The term “uncured” is popping up on more and more grocery store and deli counter meat products. It’s the latest food trend, along with other buzzwords like cage-free and grass-fed. But what does it really mean? Is uncured ham better for you than the typical cured ham?
When it comes to the difference between cured and uncured ham, the main distinction is the ingredients used during curing. Cured ham is typically injected with salt and a mixture of chemicals, including nitrates. Uncured ham uses more natural curing methods, resulting in a lower sodium content and fewer artificial preservatives. The use of natural ingredients, such as celery powder and beets, also prevents nitrates from turning into nitrosamines, which can cause cancer.
In addition to being a healthier option, uncured ham is often preferred because it has less sodium and fewer calories than the typical cured ham. Uncured hams also tend to have more flavor, as they are often brined with other additions that introduce sweet flavors, such as maple and honey.
In order for a ham to be considered uncured, it cannot contain any artificial ingredients, such as sodium nitrates or nitrites. While some hams may naturally contain nitrates and nitrites, it is important to read the label to ensure that no synthetic sodium nitrates or nitrites are added. This will help to avoid any possible health risks. When baking an uncured ham, it is recommended to place one-half to one inch of water in the baking pan to help keep the ham moist.