Few party appetizers spell "sophisticated" better than a versatile charcuterie board. It combines different cuts with various cures, and it never fails to please even the most finicky tastes. Above all, it impresses your guests and makes for savory dinner conversation.
So, how do you put together the best charcuterie board of deli meats?
Well, it’s quite simple. You have to bring together a wide variety of cured meats. However, if the only ones you know are salami and pepperoni, then you barely have ingredients for a decent sandwich.
Fortunately, you have come to the right place. In this short guide, we present the essential cured meats to know by any carnivore. Whether you are preparing for a party or just looking for something new to add to your canapés, take a bite of the meats below!
What is Cured Meat?
First off, we should define what cured meat is. After all, you want to visit your Delicatessen with minimum knowledge of what you want to eat.
Cured meat is any type of flesh that has gone through a dehydration process. By taking out the moisture from the meat, the remaining fiber does not allow for bacteria to grow. As a result, the meat remains edible for weeks or months in a row.
The most common way of curing meat is by using salt to attract and later evaporate all the water molecules in it. Other methods include using smoke, exposure to sunlight, or strong winds.
Humans have been curing meat for millennia. Before the invention of refrigeration, people had to rely on salt and natural processes to preserve the meat from hunted prey or domestic animals for later consumption.
While there are many types of cured meats in the world, only a few dozens of them are highly popular. More so, few are available worldwide. Moving on, we will discuss the most essential cured meats to know that you are likely to find at your nearby deli.
21 Cured Meats You Should Know
These are cured meats that you should try at least once in your lifetime!
In German, it stands for “Farmer’s Ham,” and it is the simplest form of smoked meat you can find. For many, it is prosciutto-like meat that pairs easily with most types of cheese. So, it shouldn't miss even from the most modest charcuterie boards.
You may also know this one as “baloney.” While some may think it’s a ham, Bologna is actually an emulsified sausage from Mortadella. It comes in various tastes depending on the spices used in the curing process, which usually involves smoking.
This cured meat is one of the tastiest cuts of air-dried, salted beef. It consists only of lean meat that goes through a curing process that involves salting and air-drying for at least two months.
4. Butifarra Negra
This Catalan sausage is made of pork meat, organs, and blood. You may find it in various forms, including raw and cooked, but the dry one should provide your charcuterie board with a powerful anise taste.
This type of dry-cured sausage is highly popular in Switzerland, France, and some parts of Germany. It is made of bacon, smoked pork, and beef parts.
This fatty chorizo should not miss from any charcuterie selection. It comes from Spain, and it brings an unforgettable taste rich in garlic and smoked paprika.
This type of Corsican salami is made only from dry-cured pork neck. It has a thick layer of spices that give its unique flavor.
If you want to add something sweet to your selection of cured meats, you should opt for Culatello. This air-dried delicacy is made of sweet ham and dry-aged to achieve a striking red color. Keep in mind that it is at the more expensive end of the deli meat spectrum. However, it should make a lasting impression on you and your guests.
This type of dry-cured salami originates from Tuscany. Usually, it contains only cuts from pork shoulders and cheeks. However, the ingredient that gives its unique flavor is fennel.
Every deli platter should have at least one fatty cured meat. For example, one of the best fatty cuts comes from Guanciale, which is made of dried and spice-rubbed pork cheeks.
11. Head Cheese
Contrary to its name, this cured meat does not have any cheese in it. On the other hand, it has a blend of coarse pig head meat bits and pieces. Among them, you will find the pig’s ears, jowl, and tongue. This mix is rolled into a thick cured sausage with garlic, bay leaves, and gelatin.
12. Jamón Ibérico
Also known as Iberian Ham, this cured meat is one of the tastiest ingredients on a deli board. It comes in various tastes, depending on the aging duration, and the pig breed that produces it. The tastiest and most expensive one comes from the rear leg of the black Iberian pig. This animal feeds mostly acorns to give the meat a sweet and nutty flavor.
This long and thin sausage comes from Poland. There, the meat artisans combine the best quality pork cuts with black pepper and caraway to create a unique flavor. They also dry air and smoke the sausage.
This type of dry salami is made from cured pork. The curing process leaves it thick and hard to chew, which is why some refer to it as pork bresaola.
Similar to Bologna, this cured meat is an emulsified sausage. However, contrary to “baloney,” Mortadella contains neck fat and pistachios.
This salt-cured meat is made from pork belly. It contains plenty of salt and spices to make the high amount of fat easy to eat and incredibly tasty.
While it is not one of the most elegant presences on a charcuterie board, Pepperoni is a highly popular cured meat from many. It is one of the few cured meats originating from the US, and it is similar to Sicilian salami, only less spicy. It is made of pork and beef. Also, it has plenty of red pepper, which gives it a strident red glow when freshly cut.
This air-cured ham is a must on any charcuterie board. Prosciutto is an air-cured ham with plenty of salt and fat. However, its three-years curing process is what separates it from any other ham on the market.
This dry-aired cured sausage is popular for its coarse bits of fat and lean meat, which makes it different from the regular salami.
Speck is a type of smoked boneless ham that has a powerful juniper aftertaste. It comes from the northeast region of Italy, but it is also very popular in Austria and Germany.
Lastly, you should add at least one peculiar cured meat like Zungenwurst to your charcuterie board. This sausage is made of pickled pig and beef tongue with coarse bits of suet, and plenty of blood to coagulate everything into one-of-a-kind deli meat.