Types of Ham

Cuts of Ham | Ham Types | Smoked Ham | Water content
Bone-In / Boneless | Cooked / Uncooked

Cuts of Ham

Hams are cuts of pork that come from the hind leg. The different cuts from the ham are shown below.
Ham Cuts Description

Whole Ham


Includes both the butt and shank cuts of the leg. The whole ham can weigh 10 to 20 pounds.

Butt End


The upper cut of the hog's hind leg. The butt end is meatier but contains more fat than the shank end of the whole ham. It is also easier to carve and is generally more expensive than the shank half. If the cut is found labeled "butt half", it has not had the center ham slice removed. If the center slice has been cut from it, the cut will be labeled "butt portion".

Shank End


Lower cut of the hog's hind leg. The shank end contains less fat, is not as meaty as the butt end, and is also harder to carve. It has a slightly sweeter flavor and is a generally less expensive. If the cut is found labeled "shank half", it has not had the center ham slice removed. If the center slice has been cut from it, the cut will be labeled "shank portion".

Center Ham Slice


Also referred to as center cut ham steak, this cut is approximately ½ to 1 inch thick and is sliced from the center of the ham where the butt end and shank end are separated. It is available cured and smoked. The center ham slice is the best cut from the ham.

Ham Types

Hams are available fresh or cured, and sometimes smoked. There are many different varieties of ham, which differ according to the methods used in curing and processing. The curing process is used to preserve, develop a deeper color, and intensify the flavor of the ham. Hams are larger cuts used to serve several people. A whole ham can weigh 10 lbs. to 20 lbs. or more, but are generally sold in halves. They are fairly low in fat but high in sodium and are available bone-in, semi-boneless or boneless. There are three basic types of ham. The types are explained below.

Ham Types Description

Fresh Hams
Fresh hams are cuts from the hind leg that are not cured or smoked. They are grayish-pink in color when raw and when cooked they are grayish-white. Fresh hams are cooked using the same methods used for other fresh pork cuts and have a similar flavor to pork roast.

Dry-Cured Hams

Sometimes referred to as country hams, they are cuts from the hind leg of a hog that have been cured without the injection of water. A curing compound consisting of salt and other ingredients, which may include sugar, sodium nitrate, nitrates, phosphates, and other seasonings, is rubbed on the surface of the ham. The ham is then hung to dry, allowing it to age anywhere from a few weeks to over a year, depending on the variety of ham. Generally, the aging process is approximately six months. During this time the curing compound penetrates through the entire ham, drawing out moisture and thereby preserving the ham. The weight of the ham is reduced 18 to 25 percent. The loss of moisture produces a more intense flavor and deepens the color of the ham. Dry-cured hams may also be smoked. Ham that is dry cured is saltier and drier than the typical ham you find in normal food stores.


Because of the lengthy curing time, country hams often form a layer of mold on the outside. This mold is not harmful, but is rather an indication of proper aging. The mold can easily be scrubbed off.
Frequently aged ham will also develop white specks through out the meat. The specks do not affect the quality of the meat.

Because of the saltiness of the country hams, they are generally soaked before they are cooked to help reduce the salt content. Dry-cured country hams may be found in a market near the area in which they are produced but typically they have to be special ordered. There are also dry-cured hams available that are not country hams, such as prosciutto ham, which is a lightly salted dry-cured ham that is air-dried for many months and served raw.
Wet (or Brine) Cured Hams Also referred to as city hams, they are cuts from the hind leg of a hog that have been cured by soaking or injecting with water and brining ingredients. The curing solution consists of water and brining ingredients, such as salt, sugar, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, honey, spices, seasoning, and artificial flavoring. The ham may also be cooked or smoked during this process. Wet cured city hams are mass-produced and generally ready for market in one to seven days. Their flavor is less intense than a dry-cured ham. The city ham is the type of ham commonly found in a typical food store. It is popular for its pink color, moistness, and sweet flavor.



Smoked Ham

The process of smoking the hams takes place after they are cured. Not all hams are smoked but many are smoked to add color and flavor to the meat. After curing, the hams are hung in smoke houses where they are exposed to the smoke and temperature of smoldering hardwood fires. Red oak and hickory are two of the most popular hardwoods used but others, such as apple, pecan, and maple are also used, each imparting its own unique flavor. The smoked flavor does not actually penetrate through the meat but imparts an aroma. Some processors add smoke flavoring by adding liquid smoke to the curing solution.

Smoking also aids in the curing process by drying the meat as moisture exudes and because the smoke is toxic to the pathogens, it sterilizes the surface of the meat. Proper temperatures must be maintained during the smoking process to produce the desired product. Some hams are smoked at a higher temperature to produce a cooked ham. This process is called "hot smoking" and raises the meat temperature to 135° to 140°F. Hot smoking is generally used as an alternative to boiling or baking a wet cured ham. A process called "cold smoking" is generally used on dry-cured hams. Cold smoking is accomplished at a temperature ranging from 70° to 110°F. It assists in the drying process and imparts an aroma to the meat but does not actually cook the ham

Ham - Water Content

The amount of water contained in a ham will affect its taste, texture and price. Most hams will fall in one of the 4 categories shown below.

Ham

A ham labeled just "Ham" must be at least 20.5% protein in the lean area and have no water added. This type of ham is dry cured, having no water added. They are generally sold in specialty stores or must be special ordered. They have an intense flavor and are very salty. The ham is sliced very thin when served.

Ham with Natural Juices

A ham labeled "Ham with Natural Juices" contains at least 18.5% protein and has had a small amount of water added when cured. Its cured weight cannot be more than 8% higher than its uncured weight. This ham is moister and has a smoother texture, making it a popular choice for a special dinner.

Ham - Water Added

A ham labeled "Ham - Water Added" contains at least 17% protein and has no more than 10% added solution. Its cured weight cannot be more than 8% higher than its uncured weight. The added water content makes this ham more versatile. It is commonly used for steaks and slices.

Ham and Water Products

A ham product that is less than 17% protein and it can contain any amount of water. The water content must be clearly stated on the label as a "% of added ingredients." This type of ham is great for thin slicing and shaving. Commonly found in the deli for sandwich meat.

The more water the ham contains, the lower the price will be. But it also lowers its nutritional value and makes the meat more perishable.

Ham - Bone-In / Boneless

Ham is available in different forms, such as bone-in, semi-boneless, and boneless.

Bone-in Ham - This type of ham can be a butt or shank portion or it could be a whole or half leg that has the hip, thigh and/or shank bone remaining as part of the ham. Bone-in hams are more attractive and flavorful.

Semi-Boneless Ham (Partially Boned) - A ham from the leg primal cut that has only the leg bone remaining. The hip or shank bone has been removed, making it easier to carve. The remaining leg bone helps to make the ham more flavorful.

Boneless Ham - A round, oblong or rectangle-shaped cut that has the hip, thigh and shank removed. It has also had most of the fat removed. Boneless hams are easier to carve because there is no bone to carve around but without the bones, the ham will lack the flavor found in a bone-in ham. The texture is also affect by the processing methods used to remove the meat from the bones. There are also boneless hams produced from small chunks and reformed hams (oval shaped), which are meant to be sliced and used for sandwiches.

Ham - Cooked / Uncooked

Fully Cooked Ham - A ham that has been thoroughly heated during some part of the processing to a temperature exceeding 147° F, making it ready to eat without further cooking. These hams are found labeled "Fully Cooked," "Ready to Eat," or "Heat and Serve." They may be eaten right out of the package or they can be warmed to an internal temperature of 140° F to provide a richer flavor.

Partially Cooked Ham - A ham that has been heated during some part of the processing to an internal temperature exceeding 137°F but less than 148° F. Most commercially processed hams are heated to a temperature of 140° F. Temperatures reaching 137° F will kill the trichinella spiralis parasite. A partially cooked ham still requires additional cooking prior to eating. It must be heated to an internal temperature of 160° F.

Uncooked Ham - A ham that had not reached an internal temperature exceeding 137° F during processing. Uncooked hams are generally dry-cured hams, although dry-cured hams are also available fully cooked. An uncooked ham requires more preparation time and cooking time than a partially or fully cooked ham.

Boiled Ham - A ham that has been boned, cured and fully cooked using a process that includes boiling the ham in water. It is ready to serve as sliced ham or ham pieces.

Ham Shopping Guide


Making a Selecting | Description of Cuts | Read the Label
Look and Feel | Quantity to Buy


When shopping for ham there are several factors that you need to consider to be assured of purchasing the correct quantity, quality and type of ham to satisfy your needs. It is important to be familiar with the different cuts that are available, know what to look for on the food labels, know what to look for when visually checking the ham, and be able to determine how many servings per pound the type of ham you have selected will provide. The following information will help you make a purchase suited to your needs.

Tips on Making a Selection

* Decide the type and quality of ham that you want for your serving intentions. You would not want to select a "ham and water product" to serve for a nice ham dinner and you would probably not purchase a "ham with natural juices" to make sandwiches for lunch.
* Determine whether you want a bone-in ham for the additional flavor it provides or a boneless ham for the ease of carving.
* Know a head of time the number of people you will be serving and take into consideration their eating habits. If you are serving a number of teenagers in comparison to small children, the quantity you need will definitely be affected. See Quantity to Buy.
* Read the food labels on the ham carefully to be sure you are getting what you expect. Be knowledgeable about the terminology used on the food label. See Read the Label.
* Hams can be quite large, so be sure you have a pan large enough to cook the ham. If not, consider purchasing two smaller size hams to satisfy your needs.
* Realize that the better quality hams and extra features will generally add to the cost of the ham.
* Always select ham that has been inspected and approved for wholesomeness to guarantee that it was processed under sanitary conditions and is free of disease.

Description of Cuts

Becoming familiar with the different cuts, types, and features available for ham will help you understand what you are looking for and why you may want one ham over another. Being knowledgeable about the different ham features will help determine if a less expensive ham will satisfy your needs or if you would prefer to spend a little more for the better quality. See Types of Ham for information on different cuts types and features available.

Read the Label

Reading the food label will tell you a lot about the ham, such as the cut, whether it is a whole or half ham, whether it is uncooked, partially cooked, or fully cooked, the a description (bone-in or boneless), the date it was packaged, total weight, cost per pound, total cost and nutritional information. The USDA requires the food label to indicate the amount of curing ingredients that have been added to the ham. This is indicated by labeling the ham in the following manner.
Description on Label Definition
Ham Indicates that no water has been added and the ham is at least 20% protein.
Ham with Natural Juices Must be at least 18.5% protein and can weigh 8% more than its uncured weight.
Ham with Water Added Must be at least 17% protein with no more than 10% added curing solution. It can weigh 8% more than its uncured weight.
Ham and Water Products The ham can have any amount of water added during the curing process but the percentage of ingredients added must be indicated on the label.

The USDA allows other descriptive terms to be used on the food label, but the ham must meat specific requirements before they can be used. Some of the common terms you may see are shown below and an explanation of what they mean.
Description on Label Definition
"Lean" Ham The ham must contain less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 grams of cholesterol per 100 grams and per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC).
"Extra Lean" Ham The ham must contain less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 grams of cholesterol per 100 grams and per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC).
Hickory Smoked To be labeled "Hickory Smoked", hickory wood must have been used in the smoking process.
Honey-Cured A term used if honey is the only sweetening ingredient or at least half of the sweetening ingredients used in the curing process. The amount used must be sufficient enough to affect the flavor and/or appearance of the ham.
Sugar-Cured A term used if cane or beet sugar is at least half of the sweetening ingredients used in the curing process. The amount used must be sufficient enough to affect the flavor and/or appearance of the ham.

The label on the ham may have a "sell-by date" printed on it even though there is no federal regulations mandating product dating. The "sell-by date" represents the last day recommended for selling the product. Generally the store will pull any products left on the shelf the day of the "sell-by date". It is recommended that the consumer does not purchase the product if it is after the "sell-by date." If the meat is properly refrigerated, it will remain fresh up to three days after the "sell-by date" but if it is not to be used within that time, it should be frozen. Some labels may have a "Use-by date" rather than a "sell-by date" which means it should be cooked or frozen by that date to ensure maximum quality. If used after this date the flavor and texture of the product will begin to deteriorate.



Ham may be fully cooked, partially cooked or uncooked. If it is fully cooked the label will indicate that it is "fully cooked" or "ready-to-eat". If it is not, it will clearly indicate to "cook before eating". Even though the precooked hams are ready to eat, their flavor is enriched from being baked to an internal temperature of 140°F.

The nutritional value of the ham will also be shown on the label. The label will show calories, fat and cholesterol content, and it will list the nutrients contained. The label may also contain information such as cooking instructions and food safety and handling instructions.

The food label will contain the cut of ham and whether it is bone-in or boneless, which will help you determine what quantity to buy based on the weight of the ham. A boneless ham will contain more servings than the bone-in ham so it is important to take this into consideration when determine your needs. See Quantity to Buy. A bone-in ham may be lower in cost per pound but when determining your best value, you should compare cost per serving. Also, consider the fact that the bone and fat, which is not edible, helps add flavor and tenderness, so it may be worth paying a little extra per serving for the bone-in ham. To determine the cost per serving, use the following equation:

Cost per pound / # of servings per pound = Cost per serving
(See pounds per serving chart below.)


Look and Feel

Looking at and feeling the cut of pork can give you information that the label will not provide. When shopping for a ham look to see if the piece is well-trimmed of fat around the edges and that it does not have a lot of fat running through it. Also look for the amount of marbling running through the lean part of the ham. You want to have a small to moderate amount of marbling running through to provide flavor and tenderness, but if it is excessive, it will cause the ham to be fatty. When selecting a whole ham this will be difficult because you will not be able to see any of the inside area of the cut. Pork today is raised much leaner that it was years ago so it is not as much of a problem to find lean cuts. The ham you are selecting should be rosy in color and have a fine-grained texture. A ham with light or uneven coloring indicates that the ham may have been improperly cured. If the exposed surface of the ham has turned a faded green, it is an indication that it has been exposed to improper lighting or stored for an extended period of time at 40° F or higher. Be sure to select a ham with even rosy coloring. The meat should be firm to the touch.

When selecting a ham half, portion, or slice, the surface of the cut may have an iridescent color. The iridescent color is a result of light hitting various exposed compounds of the meat after it is cut. The light causes a prismatic affect when it hits the exposed surface of the meat and gives it an iridescent appearance. The iridescent color is not a sign of deteriorating quality or any indication of a safety problem with the meat.

Avoid ham that has a grayish or green color to it. This coloring is caused by exposure to light and oxygen during the curing process. The exposure to light, oxygen and curing chemicals can cause a chemical breakdown and microbial spoilage.

When purchasing a fresh ham, select a cut that is bright grayish-pink in color and has a firm texture. Avoid cuts that have a watery appearance, are pale pink in color and soft to the touch. If the fresh ham is slightly greenish in color, it may be a sign of bacterial growth from being stored at 40° F or over for an extended period of time.

Quantity to Buy

It is sometimes difficult to know just how much ham to buy to have the proper amount for a particular recipe or to serve a specific number of people. Some of the factors that will determine the quantity needed included whether the ham is bone-in or boneless, the number of people being served, and whether or not it will be served in controlled portions or if it will be served on a "help yourself" basis. The following chart gives an approximate quantity per serving, which can be used in determining your needs, keeping the other factors that have been mentioned in mind.
Approximate Pounds per Serving
Type of Ham Pounds per Dinner Serving

Bone-in Ham

1/2 to 3/4 lbs. per serving
Partially Boned Ham 1/3 to 1/2 lbs. per serving
Boneless Ham 1/4 to 1/3 lbs. per serving

Also keep in mind the appetites of the people you will be serving. Serving several small children will certainly require less than if you are feeding several teens or young adults, and males will generally have larger appetites than females.

Ham Preparation Guide

Thawing | Cleaning | Ham Preparation

Thawing

There are several methods that can be used for thawing ham safely. Ham should never be thawed out on the kitchen counter because the outside of the meat will reach a temperature of above 40°F while the inside is still frozen. The area that reaches a temperature above 40°F would be susceptible to bacterial growth. Use one of the methods described below.
Refrigerator
(Recommended Method)

Approximate Thawing Times: 4 to 6 hours per pound

Thawing ham in the refrigerator is the only reliable and safe method. It is the recommended method of thawing. It is the slowest but safest method you can use and is the best method for maintaining quality. The temperature of the refrigerator should be maintained at 35°F to 40°F to discourage growth of harmful organisms as the meat thaws. Leave the meat wrapped in its original packaging to prevent dehydration and place on a platter or a tray to catch the drippings as it thaws. Place the ham on the lowest shelf away from other foods in the refrigerator. It may take 3 to 4 days to thaw, so be sure to plan ahead to remove the ham from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator, giving it sufficient time to thaw.

After thawing in the refrigerator the ham can be refrigerated safely for 3 to 5 days. If you decide to not cook the meat within this time, the meat can be refrozen. Just remember that each time the meat is frozen it loses some of its quality. The meat should not be refrozen when thawed using the cold water or microwave methods.
Cold Water

Approximate Thawing Times: 30 minutes per pound

Thawing ham in cold water is a faster method of thawing than the refrigerator method, but because of increased awareness of illness due to bacterial growth, it is generally not recommended. If you need to use this method there are precautions that should be taken to provide a safe environment for this method of thawing. Fill the sink with enough cold tap water to cover the cut of meat, place the ham in a leak proof bag and put it into the cold water. Be sure that the meat is sealed tightly so that the meat is not exposed to the water. Meat exposed to the water will result in flavor and color loss, and will have a greater chance of bacteria growth. The water should be changed every 30 minutes. Do not use warm or hot water, even though it will thaw the meat faster, it will also encourage the growth of bacteria. Do not use the sink for other purposes during the thawing period and be sure the water does not splash onto other preparation surfaces or food. Once the ham is thawed, remove it from the sink and sanitize all utensils and surfaces affected during the thawing period. The ham should be cooked immediately after thawing and should not be stored for any period of time. Do not refreeze the meat that has been thawed using this method unless it has been cooked first.
Microwave

See manual for defrosting instructions
and thawing times.

Thawing large items, such as ham, in the microwave does not work well and should be avoided. Uncooked hams that have been thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately because some of the meat may have started to cook during defrosting, resulting in some areas of the meat being at a temperature of over 40°F, which would encourage growth of bacteria. Do not refreeze the meat that has been thawed using this method unless it has been cooked first.

Defrosting ham in a microwave is a quick method but is hard to determine the proper thawing time. Thawing times vary according to different microwaves and the size and structure of the ham. If the ham is to be defrosted in the microwave, the ham should have the store wrapping and foam tray removed and then placed on a plate or tray and loosely wrapped with material suitable for the microwave. Generally it is best to start out by microwaving at a defrost or medium-low setting for 2 or 3 minutes and then letting it stand for 2 minutes before checking progress. Turn the meat and repeat this procedure until the ham is sufficiently defrosted, being careful that it does not start to cook.

Meat can be cooked without thawing first. You will need to increase the cooking time when starting with frozen meat. A ham may require up to 1 ½ times the cooking time of an unfrozen ham.

Other Thawing Guidelines

* Plan ahead so that you will have adequate time to defrost the frozen ham using one of the methods above. Having the meat slowly thaw in the refrigerator will result in the best quality of meat and is the safest method for preventing food borne disease.
* When thawing in the refrigerator, realize that food placed in the coldest area of the refrigerator will take longer to thaw than if placed in another area. Also, food place in a refrigerator set at 35°F will take longer to thaw than one set at 40°F.
* While thawing, be sure that drippings do not contaminate other food or preparation surfaces.
* To store ham after it has been thawed in the refrigerator, remove from wrapping and blot dry with a paper towel. Place on a tray with sides to catch drippings, cover loosely and place in the refrigerator in an area where there is no danger of the juices dripping onto food that will be eaten with out cooking, such as raw vegetables and salad fixings.
* As the ham is thawing in the refrigerator, it may have juices that accumulate on the tray where the meat is sitting. These juices should be drained off as they accumulate. The juices will deteriorate and go bad faster than the meat and will then contaminate the meat.

Cleaning

Hands should be washed before and after handling the meat. Be sure all utensils, cutting boards and work areas are cleaned and sanitized properly after being exposed to the ham. The platter used to hold a uncooked ham should not be used for serving the ham once it is cooked. The same plate can be used if it is washed in hot soapy water and sanitized properly first.

Ham Preparation

Wet-Cured Ham | Dry-Cured Ham | Trimming | Scoring | Glazing | Raw Ham

Ham preparation will depend on the type of ham you select and whether it is uncooked, partially cooked or fully cooked. Preparing ham ranges from being as simple as placing the ham in a pan and covering with foil to as time consuming as the soaking and cleaning of a country ham. The ham should be allowed to set at room temperature for 1½ to 2 hours before cooking.

Wet-Cured Hams

Fully Cooked Ham: A fully cooked ham is ready to eat and does not require cooking before eating. It can be unwrapped, sliced and served immediately. A fully cooked ham can also be heated to produce a richer flavor. To warm a fully cooked ham, remove its wrapper and if necessary, trim rind and fat.



* Place the ham on a rack in a shallow pan with the cut side down.


* Add approximately one cup of water to the roasting pan.

After the water is added, cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake as directed on the label or see Ham Cooking Guide.

Uncooked or Partially Cooked Ham: A ham that is not fully cooked can be prepared in the same manner as a fully cooked ham, but it will have to cook longer and reach a higher internal temperature. If the ham has a layer of fat and/or the rind on it, they can be removed before or after cooking. Most hams today have already had the rind and fat trimmed. If it still has its rind and fat, follow the steps below for Trimming the Ham. Cook as directed on the label or see Ham Cooking Guide.

Dry-Cured Hams

There are several varieties of dry-cured hams. Some are uncooked and must be cooked before serving and others are cured and processed in a manner that allows them to be eaten raw. Most dry-cured hams are very salty and can be soaked prior to cooking to help reduce the saltiness. Generally, the dry-cured hams will also have some mold on the surface that should be removed.

Remove Mold:

* Most dry-cured country hams form a mold on their outer surface because of the long curing and drying process of these uncooked hams. This mold is not harmful but should be removed before the ham is cooked.


* Remove the mold by washing the ham in warm water and scrub the mold off with a stiff brush.


* Rinse well with water.


Soaking:

* Two days before you are going to serve the ham, place it in a large pan. If necessary, saw off the hock to get it to fit in the pan.


* Cover the ham with cold water and let it stand at room temperature. If the ham is very salty, there will be salt crystals visible on the ham and the water should be changed every 4 to 6 hours and may be soaked up to 72 hours. If salt crystals are not visible on the ham, change the water every 6 to 10 hours and it is only necessary to soak for 6 to 12 hours.

* Soaking will reduce the saltiness of the ham but it will still be fairly salty in comparison to a wet-cured ham because the salt curing penetrates through the entire ham.

After the dry-cured ham has the mold removed and is soaked to reduce the saltiness, it is ready to cook. See Ham Cooking Guide - Dry Cured Ham.

Trimming the Ham

The rind and fat can be trimmed before cooking the ham or it can be trimmed at the end of cooking, just before glazing. Leaving the fat and rind on during the cooking time will provide for a more moist ham and the rind and fat will be easier to trim than if trimmed before cooking.

* Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the rind and begin trimming parallel to the surface of the ham. Trim rind and fat at the same time, leaving approximately 1/4-inch layer of fat.


* Check the thickness of the layer of fat by gently inserting the tip of the knife into the fat. If it is deeper than the desired thickness, trim additional fat off. Continue to trim around the entire surface of the ham until all the rind is trimmed off and the layer of fat is the desired thickness.


To trim before cooking:

1. Hold the ham in place, standing upright, by holding on to the bone and applying pressure. If it is a half ham, place the cut side down. Using a sharp knife, make downward slices through the fat.
2. Leave approximately ¼-inch of fat as you are trimming. Turn the ham after each slice and make another cut, slightly overlapping the previous cut.
3. Continue to turn and slice until you have trimmed around the entire ham.

Scoring

The scores allow the glazing to penetrate the ham. Cloves can be added for flavor and to make the ham more decorative.


* Score the ham by making diagonal cuts in the fat along the sides of the ham at approximately 1 inch intervals.


* Then make cuts in the opposite direction to form diamond shapes in the fat.


* Insert a clove into each diamond if desired.

Glazing

Wet-cured and dry-cured hams, whether they are uncooked, partially cooked or fully cooked, can be glazed if desired. The glazing is most often applied towards the end of the cooking process. The fat on the ham can be scored before the glaze is added. It can be scored before cooking the ham or at the end of the cooking process, just before adding the glaze. During the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time, the glaze is applied and then the ham is returned to the oven until the glaze starts to caramelize and turn a golden brown. For more information on glazing, see Ham Cooking Guide - Glazing.

Raw Ham

Raw ham is ham that is first treated with a salt mixture and then exposed to a natural air-curing process that dries and flavors the meat. During the air-drying process the salt draws out the moisture in the meat and the flesh absorbs the salt, preserving the meat and stopping the growth of disease causing bacterium. This air-dried curing process produces a ham that does not require cooking. Preparing the raw cured ham consists basically of slicing it into paper thin pieces before serving and allowing the slices to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. This allows it to develop its full flavor before it is eaten. Examples of raw ham varieties are prosciutto, Jamon Serrano, Ardennes, Black Forest, and Westphalian.

Ham Handling, Safety & Storage

Contamination Prevention | Cooking Safety | Proper Storage


When working with pork it is essential that the meat is handled and stored properly to ensure safety. You cannot see the harmful bacteria on the meat so you must handle it as if it is present. Trichinella spiralis (trichina) is a parasite that is found on pork, which can cause a food borne disease call trichinosis. Hams are processed according to USDA guidelines, which are set up to eliminate the presence of trichina. Follow the guidelines below to ensure safety against contamination when handling ham.


Contamination Prevention

Cleanliness: A clean working environment is essential in the prevention of contamination in working with ham and other meats. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly before and after handling uncooked ham. The work area, cutting boards, and utensils must be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water after being exposed to raw meat and should not be used for other foods until properly cleaned. This will prevent cross contamination of bacteria between foods.

When working with other foods at the same time as preparing and cooking ham, use different utensils for each food. Do not use the same cutting board for cooked meat as was used for the raw meat, unless it has been properly washed and dried before using.

Handling: When purchasing ham check the label carefully to see if it requires refrigeration. If it requires refrigeration, you should purchase it at the end of shopping so that it is exposed to unsafe temperatures as short a time as possible. Inspect it for any leakage and if there are signs of leaking, the ham should be placed in a plastic bag to prevent any leakage from contaminating any other foods. After purchasing it should be taken home and refrigerated as soon as possible.

When cooking and serving ham, the meat must be handle properly to prevent contamination. Use a different platter and cooking utensils for cooked meat than what was used for the raw meat, unless they have been properly cleaned and dried after exposure to the uncooked ham. Be sure that uncooked ham does not come in contact with foods that have already been cook or foods that do not require cooking before being consuming, such as raw vegetables and fruit.

Cooking Safety

It is important not to overcook ham if the desired result is to produce meat that is tender and juicy. In the past it was thought that pork had to be cooked until well done to eliminate the risk of trichinosis. Trichinosis is a food borne illness, which is caused by exposure to trichinella spiralis (trichina), an organism sometimes found in hogs. Improved production conditions and USDA guidelines have mostly eliminated the risk of trichinosis but some risk does remain. We still have to be concerned that the meat is handled and cooked properly to eliminate all risks.

Trichinosis is killed when the meat reaches a temperature of 137°F. To ensure that the ham will be safe from trichinosis, it is recommended that uncooked hams be cooked to approximately 160°F, which is medium done and should leave the meat juicy and flavorful.

Most often dry-cured hams will have mold on their exterior surface, which develops during the long curing process. The mold is generally harmless and is washed off before preparing the ham. During the dry curing process, moisture is drawn out of the ham, leaving them containing little water. Because of the low water content of dry-cured hams, bacteria cannot grow in them. This is why dry-cured hams, which are uncooked, can be stored at room temperature.

Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a bacterium that is destroyed through cooking and processing. If the ham is mishandled, the staph bacteria can reappear. Staph can produce a toxin that cannot be killed by additional cooking. The high salt content that is present on a dry-cured ham's exterior hinders the growth of the staph bacteria. Once the ham is sliced, the moister interior allows the bacteria to grow. This is why once a dry-cured ham is sliced it must be refrigerated.

Curing solutions, used on wet-cured hams, contain salt, sodium nitrate, nitrites, and may also contain sugars, seasonings, phosphates and ascorbates. The curing solution provides preservation, color development, and enhances flavor. The salt, sodium nitrate, and sodium nitrites in the curing solution inhibit the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which is a deadly microorganism that causes botulism.

When cooking ham, it is suggested to remove the meat from the heat source when it reaches a temperature that is 5°F lower than the desired doneness temperature and then allow the meat to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving or carving. In this time the meat continues to cook and will reach the proper temperature without the meat becoming overcooked. See the chart below for internal temperatures that should be reached for proper doneness.

Internal Temperatures for Proper Doneness
(Temperature after Resting Period)
Fully Cooked Hams 140°F
Uncooked or Partially Cooked Hams 160°F
Fresh Hams 160° - 170°F


Proper Storage

Most hams should be stored so that they are kept out of the temperature zone in which bacteria grows quickly. The danger temperature zone is a range between 40°F and 140°F. Fresh ham and cured ham can be stored in a refrigerator for several days, depending on the type of ham. If it is not going to be used within the recommended time, it should be frozen to prevent it from perishing. Leftover ham should be wrapped tightly and refrigerated as soon as possible. Do not leave the ham at room temperature for more than two hours. If it is not going to be used within four days of cooking, it should be frozen.

Refrigerating

Uncooked or cooked ham can be stored safely in a refrigerator at 40°F or lower for several days. The amount of time that it can be refrigerated will depend on the type of ham, how fresh it was when purchased, the temperatures it is exposed to in transporting from the store to home refrigeration and the type of packaging used.

Ham should be stored tightly wrapped to prevent the meat from drying out due to exposure to air. Whenever possible, leave the ham wrapped in its original package to minimize handling of the meat. If the original package is open, rewrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil, a leak proof bag, or place in an airtight container. The meat should be stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator. Storage times for different types of ham are shown below in the Storage Chart.

Leftover cooked ham should be refrigerated as soon as possible after serving. Do not allow the ham to set at room temperature for more than two hours. Leftover ham does not need to be completely cooled before refrigerating. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil, an airtight bag or airtight container and then store in a refrigerator at 40°F or less. See Storage Chart below for storage time of leftovers.

Refrigerating Tips:

* Do not slice the ham until just before serving. Slices will lose moisture and dry out faster than uncut pieces.
* Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer on a regular basis to verify that it is maintaining the proper temperature.
* Chill leftovers quickly by dividing them into shallow dishes before refrigerating. This will shorten the time that the pork is in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F.
* If you are not sure whether the ham has been refrigerated for the maximum suggested storage time and you are questioning if it is safe to eat, do not taste test it . . . be safe and THROW IT OUT!

Freezing

Ham should be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower and if it is not going to be used within the suggested storage time, it should be frozen to prevent it from perishing. Freezing should be avoided if possible because it will affect the flavor and texture of the ham. Freezing meat has little affect on its nutritional value.

When freezing, the ham should be frozen while it is as fresh as possible to maintain the best quality. If it is going to be frozen before it is cooked, it should be left in its original packaging. If its removed from its original package or the original package has a hole in it, the ham should be rewrap tightly, using moisture proof heavyweight plastic wrap or foil, freezer bags or freezer paper. To maintain maximum quality, double wrap the ham and be sure to wrap it tightly against the entire surface of the meat to help keep in moisture.

Mark the wrapped package with contents and the date so you can be certain of how long it has been stored in the freezer. The ham can be kept frozen longer than the recommended times and still be safe to eat but the quality of the meat will begin to deteriorate.

The ham should be frozen as quickly as possible. The quicker it freezes the better it will be when thawed. To speed up the freezing process, place the package on the floor or against the wall of the freezer since they are the coldest parts. It is always best to freeze and store frozen food in a freezer unit, rather than a refrigerator freezer. The freezer units will maintain a temperature of 0°F or below, which will allow food to be stored for longer periods of time. A refrigerator freezer will generally only maintain a temperature of 10°F to 25°F and is opened more often, adding to the fluctuating temperature. If the ham is stored in a refrigerator freezer, it should be used sooner than if stored in a freezer unit. Freezing times for maximum quality are shown below in the Storage Chart.

Freezing Tips:

* Use moisture proof wrap or bags when freezing ham. Wax paper is not moisture proof and should not be used for wrapping ham because it would not hold the moisture in the meat.
* Freeze ham as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.
* Do not freeze canned ham. If the canned ham is not a shelf stable item, remove the meat from the can, wrap tightly, and then freeze.
* If the ham has a bone that could poke through the wrapping, protect it with foil or plastic wrap before wrapping the entire piece.

Storage Chart
Type of Ham Refrigerator
Storage Freezer
Storage
Ham, Cook-before eating - Uncooked 5 - 7 days or
"Use By" date 3 - 4 months
Ham, Cook-before eating - Cooked by consumer 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months

Ham, Fully Cooked - Vacuum sealed at plant -
Undated, Unopened 2 weeks 1 - 2 months
Ham, Fully Cooked - Vacuum sealed at plant -
"Use By" date, Unopened "Use By" date 1 - 2 months
Ham, Fully Cooked - Vacuum sealed at plant -
"Sell By" date, unopened 3 days after
"Sell By" date 1 - 2 months
Ham, Fully Cooked - Vacuum sealed at plant -
Undated, Unopened 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months

Ham, Fully Cooked - Store wrapped - Whole ham 7 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, Fully Cooked - Store wrapped - Half ham 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, Fully Cooked - Store wrapped - Ham Slices 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months

Country Ham, Uncooked - Whole, Uncut
Stored at room temperature. 1 year
Country Ham, Uncooked - Cut 2 - 3 months 1 month
Country Ham, Cooked 5 - 7 days 1 month

Canned Ham, "Keep Refrigerated" - Unopened 6 - 9 months Do not freeze
Canned Ham, "Keep Refrigerated" - Opened 5 - 7 days 1 - 2 months
Canned Ham, Shelf Stable - Unopened
Store at room temperature.
2 years
Canned Ham, Shelf Stable - Opened 3 - 4 days 1 - 2 months

Ham, Lunch Meat - Sealed at plant - Unopened 2 weeks or
"Used By" date 1 - 2 months
Ham, Lunch Meat - Sealed at plant - Opened 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, Lunch Meat - Sliced in store 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months

Dry-Cured, Proscuitto, Parma, Serrano -
Thin sliced in store 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months

Fresh Ham - Uncooked 3 - 5 days 6 months
Fresh Ham - Cooked 3 - 4 days 3 - 4 months

Ham Tips and Techniques

Shopping Tips | Thawing Tips | Cooking Tips | Roasting/Baking Tips
Grilling Tips | Checking Doneness | Refrigerating Tips | Freezing Tips

Shopping Tips:

* Decide the type and quality of ham that you want for your serving intentions. You would not want to select a "ham and water product" to serve for a nice ham dinner and you would probably not purchase a "ham with natural juices" to make sandwiches for lunch.
* Determine whether you want a bone-in ham for the additional flavor it provides or a boneless ham for the ease of carving.
* Know a head of time the number of people you will be serving and take into consideration their eating habits. If you are serving a number of teenagers in comparison to small children, the quantity you need will definitely be affected. See Quantity to Buy.
* Read the label on the ham carefully to be sure you are getting what you expect. Be knowledgeable about the terminology used on the label. See Read the Label.
* Hams can be quite large so be sure you have a pan large enough to cook the ham. If not, consider purchasing two smaller size hams to satisfy your needs.
* Realize that the better quality hams and extra features will generally add to the cost of the ham.
* Always select ham that has been inspected and approved for wholesomeness to guarantee that it was processed under sanitary conditions and is free of disease.

Note: Always select meat just before you are ready to check out at the supermarket. Raw meats should not be put in bags with other foods. In warm weather, raw meat should be placed inside the car so that it can be exposed to air conditioning. If the travel home will take more than an hour, be sure to have a cooler that the meat can be stored in for the ride home.

Thawing Tips:

* Plan ahead so that you will have adequate time to defrost the frozen ham using one of the proper methods. Having the meat slowly thaw in the refrigerator will result in the best quality of meat and is the safest method for preventing food borne disease.
* When thawing in the refrigerator, realize that food placed in the coldest area of the refrigerator will take longer to thaw than if placed in another area. Also, food place in a refrigerator set at 35°F will take longer to thaw than one set at 40°F.
* While thawing, be sure that drippings do not contaminate other food or preparation surfaces.
* To store ham after it has been thawed in the refrigerator, remove from wrapping and blot dry with a paper towel. Place on a tray with sides to catch drippings, cover loosely and place in the refrigerator in an area where there is no danger of the juices dripping onto food that will be eaten with out cooking, such as raw vegetables and salad fixings.
* As the ham is thawing in the refrigerator, it may have juices that accumulate on the tray where the meat is sitting. These juices should be drained off as they accumulate. The juices will deteriorate and go bad faster than the meat and will then contaminate the meat.

Cooking Tips:

* Soak country hams prior to cooking to reduce their saltiness.
* To remove rind easily off from a cooked ham, slit the rind lengthwise down the ham before cooking and cook with the slit side down. Remove immediately after cooking and the rind should pull off easily.
* It is best to serve country hams in very thin slices because of their very intense flavor and saltiness.
* Ham is easier to slice thin when it is cool.
* Do not overcook ham or it will become dry and tough. The threat of trichinosis is eliminated when the ham is heated to 137°F, but the USDA recommends that uncooked pork should reach 160°F to be safe. Fully cooked ham should be cooked to 140° F to intensify its flavor and juiciness.
* Do not baste the ham with its juices as it is cooking because they are too salty and will only add more saltiness to the ham.
* Glazing the ham at the end of the cooking process adds flavor and a more appealing finished look to its appearance.
* Removing a canned ham is made easier by first placing the sealed can in hot water for 1 or 2 minutes. Open and slide the ham out.

Roasting/Baking Tips:

* To add extra flavor, apply a glaze to the ham during the last 30 minutes of the cooking time.
* Roasting at a lower oven temperature (NEVER roast meat below 200°F) will result in meat that is more flavorful and moist. It will take longer to cook but the results will be worth the wait.
* Do not use sharp utensils that may pierce the ham when trying to turn it because piercing allows valuable juices to escape. Use other utensils, such as wooden spoons and spatulas for handling the ham.
* If cooking more than one ham, be sure that there is uniform space around the hams so that they will cook evenly. The hams should not be touching and there should be enough space around them to allow air and heat to circulate.
* When placing a thermometer in the meat to check for doneness, be sure that the stem is not touching a bone because this can result in a false reading.

Grilling Tips:

* Preheat grill to proper temperature to ensure the meat's surface is seared quickly to give it a flavorful crust.
* Using clean racks and coating them with vegetable oil or a nonstick vegetable oil spray will help prevent the meat from sticking.
* To keep ham slices flat while grilling, clip fat around the edges at 1 to 1 ½ inch intervals.
* Do not use a fork to turn the ham as it cooks. The piercing causes juices to escape. Use tongs to turn.
* Keep an area in the charcoal grill empty of coals so if a flare up occurs or some of the meat is cooking to quickly, the meat can be moved to this area. On a gas grill, leave one burner on low.

Tips for Checking Doneness:

* When poked with a meat fork, the meat will show little resistance.
* The meat will begin to separate from the bones and the larger bones will be easy to move.
* To ensure doneness, check with a meat thermometer. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the cut should produce a temperature of 160°F for an uncooked or partially cooked ham and 140°F for a fully cooked ham.

Refrigerating Tips:

* Do not slice the ham until just before using. Slices will lose moisture and dry out faster than uncut pieces.
* Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer on a regular basis to verify that it is maintaining the proper temperature
* Chill leftovers quickly by dividing them into shallow dishes before refrigerating. This will shorten the time that the pork is in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F.
* If you are not sure whether the ham has been refrigerated for the maximum suggested storage time and you are questioning if it is safe to eat, do not taste test it . . . be safe and THROW IT OUT!

Freezing Tips:

* Use moisture proof wrap or bags when freezing ham. Wax paper is not moisture proof and should not be used for wrapping ham because it would not hold the moisture in the meat.
* Freeze ham as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.
* Do not freeze canned ham. If the canned ham is not a shelf stable item, remove the meat from the can, wrap tightly, and then freeze.
* If the ham has a bone that could poke through the wrapping, protect it with foil or plastic wrap before wrapping the entire piece.


Ham Products


Hams | Raw Hams | Specialty Ham | Miscellaneous

Hams

Hams are cuts of pork that come from the leg, which have been dry cured (country hams) or wet-cured (city hams) and then boiled or smoked. The dry-cured hams are saltier, stronger flavored and have a coarser texture than the wet-cured hams. Hams are larger cuts, which are used to serve several people. A whole ham can weigh 10 lbs. to 20 lbs. or more, but are generally sold in halves. They are fairly low in fat but high in sodium and are available bone-in, semi-boneless or boneless. There are many different varieties that are cured and smoked using different methods. Also available are some miscellaneous products made from ham. Shown below are some of the different varieties of ham and ham products that are available.

Whole Ham


Bone In Ham Boneless Ham
A processed cut which includes both the butt ham and shank ham from the leg. Whole hams can weigh from 10 lbs. to 20 lbs. or more. They are available bone-in and boneless.

Butt Ham


A processed cut taken from the top half of the leg. It is fattier than the bottom half but contains more meat and is easy to carve around the bone. It is generally more expensive than the shank ham.

Shank Ham


A processed cut taken from the bottom half of the leg. It contains less fat and is not as meaty as the butt ham and is also harder to carve. It has a slightly sweeter flavor.

Spiral Sliced Ham


A precooked ham that has been pre-sliced in a spiral cut for your convenience. A spiral cut is a cut that is done in one continuous cut around the ham, starting at one end, and moving consistently to the opposite end to create the same thickness of slices throughout. Spiral slice ham should be used in 4 to 5 days or should be frozen because the pre-sliced pieces have a tendency to dry out faster. Dry-cured hams are generally not spiral sliced because the slices would not be cut thin enough and would dry out too fast.

Center Ham Slice


Also referred to as center cut ham steak, this cut is approximately ½ to 1 inch thick and is sliced from the center of the leg primal cut. It is available as a fresh cut of meat or it can be cured and smoked. The ham center slice may be found boneless or with a small circular bone included. It can also be found fully cooked and ready to serve.



Raw Ham

Uncooked, dry-cured hams that are processed with the intention of the meat to be eaten raw. The salt used in the curing process draws out the moisture in the ham as it is hung to age. The hams go through a natural air curing process where they are exposed to cool, dry air. The air curing evaporates the moisture as it is drawn out of the meat, resulting in preservation of the ham through dehydration. During the curing process the ham may go through several pressings. These raw hams are generally slice thin and eaten raw. The meat should be allowed to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, before eating, to allow it to develop its full flavor. Shown below are some of the most commonly known varieties of raw ham.

Ardennes Ham


An air-dried, salt cured, uncooked ham from Belgium, which is sliced thinly and served raw. It has an appearance and flavor that is similar to Italian prosciutto ham. If sliced thicker, it can be pan-fried.
Bayonne Ham A wine cured, boneless ham that is produced near the town of Bayonne, France. It is air-dried and lightly smoked ham with a flavor that is influenced by the wine used in the curing process. It is served and eaten similar to prosciutto only sliced slightly thicker.
Black Forest Ham A moist German ham that is air-dried, salt cured and smoked over pine and/or fir to give it an intense flavor. To be a true Black Forest ham it must be produced in the Black Forest of Germany. It was traditionally coated with beef blood, which gave it a black exterior surface. Now, more commonly, the blackened exterior is the result of the spices applied and the smoking process. Black Forest ham is used in pasta dishes to add an intense flavor or sliced thin and served with cheeses and breads.

Capocolla


An Italian ham made from boneless pork shoulder butt. It is mildly dry cured and seasoned with hot or sweet peppers, as well as salt and sugar. It is stuffed into a natural casing and air-dried.
Ham Capocolla Ham capocolla is made from the ham rather than the pork shoulder butt, which capocolla is made from. It is processed in the same manner as capocolla.

Coppa


An Italian ham product that has been made from the pork shoulder and neck portion of the hog rather than from the hind leg. It has been salted, seasoned and dry cured for a long period. It is pressed into a skin, which produces a cylindrical shape. When sliced it is red in color with fat running through it. It is contains more fat than prosciutto and is less expensive. It has a mild aroma and sweet flavor.
Culatello Ham An expensive dry-cured Italian ham that is hard to find in the United States. It is made from the butt end, high up on the hind leg. It is cured with salt, pepper, garlic, and dry wine. It does not contain as much fat as prosciutto and is spicier. It is ruby red in color, has a strong aroma and a mild but sweet flavor. It is served in very thin slices.

Jamon Serrano Ham


A dry-cured Spanish ham that comes from white hogs, which are raised in southern Spain and fed a diet of acorns. The ham is cured in a cool, high altitude and aged for at least 9 months. The ham is not smoked but has an intense yet mild flavor, a pleasing aroma and a coarse texture. Jamon Serrano has a reputation of being one of the sweetest hams. It is served raw in thin slices, similar to prosciutto.

Prosciutto Ham


An Italian dry-cured ham that is cured with salt, sugar and spices for 9 months or longer, but is not smoked. Through part of the curing period the ham is weighted to create a dense, firm texture. This also gives it a flattened shape. In Italy, prosciutto crudo refers to raw ham and prosciutto cotto refers to cooked ham, but outside of Italy prosciutto is used in reference to raw ham. The best and most famous prosciutto is prosciutto di parma (or parma ham), which is made in Parma, Italy where the hogs are raised on parsnips and the whey left from making Parmesan cheese. Prosciutto has a delicate, salty flavor and should be cut into paper thin slices for serving.

Westphalian Ham


A German ham that is made from hogs, which are fed acorns and raised in the Westphalia forest in Germany. The ham is dry cured and the smoked slowly over beechwood and juniper wood. The slow smoking process creates a dark golden pink, dense ham that has a mild smoky flavor. Westphalian ham is one of the best and is quite expensive. It is generally cut into thin slices and served raw.
York Ham A dry-cured, English ham that is smoked over oak sawdust. Generally it is lightly smoked but it can be found smoked a little more heavily. It must be cured within 2 miles of York to be considered a York ham. The ham is coarse and fairly salty, but has a mild flavor. It can be eaten raw but is often boiled in the same manner as a country ham.



Specialty Hams

A variety of hams that have undergone special processes for curing, smoking, or cooking to produce a distinctive flavor. Specialty hams are generally dry-cured country hams aged for a long period of time (1 year or more) to develop a more intense flavor. Some specialty hams are brine cured, such as Irish ham, but most are dry cured. They are very expensive and most often have to be special ordered. Many specialty hams are imported from European countries. Many of these hams are produced from a particular breed of hog or hogs that are feed a special diet. Also, the type of wood used to smoke the ham contributes to its distinctive flavor.

Black Forest Ham
(Brine Cured) A specialty ham that has been brine cured and smoked to produce a unique flavor. This robust flavored ham may have the black exterior surface, which resembles the dry salt cured Black Forest ham, but it should not be mistaken for a true Black Forest ham.
Bradenham Ham An English ham that is first dry cured and then is cured in a mixture of molasses, brown sugar and spices. It is smoked and has a black skin. It has a sweet, intense flavor and deep red flesh.
Gammon Even though gammon comes from the hind leg, it is not considered a true ham because it is cured as part of one side of the pig or the whole pig. Once it is cured, the gammon (hind leg) is cut off the side or whole pig and sold as a separate cut. It has a mild flavor, is found smoked and unsmoked, and is more perishable than other hams. It is most often boiled when it is prepared.

Irish Ham A brine cured ham for which Belfast is famous. Irish hams develop a distinctive flavor of their own from being smoked over peat and/or juniper fires. The ham is prepared by soaking and cooking it in the same manner as a country ham.

Kentucky Ham


An American dry-cured country ham, which is made from the hind leg of a pig that has been raised on a diet of acorns, beans, clover, and grain. The ham has a delicate flavor and is slightly drier than Virginia ham. Kentucky hams are smoked over a fire of corn cobs, hickory wood, and apple wood. They are left to age for up to a year after they have been cured.

Virginia Ham
A group of country hams that are produced in Virginia. The hams are lean and are most often smoked over hickory and applewood. They were originally produced from pigs that were raised on a diet of peanuts and acorns. Today they are mostly grain fed.

Smithfield Ham
Considered the best of the Virginia country hams. To be a Smithfield ham, it must be cured and processed in the Smithfield, Virginia city limits. The hams are slowly smoked over oak, hickory and applewood. They are generally aged for 6 to 12 months but some are aged up to 2 years. The entire process results in a dark colored, dry, and salty, but richly flavored ham. The ham can be eaten raw but is most often soaked to reduce the saltiness and then baked or boiled.


Miscellaneous Hams and Ham Products
Sweet-Pickle Cured Ham A ham that is wet cured in sweet seasoned brine. The sweetener and seasoning used in the curing process will vary according to the recipe of the producer.
Sugar Cured Ham A ham that is wet or dry cured where sugar is at least ½ of the sweetening ingredient used in the curing mix. The sugar must be used in an amount sufficient to affect the flavor and/or appearance of the finished ham product.
Honey Cured Ham A ham that is wet cured with honey being at least ½ of the sweetening ingredient used in the curing mix. The honey must be used in an amount sufficient to affect the flavor and/or appearance of the finished ham product.

Canned Ham


Ham that has been cured, had the bones removed, and then vacuum-sealed in a can with a small amount of dry gelatin. The ham is steam cooked in the can and the gelatin helps to absorb the natural juices of the ham. When opened, it is ready to eat or it can be heated before serving. Canned hams are not as flavorful and have a different texture than other hams but they offer convenience. They are available in two basic forms, shelf stable and refrigerated. Shelf stable canned hams can be stored for 2 to 5 years at room temperature but should not be stored at high temperatures (above 122° F). They are generally 3 lbs. or less in size. Refrigerated canned hams can be stored, unopened, in the refrigerator for 6 to 9 months.

Picnic Ham


This is not a true ham but a cut from the shoulder of the pig, which has been cured and smoked. It is not as lean or tender but is less expensive. A good choice when in need of chopped or diced ham to add to other dishes.
Cottage Ham A cut from the top end of the shoulder, known as the shoulder butt, which has been cured in brine. A cottage ham is uncooked. Also referred to as a cottage roll.

Ham Patty


Coarsely ground ham or chunks of ham that have been pressed and formed into a round, flattened patty, which are generally prepared by baking, grilling, broiling or frying. They are available packaged as a canned product and as a frozen product.

Canned Ham Chunks




Chunks of ham that have been precooked and packaged in a can. The cans are tightly sealed to preserve freshness of the meat and the meat generally does not need refrigeration until the can has been opened. The canned ham can be used in recipes that call for chunks of ham.

Deviled Ham


Ham meat or a mixture of ham and pork shoulder meat that is cured and then cooked with water, spices and other ingredients. The meat in some deviled ham is also smoked. After the meat and other ingredients are cooked, they are finely chopped into minced meat and packaged in a can and sealed. The spread generally is mixed with a combination of other ingredients, such as sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, cheese, chopped vegetables, and spices. The spread mixture is used for sandwiches, spread on crackers as appetizers, or as a meat dip.