Cotto and regular prosciutto is that the former is cooked after curing.
Pramacotto is slowly cooked with salt and a few flavors after the curing process but has a lighter flavor than regular prosciutto. It is also imported from the prized Parma region of Italy.
3. Prosciutto DI San Daniele: $18 per Pound
This boneless prosciutto comes from the San Daniele region, also famous for high-quality prosciutto. The pigs used must be born and bred in 11 specific regions of Italy and are slaughtered after reaching a minimum of 330 lbs.
The meat also goes through stringent quality assessments before it’s ready for use.
Is Prosciutto Also Expensive Outside the US?
Prosciutto is expensive in every country it’s available, including Italy. This is mainly because importation costs play a small role in the meat’s pricing.
It’s already expensive due to the complex and lengthy process involved in producing dry-cured hams.
Where to Buy Prosciutto
If you want to enjoy a delicious serving of prosciutto immediately, you can go to your local Italian restaurant and check if they have it on the menu. You can also order online from Amazon.
However, if you have the patience to wait a few months or years to taste your own prosciutto, there are numerous recipes and YouTube videos such as this one below that can guide you. Enjoy!