Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: September 21, 2022

When you think about Italian meats, Prosciutto Crudo probably comes to mind. However, this isn’t the only famous Parma ham — there’s also Culatello di Zibello.

I’ve been eating and learning about both Culatello and Prosciutto for years. These cuts are a huge part of my carnivore diet, so today, I’ll explain everything you should know about these meats.

Quick Summary

  • There are two kinds of prosciutto: prosciutto crudo and prosciutto cotto.
  • Prosciutto and Culatello come from the Parma region and are cut from adult swine.
  • There are several differences between prosciutto and Culatello, including how they are made and what they taste like.

What is Cullatello?

A culatello meat on a cutting board with bread and different spices

Culatello di Zibello is cured meat that comes from Italy, specifically the Parma area.

It’s made in the following towns along the river Po:

  • Busseto
  • Polesine
  • Soragna
  • Roccabianca
  • San Secondo
  • Sissa
  • Colorno

The municipality of Zibello has cold and humid winters and hot and sunny summers, and this climate works perfectly for Culatello.

Culatello is prepared between September and February. It comes exclusively from the pig breed in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna Italian regions.

It only comes from the pig’s thigh muscles and is treated with a mix of salt, pepper, and garlic.

The meat is made via the curing process. It has a pear shape and usually weighs about 6 1/2 pounds [1].

It’s relatively small in size compared to other raw ham cuts. This is because of the Parma climate, which makes it impossible to cure the whole pork leg.

Culatello is matured for at least one year. After this time, an inspector checks the meat for any bad fermentation signs.

If everything is fine, Culatello gets a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification.

The certificate guarantees Culatello was made according to set standards, and it was made in Parma from the pigs in the designated breeding area for Culatello.

Culatello tastes sweet and has a unique flavor thanks to natural molds that form on the meat’s surface because it’s kept in humid maturing rooms.

What is Prosciutto?

Thin slices of prosciutto on a wooden plate

In Italian, prosciutto means ham. There are two kinds of prosciutto: Prosciutto Crudo (raw, cured ham) and Prosciutto Cotto (cooked ham).

Prosciutto Crudo is a more common and popular option. It’s made from pork legs. The meat is covered in salt and left for several weeks [2].

The salt draws out moisture and prevents the spread of bacteria, so it’s safe to eat it raw. Plus, the salt makes the flavor more intense.

After the salting is done, the pork leg is washed and seasoned and left to dry for between one and three years. Prosciutto gets its flavor due to the combination of salt, air, and time.

Prosciutto is made in different regions, but Prosciutto di Parma only comes from heritage-breed pigs in 11 Italian regions.

The curing process of Prosciutto di Parma has to happen in the Parma region because of the area’s climate impact on the meat.

“Prosciutto di Parma is made to specific parameters. The flavor gets changed by the characteristics of the terrain, soil, and air. The breeze from the Adriatic sea gives some of the aromas you smell in prosciutto.”
- Ali Rose, Potluck Video, YouTube Channel

Prosciutto tastes sweet and salty and has a salmon pink to brownish-red color. The longer the Prosciutto di Parma is aged, the more intense the flavor.

Culatello vs. Prosciutto Similarities and Differences

Slices of prosciutto on a cutting board

There are three main similarities between Culatello and Prosciutto di Parma:

  • Both cuts are from Northern Italy, specifically the Parma region
  • Both come from adult swine
  • Both are PDO certified

Here are all the differences between Culatello and Prosciutto:

  • Culatello is made with thigh muscles without any fat or rind. Prosciutto maintains some fat and rind.
  • Culatello is treated with a mix of salt, garlic, and pepper, and prosciutto is treated with sea salt and sometimes red wine.
  • Prosciutto loses about 4% of its weight because the salt releases moisture. Culatello loses about 40% of its weight by the end of the curing process.
  • Culatello is made along the Po river, while prosciutto is made in the Northern Italy hills area, between Emilia and Apennine.
  • While Prosciutto is refrigerated, Culatello is exposed to light and humidity during the maturing process.
  • Culatello weighs three kg max, while Prosciutto is at least 7 kg.
  • Culatello is more expensive and has a higher cost per kg, while Prosciutto is more affordable per kg.
  • Prosciutto can be safely exported, while only one producer can export Culatello from the Parma region and outside Italy.
  • Prosciutto has a rounded shape, while Culatello salami is pear-shaped.
  • Prosciutto raw ham has a stronger flavor compared to Culatello.
  • Prosciutto is better eaten with more intense flavors, such as focaccia, while Culatello should be eaten with white bread. The intense flavor will cover the delicate taste of Culatello.

FAQs

What Does Culatello Taste Like?

Culatello tastes tender, with occasional winey flavors.

What Type of Prosciutto is Best?

Prosciutto di Parma is best type of prosciutto. It has a rich flavor because it’s aged twice as long as other types of ham.

Can You Eat Prosciutto Raw?

Yes, you can eat prosciutto raw as long as it’s dry-aged or made in Parma ham style.

Which One Is Your Favorite?

Both Culatello and Prosciutto come from Italian Parma region. These hams are produced from heritage-breed adult pigs.

However, that’s where the similarities end. Prosciutto ham has a strogner taste compared to Culatello. It’s aged for longer, and it’s a much heavier and more affordable cut.

A big difference between them is that Culatello is produced for a shorter time period and has a pear shape, to prosciutto’s more rounded one.

The best way to get quality Parma products is via a reliable supplier. We’ve rounded up the 10 best meat delivery services with basic and exotic meat selections.

These suppliers offer everything from quality ham to game birds and cuts such as venison, elk, boar, and more. Check them out, and get exotic meat today.


References:

  1. https://www.saveur.com/culatello-italian-ham/
  2. https://www.eataly.com/us_en/magazine/how-to/what-is-prosciutto/

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