Skip to Content

Uncured Ham: Definition and Explanation for Meat Lovers

Uncured Ham: Definition and Explanation for Meat Lovers

When you’re shopping for ham, and you see a label that says, ”fresh,” it means that it’s an uncured leg of pork. This means that the pork hasn’t been cured in any way. 

You can usually find hams uncured, cured and smoked, or cured. If you see a pink or rosy-colored ham, that means it’s cured. An uncured ham will be light beige or light pink. For example, a ham labeled cured Country ham is dark pink or mahogany colored.

So, what is an uncured ham, and is it safe to eat? Learn more about an explanation of uncured ham.

What Is Uncured Ham?

The meat industry uses the term, ”uncured” in several ways. Although the label reads ”uncured ham,” it’s not necessarily true. An uncured leg of pork is a fresh pork roast. When you cook it, the meat is pale beige, or almost white. This is purely uncured pork.

A packaged, uncured ham is cured, but without sodium nitrate. This means it’s nitrate free, but not uncured. The pink color of the ham indicates it’s been cured.

Most likely, the pork was cured using natural ingredients, such as celery juice, salt brine and sugar, so the USDA allows the uncured designation.

If you read the ingredients for an uncured, nitrate-free ham, you might see celery juice listed. Did you know that celery juice contains natural nitrites? So, the ham is cured and has naturally occurring nitrites.

To sum it up, all ham is cured even if it’s labeled, ”uncured.” 

Are uncured hams ready to eat?

When you purchase an uncured ham, make sure you read the label to see if it’s ready to eat. Uncured hams are available, either cooked or uncooked.

The label has to say whether you need to cook the ham before eating it. It also should provide cooking instructions.

How Long Can You Store an Uncured Ham?

An uncooked, fresh, uncured ham will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator as long as the temperature is below 40°F. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months. 

A fresh, uncured, cooked ham lasts 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and 3 to 4 months in the freezer.

Always check the label for safe handling and cooking to safely serve the ham to your family.

How Long Should You Cook an Uncured Ham?

Most hams are precooked whether they’re cured or uncured, so you should only have to cook them at 250°F for about 15 minutes per pound.

If you have an uncooked ham, you’ll have to bake it longer to make sure it’s safe to eat. When the ham’s internal temperature reaches at least 145°F. Set the oven to 325°F and bake the ham for 15 to 20 minutes per pound.

Should You Put Water in the Baking Pan When Cooking Uncured Ham?

After you remove the ham’s wrapper, place it in a baking pan that has one-half to one inch of water at the bottom. Cover the ham with foil to hold in the moisture. This helps keep the ham moist while baking.

FAQs about Uncured Ham

Can You Cook Uncured Ham in the Microwave?

Yes, you can cook an uncured ham in the microwave. The best way to do this is by slicing the ham into ½ inch thick slices. Arrange the slices on a microwave-safe platter and cover it. Microwave the ham at 30 to 50 percent power for about one minute per slice. Make sure the internal ham temperature is 145°F.

What are the most common uncured ham ”curing” ingredients?

The most common curing ingredients for uncured ham are water, sugar, sea salt, vinegar, cherry powder, and celery juice.

Most uncured hams are also free of preservatives and hormones, artificial ingredients, MSG, gluten, and minimal processing.

Which is better: cured or uncured ham? 

If you enjoy the natural taste of pork, uncured ham is better. Since it doesn’t have as many processed salts, sugar, or nitrates, the natural flavor of the meat comes through.

Is uncured ham healthy for you? 

Uncured ham is healthy for you because it’s sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite free. The nitrites used for curing prevent bacteria from growing on the ham. 

Instead of curing the ham with sodium nitrite, uncured ham curing uses natural salt and celery juice to preserve the meat.

Are uncured meats safe to eat? 

Uncured meats are safe to eat as long as they’re stored properly and cooked until the internal temperature reaches 145°F. 

Always store your uncured meat in the refrigerator and use it before the date shown on the label. Most of the time, this is 3 to 4 days. You can also store it in the freezer for 6 months.

Are there health risks when you eat uncured ham?

When you purchase uncured ham, make sure you read the label. Nitrites and nitrates aren’t the same things. 

Your digestive system changes nitrates into nitrites and your stomach converts them into nitrosamines. Nitrosamines can lead to cancer. 

Because uncured ham uses natural ingredients as sources of nitrates, such as celery and beets, the vitamin C in them prevents your stomach from forming nitrosamines.

So, when buying uncured ham, know your ingredients. Check for the natural nitrites in vegetables and vitamin C. This way, you’ll get the ham that’s healthiest to eat.

What does uncured ham taste like?

Uncured ham has more of a pork flavor than cured ham, but it’s very similar. Also, it’s usually less salty.

Is Boar’s Head uncured smoked deli ham healthy?

According to Boar’s Head, they naturally smoke their ham for a rich, smoked taste. Their uncured ham is gluten-free, milk-free, and has no MSG, nitrites, or nitrates. It also has no artificial colors.

Here are the nutrition facts about Boar’s Head uncured ham: 2 ounces of this uncured ham has 60 calories, 1g fat, 580g sodium, 2g carbohydrates, 2g sugar, and 10g protein. It also contains 4 percent of the daily recommended iron.

Is Country Ham Uncured?

Country ham is not uncured. The pork leg is dry-cured, which gives the Country ham a different texture than other hams. 

The Country ham curing process involves rubbing salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, Prague powder, and saltpeter into the meat. The Prague powder and saltpeter are nitrates and nitrites for preservation. 

Curing takes place over 60 days, and then salt equalization takes place for up to four months. Since the ham loses water during this time, bacteria won’t grow. This is why Country hams don’t need refrigeration.

Further Reading about Hams