How to Tell if Prosciutto Has Gone Bad

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Find out when to eat and when to throw away prosciutto meat.
Image Credit: Elena Katkova/iStock/GettyImages

It's salty and sweet and is the perfect complement to everything from fruit to seafood. Prosciutto is one of those ingredients that's meant to be savored – and it's not cheap. Digging into the fridge to find your stash only to realize that it's gone bad is one of those little things that can ruin your entire day. Luckily, it's pretty easy to tell when prosciutto has gone bad.

Prosciutto Shelf Life

Prosciutto is created by drying pork legs covered in salt. The salt coating pulls moisture out of the meat and keeps bacteria from getting in, so prosciutto is safe to eat "raw" straight from the package. The drying process also gives prosciutto a very long shelf life compared to other pork products.

Prosciutto is often sold in vacuum-sealed packages. In its original sealed package, prosciutto may last for up to two years. Once the package is opened and the prosciutto is exposed to air, it should be fine in the refrigerator for at least a few weeks. Sometimes prosciutto will last for a month or longer in the fridge without noticeable signs of spoilage, though it's inadvisable to risk consuming expired meat.

Freezing prosciutto is certainly possible, but it won't necessarily extend its shelf life. This process can diminish the product's flavor and texture, so prosciutto purists often advise against freezing it. If you do freeze your prosciutto, aim to eat it within a few months. If you buy pre-sliced prosciutto, refer to the expiration date on the package for specific guidance about its shelf life. Without knowing how long ago the ham was sliced, it's impossible to know how long it will really last.

Signs Prosciutto Ham Has Gone Bad

The best way to detect prosciutto ham gone bad is the same way you'd detect whether any kind of ham has gone bad: with your eyes and nose. Prosciutto that's fresh and safe to eat should appear some shade of deep pink, brown or red with marbled white fat running through it. A gray or green tint to the meat is a sign that it has gone bad and shouldn't be eaten. Visible mold is also an indicator that your meat is past its prime and shouldn't be eaten.

Odor is another key indicator of ham gone bad. Prosciutto should smell porky, salty and a little sweet. Depending on what kind of prosciutto you have and how it was prepared, you may detect subtle seasonings like black pepper or rosemary. You shouldn't smell any sour or bitter notes from the meat.

Properly Storing Prosciutto

Even when it's vacuum sealed, prosciutto should always be stored in the fridge. Once you slice into it, the ham should always be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap before it goes back in the fridge. Make sure there are no gaps in the plastic to allow air to reach the meat. If you have a vacuum-sealing system for food, you can vacuum pack your leftover prosciutto in your own kitchen.

Prosciutto should be cut to order. If you have a big piece, keep it whole and only cut off slices when you're ready to eat them. Prosciutto should be cut thin with the goal of being able to see through a slice when you hold it up to the light.

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