Bison Bresaola

5 from 5 votes
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Finished bresaola, with slices.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

One of the best ways to get into curing meats is to do a bresaola, air-cured loin of some sort of red meat. Thinly sliced, it is a magnificent piece of charcuterie, deep red, light on the tongue and very meaty. Bresaola is the easiest charcuterie project you can make, other than bacon. It’s is nothing more than lean meat, salted and air-dried.

It is a Northern Italian creation, but many, many other cultures have something similar: The Spaniards have their lomo, the Armenians have pastirma, the Greeks call it apokti and the Swiss bindenfleisch. In some cases the meat is beef, others pork, and in a few instances large wild game is used.

It is always a solid muscle, usually the eye round, which is a sort of false tenderloin that hides within the back legs of four-footed creatures. But a length of loin or backstrap works just as well.

For these photos, I chose to go with bison eye round. No, I did not go out and shoot a buffalo and not tell you about it. I actually ordered it from Whole Foods. Beef eye round works well, and although I could have used some venison backstrap, I did not want to part with it for charcuterie. I don’t kill many deer a year, so backstrap is precious.

Finished bresaola, close up, with slices
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

In a nutshell, all you need to do is salt the meat down and then hang it in a cool place until it is as firm as you want it. An Italian bresaola is coated in spices, however. So are pastirma and apokti. The only hard part of it all is keeping humidity even and high for the weeks or months you’re hanging this puppy.

It is essential to keep the humidity above 70 percent. I start mine at 85 to 90 percent for a few days, then ratchet it down 5 percent a week until it gets to 70 percent, then I hold it there for a month. After that I ratchet it down to 60 percent, where it can stay indefinitely.

If your humidity goes too low, you risk what’s called “case hardening,” which is when the outside dries and hardens faster than the inside. This can be anything from unsightly to dangerous. In the case of the batch in the photos, it was pretty mild: The outside of the meat is a little darker than the center, but it is all cured and nice.

In bad cases, the outside can harden so much the inside can no longer lose its moisture — and then the meat rots from the center. Tragedy.

To make a curing chamber, you will need an old fridge (look on Craigslist or something), a temperature regulator, a small humidifer, and a little fan to keep the air moving. You’ll also need “s” hooks to hang the bresaola up. Here is a good primer on equipment you will need to cure meat.

I cured my bresaola for three months. At the end of that time, the outside was covered in white mold, with a little green here and there. It had a funky-yet-sweet aroma and tasted superb. The long hang time is the difference. You can make a decent bresaola in as little as a month, but the longer you can take it, the mellower the salt and spices will become, and the funkier it will get; and I mean that in a good way.

How do you eat it? I slice it as thin as I can (a meat slicer is best if you have access to one) and eat it as-is. But you can drizzle some olive oil and lemon juice over it, throw some arugula on top and grind a little black pepper over it all. That’s how the Italians do it. I rarely do anything more than stand there and eat it at the counter.

Finished bresaola, with slices.
5 from 5 votes


Quality of meat is vital here. Use only the best meat you can find, as it is the star here and nothing can hide crappy, factory-farmed meat. Grass-fed beef or bison is best, and moose or elk are also ideal. Mutton would work, as would a length of venison backstrap at least 18 inches long. If you are using pork, see my recipe for lonzino instead. Remember the thicker the meat, the longer the cure -- and the harder to keep that humidity even. If you are just starting out with charcuterie, go for an eye round or loin piece no wider than 2 inches.
Course: Cured Meat
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 12 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Curing Time: 30 days
Total Time: 30 days 15 minutes


  • A 4-pound piece of eye round or loin trimmed of fat and sinew
  • 34 grams of kosher salt, about 2 tablespoons
  • 40 grams of sugar, about 3 tablespoons
  • 5 grams of Instacure No. 2, about a heaping teaspoon
  • 10 grams of maple sugar, about tablespoon (optional)
  • 15 grams of ground juniper, about 2 tablespoons
  • 3 grams of dried marjoram, about 1 tablespoon
  • 5 grams of dried sage, about 2 tablespoons
  • 25 grams of ground black pepper, about 2 tablespoons


  • Make sure your meat has most of the fat and all of the sinew removed. Bresaola is supposed to be lean. Trim the ends to make a nice cylinder.
  • Mix all the spices together and massage them into the meat so it is well coated. Save any excess spices.
  • Put the meat and the excess spices into a plastic or other non-reactive container and put in the refrigerator. Cure this for 12 days, turning the meat over once a day. Pour off any liquid that accumulates, and redistribute the spices as needed. If the meat is 2 inches wide or less, cure for only 6 to 10 days. The meat is ready when it feels firm.
  • Rinse off the spices under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. It's OK if some spices stay stuck to the meat. You just don't want them all there for a bresaola. In pastirma and apokti, new ground spices are added at this step, so if you want to, you can add another round of spices -- just leave out the salt, curing salt and sugar.
  • Truss the meat, or fit into a sausage netting; you can buy these online through Butcher & Packer. Hang in your curing chamber.
  • Set your humidity so it is between 85 and 90 percent for a week. Set your temperature in the curing chamber between 50°F and 55°F. Check your humidifier every couple days to make sure it has water in it. Ratchet the humidity down 5 percent each week until you get to 70 percent. Leave it there. It's OK if it jumps higher from time to time, but under no circumstances should you let the humidity get lower than 50 percent. Your bresaola can survive a few of these humidity "accidents," but be vigilant.
  • Monitor mold. You actually want a layer of white mold on the bresaola: It protects the meat from nastier molds, and helps the meat to dry evenly. You can inoculate your bresaola with a special mold culture you can buy through The Sausage Maker. Remember: White mold is good. Green mold is not the end of the world, but wipe it away periodically with vinegar. Black mold is bad. If you get a serious growth of black mold, toss the meat. Vinegar is your friend here. Keep tabs on the bresaola and molds will not get out of hand.
  • After at least a month and as much as 6 months, when your bresaola is firm enough, take it out of the chamber and into the fridge. It will last there indefinitely. You can also keep it in your chamber, or you can seal and freeze it.


NOTE: If you have a 3-pound piece of meat, you can leave the spices the same. But you will need to decrease the amount of salt, sugar and curing salt. For a 3-pound piece of meat, you will need 25 grams of kosher salt, 30 grams of sugar and 4 grams of Instacure No. 2.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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  1. Hank,

    Why the curing salt? I am making Bresaola from venison from a recipe that does not include curing salt.

  2. I have been using a wine fridge with good results, and you can get them on craigslist for cheap. They are perfect for smaller apartments like mine. I highly advise anyone going this route, to get a humidity monitor before hanging any meat. My wine fridge has a humidity around 40% which is way too dry for meats. With a 2LB bag of humidor beads, I can get it to ~70% which is ok for meat that is a few inches thick. For anything larger like a 4-5″ coppa, or bresaola, I highly recommend trying to get the chamber to ~80% for a couple weeks so the outside does not dry out too fast, as Hank suggested. There is nothing wrong with trimming the meat to be smaller to get around the lower humidity, but you will need to use less curing mixture (#2, salt, and sugar).

  3. Aiden: Nope, a wine fridge works great! But it’s more expensive than my set up, and I *am* a thrifty Scotsman. 😉

  4. Beautiful work as usual!!! I have a question… You recommend an old fridge and separate temperature regulator, but I have friends who make cheese and age in a wine fridge, which are set to 55° anyways, and a humidifier. Is there are a reason why you don’t use this? You’re a genius and I’m sure you have thought of it!

    Kindest regards!

  5. I have a lamb sirloin that’s been sitting in the freezer since Christmas, do you think this would work instead?

  6. Hank,
    Thanks for the site and a widget for the curing chamber, I’ve been planning on building one for awhile was also thinking of attaching a smoke box and using it as a cold smoker, although that may be a separate project. I’m a chef in Portland, OR and I will be using your sight to supplement my own charcuterie experience. I’ll send photos and my own interpretations if you are interested.


  7. Hey dude,

    I think I’m going to make this one of my first projects. Although, I’m going to use a venison roast like [another dude on another blog not listed in your list] did. I hope it works out. Joe thinks it will be really strong. We’ll see I guess. Any foreseeable issues with just leaving it at 55 and 75% the whole time?

  8. In your comments on “Mold monitoring”, you say “…Black mold is bad. If you get a serious growth of black mold, toss the meat. Vinegar is your friend here…” What do you mean by the vinegar comment? My first attempt at Bresaola has a fine white mold covering with one little black spot. Are you saying vinegar can fix this?

  9. Disagree on the venison. While it is quite a bit smaller, I have done it many times with great success, elk, too. Envious of the bison. Trying to get my hands on some as well.

  10. I love bresaola, it is my favorite cured meat, best eaten with rocket and parmigiano and balsamic vinegar –big classic. I am from northern Italy and in my region we make bresaola also with horse meat –sorry if someone finds it disgusting, but it actually a quite sustainable practice. It is very tasty, lean and full of nutrients. I eat it rarely but when I do I roll my eyes for pleasure.

  11. This looks incredible. Can’t wait to make it. I need to come up with a good chamber for curing – our spare fridge is currently used as a fermentation chamber for homebrew.

  12. You don’t bother brushing away the mold before serving I see. I would have to go country-HAM on it to get anyone to go near it at my house.

  13. This is beautiful! It’s going on my long list of things to make. I love bresaola and bison is easy to get here in Texas.