Salami is an Italian sausage that is commonly used in sandwiches, pizzas, and even certain salads. Though the more common recipe for salami calls for pork, many restricted diets don’t allow for its consumption. Beef salami is one of the most popular alternatives to regular pork salami because of how both beef and pork are red meats with more or less the same kinds of flavor notes – especially when you add some extra spices to make up for the difference.
Salami and various types of sausages have been around for thousands of years. Back when people didn’t have any refrigeration or artificial preservatives, curing meat and then storing it in dark, dry conditions were pretty much what food storage was all about. People rubbed or mixed salt and spices with the meat for two reasons; to make it taste good, but also to properly preserve it, which brings me to the next point.
The word salami comes from the word “salum”, meaning “salt”. Salt was one of the most important ways to preserve meat – a few rubs of salt would help take out all the water from a piece of meat and make sure the meat was too dry and salty for any bacteria to grow.
Even today we use salt and sugar in the same basic way when we use brine solutions and sugar syrups to preserve canned goods, meat, and fruits. Only, in the case of the Italians, it led to the creation of a whole new kind of sausage – the salami as we know it today.
No one really knows when salami actually originated, but we’re sure that it’s been around for thousands of years. It’s been speculated that the first sausages came from Mesopotamia, an area where present-day Iraq and Kuwait are.
People are divided on what time period it was though, with people estimating that it was around 3000 BC. The earliest sausages were salted meat stuffed into animal intestines, but of course, sausages have evolved since then, and almost every area has its own special type, like the various “wursts” from Germany and salami from Italy.
As its popularity around the world grew, different recipes for salami started popping up. We have salami made from horse and donkey meat, and even salami made from turkey meat. Beef salami probably came into the picture because of people’s dietary restrictions. Pork can’t be consumed by people who adhere to halal or kosher diets, but they can eat beef salami without a problem.
Salami in Italy Today
With the popularization of salami, many commercial recipes have popped up all over the world – and that includes recipes for beef salami. The Italians, however, still consider the best salami to be one that’s been made how it always used to be.
Artisanal salami can be found all over Italy, and it’s made with all kinds of special steps taken to preserve the original, rich, taste. From raising special breeds of boar and pig that are left free to graze in pastures, to the makers cutting the salami by hand, the taste of this kind of traditional salami is truly unparalleled.
If someone asked me, I would say that the only “true” Italian salami left is the one these artisans make, following recipes that are hundreds and thousands of years old, and keeping the traditions of their ancestors alive.
Beef Salami – The Basics
Beef salami is popular in Muslim majority countries around the world and can be easily found elsewhere too. If you’re shopping for salami though, assume it’s pork salami unless otherwise stated on the packaging.
The thin slices of salami you end up with are obtained by cutting up the sausage once it’s ready. It’s made by combining ground beef with added fat, spices, and different kinds of herbs.
Then the mixture is cured and dried in the right conditions. Once chefs have prepared the ground mixture of meat and spices, they stuff it in special casings made from animal intestines – in this case, beef intestines. Salami isn’t really “cooked” but fermented, though some chefs might smoke or slightly cook their salami for the sake of adding some extra flavor to it.
What Does Beef Salami Look Like?
Beef salami has a marble-like finish. It comes from the fact that the beef isn’t finely ground for salami, and it’s mixed with added fats that give it its characteristic pink and white color. It comes in thin slices and is sold in airtight packages.
You probably won’t be able to tell the difference between beef and pork salami just by looking at it. In fact, you might not be able to tell the difference between beef and pork salami even after tasting each, which is why it’s important for you to look closely at the packaging before you make a purchase.
What Does Beef Salami Taste Like
Beef salami tastes a bit different from other sausages. It typically has a rich, fatty, meaty taste that might have smokey, tangy, or acidic notes depending on how it’s prepared.
If you’re adding it to other dishes, the taste can change a little throughout the process. Keep in mind though that even if salami isn’t technically “cooked” it’s completely safe to eat as it is.
How is Beef Salami Made?
There are three main steps in the beef salami-making process.
Extra steps are sometimes added to this process depending on the recipe, but this is the most basic breakdown of how beef salami is made.
Chefs get started by grinding the beef, but most avoid making the ground beef too fine. Then ingredients like spices, herbs, yeast, and sometimes a bacterial culture are added to the coarsely ground beef. There is also plenty of fat going into the salami which gives it its marbled appearance.
Some variants of beef salami have other ingredients like wine in it as well, and some chefs often develop their own recipes and variations of beef salami. This is why there are so many variants and why they all end up with their own unique flavors.
Once the mixture is ready, the chef will put it in casings and leave it to ferment in warm, humid conditions. The bacteria and other organisms in the meat will cure and develop to give the salami its texture and taste. It will also decrease the meat’s capacity to hold water, which is an important step in the preservation process. Sugar is often added to salami to serve as a food source for all the bacteria inside it.
The whole fermentation process takes anywhere between 1 to 3 days.
By the time the salami is ready, about half the water has been removed from the meat. If done wrong, the salami ends up with an unpleasant and uneven texture and taste and losing too much water can ruin it too. This is why the temperature and humidity of the area where salami is dried are carefully controlled and monitored in modern manufacturing processes.
Sometimes, the salami will be smoked or treated some other way after it’s ready to enhance the flavor and give it a unique taste. This step is mainly only to enhance the taste and the flavor of the salami, and not to cook the meat.
How to Eat Beef Salami
Beef salami isn’t cooked, but it’s a cured meat that’s still edible. Salami goes great with certain types of cheeses and as an extra ingredient to make ordinary recipes taste extraordinary. From a snack to an ingredient in your omelet for breakfast, it has just as much range as bacon or any other type of sausage.
A lot of people prefer cooking their salami in a lot of different ways though, and even if it’s not necessary, it adds more depth and flavor to it. Salami’s cooked version can be found in soups, in the sauce for certain pasta, and baked on top of pizza or lasagna.
How to Pair Beef Salami
Beef salami is usually put in sandwiches, in salads, pizza toppings, and even served with cheeses and other cold cuts. Here are some suggestions on how to try salami with your lunches. Here are some unique suggestions for eating salami!
Add to Soups and Pasta
You can cut salami up to cook it with tomato sauce and add it to pasta or use it in soup for some pretty unique flavor notes. The taste will certainly be a break from the usual grilled chicken and boiled meats.
Crisp it Up
Another way you can use Salami is to crisp it up in a pan with some butter and sprinkle it on top of your savory spreads and other dishes. Ideally, you can do it with your omelets at breakfast, and even try a savory spin on pancakes with the salami on them.
A cheese and meat board usually use different kinds of cheeses; soft, semi-soft, semi-firm, and firm or aged cheeses. Simpler charcuterie boards can have fewer items on them than the usual three types of cheese and various meat cuts, but whatever the case, if you’re planning to add salami to it you’ll need to think about the flavors it brings to the table.
I’d recommend pairing salami with a subtle, rich, creamy soft cheese. You can even use a semi-soft cheese like gouda, but anything that balances out the salty and crunchy flavors in salami will do just fine.
In Grilled Cheese
We’ve all been there. Tomatoes, caramelized onions, olives.. Some things just don’t work with grilled cheese at all. They’re all great things to pair with a cheese sandwich in theory, but the execution is usually lacking. If you know what I’m talking about, you need to try putting salami in your grilled cheese sandwiches.
I like to cut the salami up before I add it to my sandwich, and sometimes I end up frying it in a pan till it’s nice and crispy. It gives the cheese an extra kick, and it’s definitely something worth trying.
Salami in salads sure tastes good, but if you’re trying to eat healthily I’d suggest against making it a regular ingredient in your diet meals. That said, you can cut up salami to add it to your meals. One thing I love is putting the salami in the oven for a couple of minutes. This makes the salami get nice and crispy, and the extra crunch is welcome in any salad bowl. Be careful though – it’s pretty easy to overdo it, and you don’t want to burn the edges!
Salami isn’t really known for being a very healthy food option, mainly because of its high fat and sodium content. It’s rich in fats, spices, herbs, and many other ingredients. When making salami, the focus is usually more on making it taste good than anything else, which doesn’t bode well for any of the health enthusiasts out there who wanted to add it to their sandwiches.
Beef Salami FAQs
Question: How long does beef salami last?
Answer: Once an average package of beef salami is opened, it may be able to last about a week in the refrigerator.
Question: How to eat beef salami?
Answer: Beef salami can be eaten on its own with cheeses and spreads, put in sandwiches, as a pizza topping, and in many other recipes. It’s known for its rich and indulgent flavors, making it a popular ingredient in many dishes.
Question: Does beef salami need to be cooked?
Answer: Beef salami – or any other kind of salami – doesn’t need to be cooked before you eat it. Even though it isn’t “cooked” throughout the whole manufacturing process, it’s still cured in a way that makes it safe to eat.
Question: What is salami meat made of?
Answer: Salamis have all sorts of meat in them, though it is most commonly pork. Then you also have salami made from venison, turkey, horse and donkey meat, and many other kinds. When buying salami, make sure to check on the packaging what its ingredients are so you don’t accidentally buy salami you don’t want to eat.
Question: Is beef salami healthy for you?
Answer: Beef salami is high in saturated fats, sodium, and proteins. While the protein part is a plus, the rest isn’t really good news for anyone hoping they can add it to their healthy diet. Salami is usually paired with cheeses and other fatty spreads, which is another reason to avoid it if you’re trying to keep your caloric intake down.
Question: Is beef salami halal?
Answer: Beef salami itself is usually halal, though buyers would have to check if the meat used to prepare the salami was sourced from halal butcheries. Be careful to check the ingredients listed on the beef salami packaging to make sure you’re eating salami that only has beef, turkey, or other halal meats in it.
Beef salami is a great alternative to regular pork salami if you’re on any kind of restricted diet. It goes great with sandwiches, in cold spreads, and as a pizza topping. If you like things like pepperoni or sausages, but need something a bit more indulgent but crisp, give beef salami a shot.