Why Do Prosciutto Smells Like Ammonia? And How to Prevent It

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Sweet, salty, and porky – the perfect smell of delicious prosciutto. Now, imagine it smells strangely of nitrogen and hydrogen, almost like sweat or urine; how would you feel?

Ammonia is a chemical compound used in many cleaning products or even in old-fashioned hair dyes. Therefore, many people are familiar with the smell of ammonia – a strong odor of hydrogen and nitrogen. However, sometimes you may also smell that peculiar odor from the prosciutto.

So, why your prosciutto smells like ammonia – have you ever thought that?

Well, there can be several reasons behind that, such as it’s gone bad, treated with ammonia, or the pork had a high concentration of androsterone.

Let’s explore the reasons in detail.

Nutrients in 1 ounce (about two slices) of prosciuttoNutrition
Total fat3.5 gm
​Cholesterol​19.9 mg
Total carbs0 gm
Protein7 gm
Vitamin B12​10% of Daily value
Phosphorus7% of Daily value
Zinc7% of DV

Does Prosciutto Have A Strong Smell?

Does Prosciutto Have A Strong Smell

Prosciutto is the most exclusive form of ham made from high-quality pork leg meat. It can be formed in raw, semi-raw, cured, and cooked.

Usually, prosciutto has a strong and pungent smell, while it tastes sweet and salty. It contains a strong, flavorful smell that makes it very appealing.

However, the smell of prosciutto often differs from how it was processed. If you have it as a pizza topping, the smell might not seem very strong. But if you make it at home and leave it to cure for some weeks in a jar, the smell will come out very strong.

But, if the prosciutto turns out to be bad, spoiled, expired, or processed in the wrong way, then it will stink, or you might smell a sour odor coming from it. And the smell will not be pleasant at all; neither should you eat that prosciutto.

What Should Prosciutto Smell Like?

What Should Prosciutto Smell Like

You might find various types of prosciutto at supermarkets like un-sliced dry-cured prosciutto, pre-sliced prosciutto, cured prosciutto, etc. So, depending on uses or cooking procedures, you may have several smells. 

Usually, the prosciutto should smell savory or a little sweet, and of course, as it is made of pork, it will smell of pork. Keep in mind that it is not supposed to taste or smell sour or awkward. If it does, that means it is not cured well, or something has gone wrong while preparing it. 

However, prosciutto might smell like rosemary, black pepper, seasonings, or spicy. The smell or fragrance also depends on the type of prosciutto you are making. 

Why Do Prosciutto Smells Like Ammonia?

prosciutto smells like ammonia

Prosciutto may smell like ammonia for three reasons. Let’s find out if your prosciutto’s smell has any following symptoms.

1. Treated With Ammonia

When you open a package of prosciutto, you might notice that it has a strong, ammonia-like smell. It is because prosciutto is a cured meat, and the curing process produces ammonia. Ammonia is a natural byproduct of the curing process, and it helps to prevent the growth of bacteria. The ammonia smell will dissipate after a few minutes, and the prosciutto will be safe to eat.

2. Spoiled Prosciutto

If the meat is not stored correctly, it can develop an ammonia smell. It happens due to the breakdown of proteins in the prosciutto – a sign that the ham has gone bad. But as we have mentioned earlier, if it is treated with ammonia, the smell should be gone.

However, if you see your prosciutto’s color has changed to yellowish, greyish, too dark, or too pale while you also smell ammonia, it is a sign that it is gone bad. Also, if you see any molds, it also indicates that prosciutto is spoiled.

3. The Pork Had A High Concentration Of Androsterone

We know that prosciutto is made from pork. And most pigs might contain a chemical compound, androsterone, in their meat. The androsterone determines the smell of the meat. So, depending on the pork’s genes, it may smell ammonia or urine, which is totally fine.

Is It Safe To Eat Prosciutto Raw? 

Is It Safe To Eat Prosciutto Raw 

As we have heard a lot of times, eating raw pork meat can cause many problems, especially health issues. But there is nothing to worry about as raw prosciutto is not completely raw. It is cured with a lot of salt, and the salt keeps no space for forming harmful bacteria. 

You need to keep the meat for prosciutto covered in salt for a very long time. That will be a good way to store your meat for a few weeks. Salt draws out blood and moisture during this process, helping to eliminate bacteria from meat. It is, therefore, safe for us to eat raw prosciutto. 

The salting process also enhances the flavor of the meat. On the other hand, when the meat is not processed with salt, the ammonia rises, making the meat more harmful.

How to Prevent Prosciutto From Smelling Like Ammonia?

How to Prevent Prosciutto From Smelling Like Ammonia

You can buy high-quality prosciutto to avoid smelly ammonia. Sometimes, low-quality meat uses a lot of ammonia during the curation, and the smell remains in the meat forever.

To ensure the quality, look for a crown stamp on the meat or a sign on the package that says, “Denominazione d’Origine Protetta,” these are the quality signs from governing body regulating Parma ham Consorzio di Parma.

Also, if you don’t store the prosciutto properly, it might go bad, and you can smell ammonia. Ensure that your prosciutto is tightly wrapped to prevent the meat from going bad.

If it is not wrapped tightly, air will be able to get in and dry out the meat, which will cause it to spoil. You can use Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, which is BPA-free, leak-proof, and easily stackable.

Once your prosciutto is tightly wrapped, store it in the fridge. The cold temperature will help to prevent the growth of bacteria. If you are not going to eat your prosciutto within a few days, you can also store it in the freezer. Just make sure to thaw it properly before eating.

Why Does Salami Smell Like Ammonia?

Why Does Salami Smell Like Ammonia

Salami is a sausage or cured meat made of pork belly, which is very similar to prosciutto. And you might have noticed a smell like ammonia often comes out of vacuum-sealed packages of salami even when you have bought it fresh or the expiry date is not over yet. It does not always mean that the salami has gone bad

Salami naturally smells like rotten cheese or ammonia, or acid. You may smell salami like ammonia due to its natural molds. And the smell of salami is not dangerous. It usually goes away after leaving the salami outside of its packet for some time. But if the smell disturbs you, you can peel off the outer skin of salami, and the smell will be gone. 

However, if your salami smells like rotten egg or garbage, it has gone bad, and you should choose to throw it away for following a healthier option.


  • Does Bad Meat Smell Like Ammonia?

Why does food smell like ammonia? Does it mean the food or the meat is bad?

There is a common misconception that bad meat smells like ammonia. However, this is not the case. Although having a smell like ammonia is not a good sign, it doesn’t confirm that the meat has gone bad.

If your meat has an ammonia smell, the best way to tell if the meat has gone bad is by looking for signs of mold or discoloration. If the meat has any strange colors or an off-putting smell, it is best to discard it.

Final Words

Are you still considering, “why do prosciutto smells like ammonia?” While it may be surprising to find that your prosciutto smells like ammonia, this is not bad. There are several reasons behind the unwanted odor – a high concentration of androsterone, ammonia-treated, or decaying.

However, if none of the reasons comply with your prosciutto, you should always think of safety first and throw it away.

Furthermore, before buying prosciutto from the store, always pay attention to quality, origins, and smells for the best product.

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