The art of slicing prosciutto

Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Prosciutto Toscano, Prosciutto di Cinghiale (wild boar prosciutto, also from Tuscany)…

Prosciutto is one of those foods that defines Italian gastronomy. It’s one of the country’s most ancient dishes (dating back to Roman times) and one of its most delicious.

But what good is prosciutto if you throw it on to a Hobart deli slicer and allow an overly heated blade to ruin it?

In Italy, prosciutto is sliced using slowly run blades, often hand operated. That’s the key to correctly slicing prosciutto: if the blade runs to fast (and is not sharp enough), the resulting friction will heat the steel and consequently melt the prosciutto.

Many restaurants in the U.S. are now using reproductions of old Berkel slicers — the gold standard in prosciutto slicing. And many restaurants in Italy are having old Berkels restored and refurbished: there’s something about the blades on the old models that makes them slice better than the newer ones. Perhaps because they were beveled by hand, they never slice too thin (which would result in the prosciutto falling apart) but just thin enough that the prosciutto still melts in your mouth.

Your best bet? Ask your grocer to slice by hand.

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