Ham 101: What you should know before buying a ham (2023)

When I started cooking ham, all the different types of ham, all the terms for ham, it was so confusing! It took me a while to figure out what salt and smoke is, let alone fresh, green, country and even urban hams. (Did you know that the number one ham is the city ham? Have you heard of city ham? Me neither.) Here's my explanation, everything you might want to know about ham. Ham 101 is releasing today along with my favorite way to cook a party and party ham it's aTwice smoked ham.

Quick links

~Go straight to the information~

~What is a ham? the basic cut~
~What is a fresh ham? A prosciutto? A smoked ham?~
~Ham on the Bone vs Boneless Ham~
~Special ham~
~More questions about ham~
~Find a local ham~
~More ham resources~
~Cooking fresh pork?~

~My ham recipes~

What is ham? The basic cut, the meat itself

HAM - At its most basic level, a “ham” refers to aspecific piece of pork, not how it is cured or cooked. A ham comes from the back of a pig's thigh/rump, meaning there are only two per animal. Imagine where the "hams" are on your own legs, it's the same.

WHOLE HAM - A whole ham usually weighs between 18 and 20 pounds and includes both the "butt" and the "ham" end. The "butt" is the top part of the ham, more "rump" and therefore thicker. The "leg end" is the bottom end, more leg and less fat. The tip of the rod has a single bone, making it easy to clip. When I recently cooked half a ham, a 9 pound ham with leg ends and bones yielded almost 8 pounds of cooked ham meat. Some hams still have a thick layer of fat on the outside (this is scored in a diamond shape for an attractive appearance when the ham is cooked and served); Some manufacturers leave a thin layer of fat that is left over for scoring.

PICNIC HAM - Sometimes the front shoulders of a pig are smoked and called "picnic ham," but these are not actually ham pieces, but rather cured pork shoulders in the form of ham.

HAM STEAKS – Ham steaks are slices of raw ham that are sold pre-cut for ease of cooking.

BREAKFAST HAM - A breakfast ham is a ham fillet, only the middle part is softer.

HAM PUSSY: The knuckle is the pig's knuckles, the slightly fleshy section above the feet (called the trotters), and the hams (in the hind legs) and picnic hams (in the front legs). A ham shank is usually sold ready-cooked.

What is a fresh ham? A prosciutto? A smoked ham?

FRESH HAM or GREEN HAM – It is an uncured and raw ham. I've never seen a fresh ham in the supermarket, but if you buy a whole pig for the freezer you'll get two fresh hams unless you ask otherwise. If you buy a fresh ham, it can be roasted/cooked straight away; can be cured at home and then baked (see Mark Bittman'scurrent recipein the New York Times); it can be smoked at home and then roasted/baked. I once made the mistake of making pulled pork with fresh ham - wow not good, very lean cut.

HAM – A smoked ham has been flavored with salt, sugar and other flavorings. It's these flavors that transform the cut of pork loin into the savory food we call ham. (We really need two words, don't we?)

Many foods are cured, not just hams, sometimes to preserve foods and sometimes to add flavor to foods. Some well-known forms of cured meats include corned beef, ham, bacon, sausages like salami and pepperoni, pickled herring, sauerkraut, tofu, and even olives.

  • HAM (WET) - Moist raw ham is soaked in brine with salt, sugar and other flavorings. A wet cured ham can also be smoked. The pork flavor really stands out without the saltiness of a traditional country ham. It's worth asking how the ham is cured - some hams are cured with injections of salt, sugar and smoke, not salted and then smoked.

  • CITY HAM - A city ham is perhaps the most iconic ham in the United States. A city ham is soaked or injected with a brine of salt, sugar and flavoring and then lightly smoked or cooked. Look for a city ham in the refrigerated display case at the supermarket, probably next to the bacon, probably wrapped in plastic. It is marked as "ready to cook", "precooked" or "ready to serve". Look for one that says "ham in natural juices." I think of Stadtschinken like regular ham: readily available, relatively cheap. .

  • CURIER HAM (DRY) - The dry method of curing ham uses salt, not liquid, to flavor the ham. Salt draws out moisture and concentrates the flavor of the meat. It's often a delicacy sold in specialty shops and butchers: think Italian ham, Spanish Serrano ham, and German Black Forest ham.

  • COUNTRY HAM – A country ham is dried with salt, sometimes smoked and then cured. A traditional salty country ham, so salty that it is eaten, for example, thinly sliced ​​in crackers or soaked and rinsed for 12 to 24 hours before baking. However, country hams can also be cured with less salt and therefore do not need to be soaked or rinsed. Country hams are a traditional food in the American South, and the curing process dates back to the days before canning. (More on thisham tradition.)

  • VIRGINIA HAM – A Virginia ham is a country ham.

  • SMOKED HAM - Smoking is another form of healing. Before a ham is smoked, it is first cured with salt or brine to control bacterial growth during smoking. It then spends many hours, even days, in a smokehouse, allowing the essence of hickory or maple smoke to slowly permeate the flesh. Meat doesn't "scorch" because the smoking temperature is low, below 100F, so this slow process is called "cold smoking."

  • MATURATION: Many good hams are cured and smoked, then aged for weeks, months, and even years. As the hams "age", the flavors concentrate and develop.

Which is better, ham on the bone or boneless?

BONED HAM - A boned ham is easier to cut. But all too often, boneless hams aren't really whole hams, they're canned, gelatinous chunks of ham that aren't good or tasty at all. However, some very good hams from small producers have been boned and specially packaged to be easily served and sliced, ie. H. You eat well.

HAM ON THE BONE – Like chicken, ham on the bone has more flavor because the bone itself adds flavor to the meat. Also, you'll definitely want the bone for later to make soup or broth for our family favorite,!

Special ham and other types of ham

IBERIAN HAM: An Iberian ham is a special ham from Spain or Portugal, special breeds, special conditions, special diet, special aging: all these qualities come at a very high price! We once tried some expensive slices at a Spanish restaurant in rural Colorado, great ham! An American family business in Iowa is now curing Iberian ham, seeThe Oak.

AIR DRIED HAM – While hiking in Switzerland in 2000, I learned to love cured meats, especially cured ham. This meat is actually raw and cannot be sold in the United States. It is wonderful!

BLACK FOREST HAM – Traditional German Black Forest ham is coated (yes, you read that right) in ox blood before it is smoked, creating the thin black layer.

HONEY BAKED HAM - It has the brand's honey-baked ham, which is highly priced in US stores. I'm telling the story one day when I ordered a honey roasted ham for a weekend get-together organized by my parents: and I ended up with two hams delivered a day apart, both a 100-mile cab ride away. It's a hit. Bottom line, I received great service when I ordered a honey fried ham. I, too, stood in line for hours waiting to buy a honey roasted spiral ham. There is now a shop near my house, before Christmas and Easter the traffic is so congested that the shop has to hire traffic directors.

SMITHFIELD'S HAM - Smithfield's original country ham had a distinct porky peanut flavor. It is unclear if peanuts are still used to flavor the meat of Smithfield hams. The website makes no mention of peanuts. A telephone orderer did not know and referred me to the customer service office. The consumer bureau passed me a couple of times, then someone named Bonnie said their pigs were fed only grain. When I pressed him, he said they are fed a special grain diet that includes soybeans, corn, and peanuts. I think peanuts are out of the equation, but I'd like to know otherwise.

SPIRAL CUT HAM - Spiral cutting is the latest craze in ham, definitely a great way to serve a large batch of ham spirally thinly sliced.

DELI HAM: Deli ham is a generic term for ham specially formed into buns for slicing into thin, even slices. The ham will have been cured and often smoked.

CANED HAM - Boneless leftover ham stuffed in a can.Good looking.#NO.

More questions about ham

Can the ham be frozen? For my taste, ham does not freeze well. It "can" be frozen, but after thawing it looks very wet and mushy, like the meat has dissolved a bit. When I freeze ham I use it in small batches in soups etc. rather than slicing it into sandwiches or adding it to salads.

Good news! To my surprise, the frozen ham is excellent.probably salty!

IS THE HAM ALREADY COOKED? Usually, but not always. Check the packaging or ask the butcher.


HOW LONG DOES A SMOKED HAM LAST? When I first bought a ham I had the idea that because it was smoked and already cooked it would last a couple of weeks in the fridge. INCORRECT.

It was once smoked for taste and cooked at the same time, but has not survived. A cured ham should be treated like any fresh meat, it should be cooked a day or two after purchase; Once cooked, leftovers should be consumed within a few days.

Find a local ham

SUPERMARKET HAM vs. SMALL LOCAL PRODUCER AND SMOKED HAM If there is a time to look for good meat it is ham, especially as ham is often the star of the festive table at Easter, Christmas and big buffet parties.

However, a supermarket may stock locally cured ham, and many local ham makers only sell wholesale to shopkeepers. So ask a butcher first, especially a specialized old-style butcher in a small grocery store, rather than the plastic wrap used in large supermarkets.

ST LOUIS HAM LOVERS For the best ham in St. Louis. Louis, look for a Miller ham, seeMueller hamfor a list of local retail stores. I buy Miller hams at Freddie's Market in Webster Groves on the corner of Big Bend and Rock Hill. Be sure to book in advance during peak season. Be prepared for sticker shock, first on the LOW end.

MISSOURI HAM LOVERS Two local Missouri ham producers areHamburger smokerin California (that would be California, Missouri, folks) andPresunto Baumgartners Boone Countyin Rocheport, Missouri.

FIND A LOCAL HAM The more I research ham, the more it occurs to me that there could be dozens, even hundreds, of small quality ham makers like this that manage to stay under the consumer radar despite their skill and passion for their products . ham for many decades. But it can take a while to find one nearby.local harvestIt's a start thatState Ham AssociationFrom others. You can also check local message boards atChowund, or even ask your own question. Good luck, the search is worth it!

RECOMMEND A LOCAL HAM PRODUCER If you know a good local ham producer in your area or have another idea on how to find one, please add your information in the comments so others can benefit.

More ham resources

Sausage: The Art of Salting, Smoking and Saltingvonmiguel ruhmann. This is a fascinating cookbook for anyone wanting to explore curing their own meat. I find it scary, but hey, you never know.

Perfect Pig: Remarkable pig encounters and some genius ways to cook themby Peter Kaminsky. I once had the privilege of spending a day with Peter. So I wrote an essay with the titleHeartbeats of Iowa. Peter is also the reason my husband and I have cooked a whole buffalo three times in three years. I wrote about the first time I shared minehomemade hot chocolate mix, good for a crowd or a small batch for home use. But cook whole bison? That's another story for another day. :-)

Cooking fresh pork?

Have you ever cooked a roast pork or pork chop and the center is still pink? That's bad, isn't it? Or is it?

The answer is, it depends. To verifyShould cooked pork be pink?.

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How do you save and share your favorite recipes? Recipes that suit your personal cooking style? A specific recipe your mom, daughter, or BFF would love? If you found this page helpful, please continue, save and share! It would be an honor...

My kitchen's favorite ham recipes

~ham recipes~

  • THE RECIPETwice smoked hamHow and why to smoke a ham a second time.
  • DO NOT FORGETSpicy raisin sauce for hamMy grandmother's recipe, always served with Easter ham, Christmas ham, Sunday ham.

  • THE RECIPESpicy raisin sauce for hamMy grandmother's recipe, always served with Easter ham, Christmas ham, Sunday ham.
  • ANOTHER EXIThomemade Finnish mustardHow to make Finnish-style mustard at home.

  • THE RECIPEHow to make Ham and Beans with Leftover Ham Bones.
  • ANOTHER EXITScandinavian pea soupTraditionally on Tuesdays.

Written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg, Kitchen Parade features fresh, seasonal dishes for everyday healthy eating and the occasional treat.Ham 101: What you should know before buying a ham (10) Dinner is quickA Kitchen Parade favorite, they offer easy recipes on the budget, on the watch, on the waist, and on the dishwasher.Ham 101: What you should know before buying a ham (11)Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might enjoy? Just send me a short e-mail, you can find my current address belowfrequently asked questions.Ham 101: What you should know before buying a ham (12) how to printa recipe for a cooking parade.Ham 101: What you should know before buying a ham (13)Don't miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, subscribe for freeE-Mail Signature.Ham 101: What you should know before buying a ham (14)If you like Kitchen Parade for more homemade recipes using whole, healthy ingredients, you'll probably also enjoy my cooking blog about veggie recipes.a vegetarian company.Ham 101: What you should know before buying a ham (15)If you make this recipe I'd love to hear your results! Just leave a comment below.

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