Ina Garten's Genius Tip For Working With Sticky Prosciutto

Salty, meaty, and full of treasured umami, prosciutto is both a great snack and a versatile ingredient. The Italian cured ham has found its way onto every charcuterie board, and its deep flavor has served as an accent to everything from salads to main courses. Whether wrapped around melons or cooked atop medallions of veal, prosciutto is an ingredient that deserves its room in your deli drawer.

Of course, as the Barefoot Contessa, food personality and TV presenter Ina Garten is no stranger to the charms of cured Italian meats. However, she also knows way too well of the minor pitfall that comes with sliced prosciutto: sticky slices. Sometimes, it is simply impossible to separate prosciutto slices from their backing paper without turning them into shreds. According to Garten, that problem can simply be solved with a few seconds in the microwave to loosen each prosciutto slice, making it easier to peel from the backing paper intact.

Heat and fat

If you have purchased prosciutto from a deli counter before, you might have noticed that each slice is sandwiched between thin pieces of paper. Although it seems like too much paper for a few ounces of ham, the paper is designed to ensure the slices do not stick together. On the other hand, after storing your prized ham in the fridge, you might notice that it can be difficult to peel the paper-thin slices off the paper without turning each slice into multiple strips of ragged ribbons. While that would be just fine if you plan on cutting them anyway, it can be frustrating if you plan to use each slice intact.

This is where the microwave comes to the rescue. By heating up the ham for a little bit, the fat on each slice, which is congealed to the paper, will melt just enough to allow you to peel off the slice whole. Simply place the slice (with its backing paper) in the microwave and heat it for five seconds at a time until you can peel it off whole for your charcuterie board. Furthermore, if you are planning to eat these prosciutto slices at room temperature, the microwave shaves minutes off your waiting time.

A ham by any other name

Now that you know how to remove the paper from your prosciutto without tearing it apart, do you know that although we associate the word "prosciutto" with cured and air-dried ham from Italy, it is simply the word for "ham" for Italians? In fact, there are many different kinds of prosciutto, which can largely be divided into two categories. Prosciutto crudo — raw ham — refers to the meat we associate with the word, but prosciutto cotto — which means cooked ham — refers to fully cooked ham, not unlike the ones we get sliced from the supermarket.

And when it comes to prosciutto crudo, you can use it in multiple ways to take advantage of its flavor and texture. Aside from serving it alongside other meats as part of a charcuterie board, prosciutto is also delicious when baked until crunchy to make crispy prosciutto bites. It can also replace regular bacon as a wrap for roasted vegetables, using the melting fat to flavor your asparagus or Brussels sprouts.