If you’re going to plop down a serious chunk of change for a fancy meat, you want to make sure you’re actually getting the good stuff. To learn the difference between charcuterie trash and treasure, Epicurious enlisted meat expert Elias Cairo of Olympia Provisions to blindly taste a whole variety or meats at various price points.
Not only did Cairo pick the more luxe option every time, he explained why his pick was worth extra cash. Watch the whole video to get the deets on everything from hot dogs to prosciutto, but here are some features you should look for when building a fancy plate of animal protein:
- Colour: Cured hams such as prosciutto should be dark in colour, and have a whole bunch of tasty fat marbled through it. In salami, the delightful little chunks of lard should be bright white, as yellowing could denote oxidation or rancidity.
- Shape: Perfectly shaped, plump loaves of meat most likely got their uniform appearance with the help of fillers, so reach for lumpier specimens.
- Smell: A good piece of deli meat should have a varied aroma, with ingredients you can actually identify with your nose. (Think garlic, cinnamon, and even truffles or juniper berries, rather than vague “sharpness”.)
Also, don’t be afraid to ask to sample the wares. If you’re at a truly respectable deli counter, your meat monger should be more than happy to let you taste a slice, particularly if they’re expecting you to shell out your hard-earned dough.