Want to sample cured meats but not sure which types of Italian salami to get from the meat store?
If you love the taste and aroma of different sliced meats, feast your eyes on the wide world of salami and its variations.
The varieties of salami are the so-called peasant foods of medieval Europeans, who had to supplement for inadequate supplies of fresh meat.
Today, the delicate, smoky, and bold flavors of cured meats are evidence of centuries-old traditions, human innovations, and geographical collisions.
If you’re new to the realm of salami, we are here to be your travel guide.
What is salami?
Salami is a general term that refers to a group of cold cuts and cured meats, traditionally made with pork meat and pork fat.
Different curing processes for meat preservation have been widely practiced in different regions in Italy where they call it salame.
They call it salam in Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, szalami in Hungary, and salam in Slovak. In the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and France, they also call it salami.
The curing process involves a lot of fermentation. You allow the meat to sit and accumulate good bacteria, which destroy and hinder the growth of potentially harmful ones.
Additionally, curing includes a lot of drying until the meat loses 30 percent of internal hydration.
Drying and curing locks in savory flavor and rich aroma into the meat.
What type of meat is in salami?
Although salami is traditionally made with pork, different types now use varying ingredients that include different kinds of meat infused with fat content.
You can find cured meats made of beef, wild boar, goose, donkey, goat, and horse.
How many types of salami are there?
The different types of salami continuously increase in number as new recipes emerge from different regions of the globe.
Depending on who you ask, the number of salami variations is now at least in the lower hundreds.
And although the list goes on, we are only here to tackle the most famous types.
Different Types of Salami
Salami is not only limited to the types of cured meats. It may also refer to cooked food that can either be served hot or cold.
The different types of salami continuously evolve into various recipes, sometimes not only primarily focused on pork but also many domesticated and wild game animals.
You can classify salami into two major groups: meat products made with ground meat and those that are whole cured meats.
Salami can be made using ground meat blended with herbs, spices, and wines.
Cotto salami is a sausage usually made of finely ground pork and beef that is seasoned with garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper.
It is a type of soft, air-dried sausage that is not cooked and not smoked.
Although commonly known to have originated from Genoa, Italy, Genoa salami can come from naturally fermented meats in the United States.
Recipes of Genoa salami follow the use of pork and beef seasoned with garlic, black and white pepper, and white or red wine.
Hard salami has a marbled appearance similar to Genoa salami. However, it is firmer and less moist, which makes it quite hard to chew.
Hard salami traces its origins from Germany, where they also use both pork and beef.
Another difference is that hard salami uses more beef than pork, and no wines are added to the seasoning.
Finocchiona is a typical Tuscan salami made using finely ground pork and seasonings.
Some recipes use wine and garlic, but it is only Finocchiona if it is seasoned with fennel seeds.
A story suggests that a man stole some fresh salami at a fair near the town of Prato, and hid it in a field full of fennel.
When he came back to pick it up after a few days, he noticed that the sausage had already absorbed a fennel aroma.
Another type of Italian dry salami made with finely ground pork and lined with pork fat is Soppressata.
Variations include both uncured and cured pork.
Mortadella is one of the cooked salamis you can eat right after slicing.
It is a large Italian sausage made using finely ground or hashed cured pork infused with at least 15 percent pork fat.
Traditionally, it has black peppercorns, but modern recipes include pistachios and myrtle berries.
Salsiccia is one of the world’s most ancient and best-known sausages.
It contains pancetta scraps and pork neck bits seasoned with garlic, white wine, cinnamon, and pepper.
Some versions include the use of fennel, fresh chili pepper, sundried tomatoes, and caciocavallo cheese.
The original American salami is pepperoni. It is made using cured pork and beef seasoned with paprika or other types of chili peppers.
Usually soft and red, pepperoni is a lightly smoked type of American salami. It gained its popularity as a topping for American-made pizzas.
Pronounced “en-doo-ya,” ‘Nduja is a large, spreadable, spicy cured pork from the Calabrian region of Italy.
Its recipe includes pork shoulder, belly, tripe, roasted peppers, and a mixture of other spices.
There are also types of salami made using whole cuts of meat. Some cuts are from cured pork, while others are from beef cuts.
Also known as Italian bacon, pancetta is a cut of cured pork belly rolled into a cylinder and tied with twine. It often has an equal mix of lean meat and fats.
Pancetta is seasoned with a lot of salt and is often accompanied with pepper and other spices.
It is regarded as culinary cured pork, often cut into cubes or thick slices for rendering a salty pork base for different dishes.
Guanciale is like pancetta, but it uses pig jowls cured with salt, pepper, bay leaves, and juniper.
It has a very generous fat content compared to pancetta. Its popular use is for rendering the sauce base for carbonara and amatriciana.
Given that lardo in Italian is just lard in plain English, you might be inclined to just cook with it.
Lardo is a generously spiced, cured pork back fat, and it is delicious if eaten as is.
It is very high in cholesterol, but it has the taste of American-style barbecue with buttery and tangy flavor.
While pancetta is known as Italian bacon, prosciutto encompasses a wide range of Italian hams.
It comes from slices of cured pork legs, but the cooked variations, also known as prosciutto Cotto, are more popular in America.
Prosciutto Cotto is quite similar to American deli-style hams, but it has lighter seasoning.
Also known as coppa and capicola, capocollo is characterized by its vividly red color and fatty marbling.
It is taken from the top shoulder and back of the neck of a pig. The variations in seasoning include the use of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, salt, chili, and wine.
Most of the whole meat cuts are made from pork, but bresaola is pure beef. Its cuts are lean and red, made from beef cured with a mixture of salt and pepper.
Bresaola is left to hang and dry for several months. Sometimes, it is also lightly smoked to achieve maturation.
What is the best kind of salami?
The only way to decide which kind of salami is best is to have a taste of each of the variations.
Additionally, since preferences vary from person to person, there is no saying which kind of salami is better than another.
Our very best bet is to have you try all the varieties when you get the chance so that you can decide for yourself.
We cannot attest that this is a complete list of all the types of salami.
It can be very comprehensive, and we did our best to list all of the variations that can be found stateside.
Still, since salami is an ever-evolving tradition of cured meats, we’re a hundred percent sure that more variations will emerge.