If you’re asked to name an Italian cured meat, you’d probably go for Parma ham or prosciutto, right? But how do they two meat products differ? Are there any similarities? Are they, in fact, the same thing? Let’s compare Parma ham vs prosciutto:
There are no differences between Parma ham and prosciutto. This is because prosciutto is the umbrella term for ham in Italy. Parma ham is simply a type of ham from the Parma region of Italy.
What is Parma Ham?
Parma ham is self-explanatory. It is a type of ham that comes from the Parma region of Italy. It is referred to as prosciutto di Parma in Italy. This is where it becomes clear that Parma ham is, simply, a type of prosciutto.
Parma ham is a deep pink with a large fat rind running down one side. This is why it is always cut really thin. The fat is full of flavour so you want to eat it but it can be tough and chewy if it is not cut thinly.
Is Parma Ham Cooked?
No, Parma ham is not cooked. Instead, it is cured using salt. It does not need to be cooked. It can be eaten straight from the packet. It can be crisped up in the oven to create shards or fried to create a crumb.
Some purists would argue that this takes away from the delicate, savoury and sweet flavours in the Parma ham though!
The pigs used to produce Parma ham come from the Parma region and are either Large Whites, Landraces or Durocs. They must come from an authorise abattoir to be certified as legit Parma di prosciutto.
What is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is the blanket term for ham in Italy. You tend to get prosciutto cotto and prosciutto crudo. Cotto is cooked ham, much like the ham you’re used to having in a sandwich. Crudo is raw ham that has been cured, like Parma ham.
Is Prosciutto Cooked?
This depends. Prosciutto can be put into two categories, either crudo or cotto. Cotto is cooked prosciutto, much like a honey-roast ham you might be used to using in sandwiches. Crudo prosciutto is raw and cured ham.
Types of Prosciutto
As prosciutto is a term for ham, in general, there are various types of prosciutto to be aware of.
- Crudo – This is another category of prosciutto as opposed to a particular type of ham. Crudo means raw in Italian and covers all forms of cured ham, including Parma ham.
- Cotto – Cotto is cooked ham. It will usually have a more pale pink colour and will break into pieces easily.
- San Daniele – Prosciutto di San Daniele is one of Italy’s most famous, most desired and most expensive hams. Unsurprisingly, it must be made in a small village in Northern Italy called San Daniele.
- Parma – Parma ham, as the name suggests, must come from the Parma region of Italy. You know if the Parma ham you have bought is legitimate as it will be stamped with the Ducal Crown and the world ‘Parma’ in the centre.
- Modena – Prosciutto di Modena, as is probably obvious by now, must come from around Modena.
- Toscana – Unlike many prosciutto varieties, prosciutto di Toscana will often have added flavourings including pepper, garlic and rosemary to give it a distinct flavour, not too dissimilar to the flavours of porchetta.
Differences Between Parma Ham and Prosciutto
There are few differences between Parma ham and other prosciutto, especially prosciutto crudo. They are all cured with salt.
There will be subtle differences in the flavour that experts and purists will be able to decipher. This is achieved through the feed that is given to the pigs. Parma ham pigs, for example, are fed the whey from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Similarities Between Parma Ham and Prosciutto
Of course, there are plenty of similarities between Parma ham and other prosciutto products. These similarities include the following:
- Animal – The obvious similarity between all types of prosciutto is that it comes from the same animal: Pigs. In the same way that all ham is made from pigs, prosciutto is the same. Generally, prosciutto will be made from a pig’s legs.
- Flavour – Although each region will produce prosciutto with subtle flavour differences, most people will struggle to instantly tell where ham is from without being told. Generally, the only two ingredients used are salt and pork.
- Appearance – Most prosciutto crudo will look the same. It’ll have a slightly shiny flesh with a rich, deep pink colour and a bright white rind of fat.
Parma Ham and Prosciutto FAQs
Do you still have questions about how Parma ham and prosciutto are linked? Check these FAQs out:
Yes, you can swap out Parma ham for any other cured prosciutto such as prosciutto di San Daniele or prosciutto di Modena.
If you ask an Italian which prosciutto is best, they will stay loyal to their region and pick their local ham. San Daniele, however, is one of the most desired prosciutto varieties.
Lewis is the founder and editor of Let’s Foodie alongside other food-related platforms including FreezeIt and SubstituteIt. He launched Let’s Foodie to provide aspiring cooks with one place to get the answers to some of the most commonly asked cooking questions.