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Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing Hardcover – November 17, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 287 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Without the faintest hint of apology, Ruhlman and Polcyn present an arsenal of recipes that take hours, and sometimes days, to prepare; are loaded with fat; and, if ill-prepared, can lead to botulism. The result is one of the most intriguing and important cookbooks published this year. Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) is a food poet, and the pig is his muse. On witnessing a plate of cold cuts in Italy, he is awed by "the way the sunlight hit the fat of the dried meats, the way it glistened, the beauty of the meat." He relates and refines the work of Polcyn, a chef-instructor at a college in Livonia, Mich., who butchers a whole hog "every couple weeks for his students." Together, they make holy the art of stuffing a sausage, the brining of a corned beef and the poaching of a salted meat in its own fat. An extensive chapter on pâtés and terrines is entitled "The Cinderella Meat Loaf" and runs the gamut from exotic Venison Terrine with Dried Cherries to hearty English Pork Pie with a crust made from both lard and butter. And while there's no shortage of lyricism, science plays an equally important role. Everyone knows salt is a preservative, for example, but here we learn exactly how it does its job. And a section on safety issues weighs the dangers of nitrites and explains the difference between good white mold and the dangerous, green, fuzzy stuff. Line drawings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Charcuterie is an important and definitive work which deserves to stand proudly and forever in every serious cook's kitchen. -- Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential

Charcuterie provides an open window on the delicious possibilities available to the home cook and professional chef alike. -- Paul Bertolli, author of Cooking By Hand

Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn have opened the door for home cooks everywhere to experience the thrill of making charcuterie. -- Mario Batali, chef/owner of Babbo Restaurant, New York

Never has the art of charcuterie been handled this thoroughly for the home cook. -- Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of American Public Media's national radio series The Splendid Table®

The best techniques to cure, smoke and preserve meat in the tradition of the best charcutiers out there. -- Eric Ripert, chef/co-owner of Le Bernardin Restaurant, New York

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (November 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058291
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. V. Lewis VINE VOICE on June 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jane Grigson wrote the fundamental overview of charcuterie, and, under her influence, Fergus Henderson shared a handful of incredibly delicious recipes out of the charcuterie tradition. Filling the gap between them, as I see it, is Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie, an excellent, balanced, enthusiastic cookbook that steers home cooks into the fundamentals of meat preparations. The book is encouraging evidence that a significant number of Americans have awakened to the pleasures of well-prepared meat. This isn't a fringe publication: it is a beautifully-designed, well-written, premium production. And it's about time.

This book does something fundamentally right: it completely eschews the Joy of Cooking model of everything-under-one-roof cookbooks. It assumes that the reader has focused interests and is dedicated to food. It acknowledges that the food trades were [and sometimes still are] highly technical, and best performed by specialists. Though we might as well give up the possibility of becoming first-class charcutiers unless we're willing to give up our careers and pursue it full-time, we can find some real satisfaction in a book like this. It presents, in a clear, well-organized, concise format, the wisdom of a great charcutier, explained by a great writer. That wisdom, those years of experience, is evident in the clearest way once you begin using this book: the recipes are easy to follow, well-suited to the home kitchen, and, happily, result in meat products that are better than anything you can buy in an American supermarket. Far better. Even the more daunting preparations, the ones involving aging and cold-smoking, for example, prove to be remarkably accessible and easy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Note: This review is based on my specific interests for buying this book, and may not be relevant to all readers. I was looking for information about making cured and smoked products such as bacon, smoked pork hocks, corned beef etc - foods that require sodium nitrites. Little has been published for the home cook regarding this topic - specifically, the minimum amounts needed for a given recipe without risking botulism.

If you're concerned about nitrite intake and are a kitchen novice, I wouldn't recommend this book. Although I feel it contains worthy information to rate 5 stars, accessing and interpreting that information can be confusing:

Information is illogically laid out and confusing, such as:
- the informative chapter on salt, starts on page 30, then on page 35 suddenly discusses buying a whole pig, then returns back to salt on page 38.
- The recipe for Cured Salmon (pp. 50-52) is illustrated with a page for preparing Smoked Salmon, but that recipe is on pg. 96.

There is contradictory and confusing information, such as:
- a reference to Bruce Aidell's procedure for Canadian Bacon, suggesting adding 2 teaspoons of cure (nitrite mix) to an All Purpose Brine recipe found on pg. 60. But on page 88, the recipe actually calls for 8 teaspoons - a 4x difference. [Note: Aidell's recipe in Complete Book of Pork calls for 2 1/2 tablespoons.]
- The recipes call for cooking pork to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. But the Recommended Temperatures (pg. 62) states "130-140 degrees... for a finished temp. of 140-145." And the 150 degrees doesn't refer to stop-cooking temp or finished temp.
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3 Comments 143 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This review is written from the perspective of a very serious home cook that has been studying food and cooking for 25 years. If food is your hobby you will love this book.

The book is laid out in the following chapters:

1. Introduction

2. Recipes for Salt-Cured Food

3. Recipes for Smoked Food

4. Sausages

5. Recipes for Dry-Cured Food

6. Pates and Terrines

7. The Confit Technique

8. Recipes to accompany Charcuterie: sauces and condiments

Why does anyone need this book? No one does need it. But in my world there is a distinction between need and want. You will want this book once you see what is inside.

Mario Batali's "Molto Italiano" peaked my interest in curing meat with his recipe for Pancetta. This book covers any kind or cured meat that you can think of. It includes recipes for Pancetta, Salt Cod, Prosciutto, Corned Beef, Pastrami, Tasso Ham, Smoked Salmon and Mortadella just to name a few. With each turn of the page there is a new recipe to drool over. This book is almost addicting just to read.

The book covers the history of curing, gives many warnings about cleanliness and keeping foods cold. It even gives you sources for supplies, some of which might be difficult to find on your own.

My only complaint of this book is the lack of glossy photos that I have become so accustomed to in other books. This minor complaint is not enough to reduce the rating of this otherwise stellar effort.

In short I think this is a fabulous book. I read this book like most read a novel, only I think I enjoyed it more than that. If you ever wanted to know how to cure your own meat, this is the book for you. HIGHLY recommend.
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