Iberian ham is obtained from the hind legs of the Iberian pig, which is exclusively raised on our peninsula. Therefore, it's a unique breed, the Iberian breed. But when we talk about the types of Iberian ham, do you know the difference between acorn-fed Iberian ham and grain-fed Iberian ham?
Here's our masterclass on ham!
What sets apart acorn-fed Iberian ham from grain-fed?
Hams can be classified based on two distinct aspects: the breed of the pig from which the piece is obtained and the feeding regimen followed by these pigs.
- Breed: The pig's breed primarily determines whether it's a Serrano ham, also called Gran Reserva (from the white pig), or an Iberian ham (from the Iberian pig). For an Iberian ham to be considered as such, the mother must be 100% Iberian breed, as she determines the genetics. If the father is not Iberian, the ham will be considered 50% Iberian breed. When both the father and the mother are 100% Iberian, then the ham is 100% Iberian breed, only in this last case.
- Feeding: Only Iberian hams can be classified based on their diet, as it can vary depending on the case, regardless of the breed. The white pig always follows the same diet, but the final result—its taste and texture—though it may appear similar, will depend on the quality of the raw materials and the care provided by the farmer.
- Iberian pig: With that said, Iberian pigs can be of three types: fed with grain, fed with pasture, or acorn-fed. But, what's the main difference between acorn-fed Iberian ham and grain-fed Iberian ham? The diet followed by the pigs and the place where they were raised during different growth stages.
Grain-fed hams are those obtained from pigs fed with commercial feed in farms, that is, grain-fed, hence the term "grain-fed." On the other hand, acorn-fed Iberian hams are obtained from pigs that have gone through the montanera period and have followed a diet based on acorns and other natural products like grass during their adult phase.
And the pasture-fed Iberian ham is one that combines both feeding methods. It is fattened on the farm with feed, but it also grazes in the fields and feeds on wild herbs and other fruits.
The Flavor Nuances in Acorn-Fed and Grain-Fed Iberian Ham
Having said this, do the nuances in grain-fed Iberian ham and acorn-fed Iberian ham taste the same? Of course not. The meat of Iberian pigs is unique in the world due to the genetic capacity of this species to marble fat within the muscle. Although this trait is inherent to all Iberian pigs, thanks to the acorn-based diet and the exercise they get during the montanera period, the process is accentuated, resulting in juicier and more aromatic meat.
Just try a slice of grain-fed Iberian ham and another of acorn-fed, and you'll notice the differences. While both are quite oily, the second one will practically melt in your mouth upon contact with your palate—truly a delightful experience! And if you've never tasted ham and are hesitant to rely solely on taste, remember that ham is protected by law, and we explain everything in our article on ham regulations, certifications, and labeling.
Which is the Best Ham?
Although we emphasize the excellent quality of acorn-fed Iberian ham, it doesn't mean it will be your personal favorite. At Enrique Tomás, we believe the best ham is the one you like the most. That's why we offer a wide range of products in different formats. You can choose the one that's best for you. In summary, if you wonder which is the best Iberian ham in the world, we'll tell you that it's the one your palate enjoys the most.
Our advice: If you prefer less juicy bites, grain-fed ham is more suitable. On the other hand, if you enjoy a more oily texture and intense flavor on your palate, we recommend acorn-fed Iberian ham. Now that you know, buy what you're looking for and trust the experts in our stores for guidance!
To have a tasting experience at home, at Enrique Tomás we have everything you need! Check out any of our pre-sliced packs and create an Iberian evening to discover your preferred type of ham.
Iberian Meats and Seasonal Fruits Platter
The Use of This Type of Ham in Our Cuisine
How to enjoy Iberian ham? Very simple! Whether it's acorn-fed or grain-fed Iberian ham, we always recommend you enjoy it on its own, so you can fully appreciate its flavor, aroma, and texture—100%. In bars and restaurants, it's one of the most exquisite and highly demanded tapas.
At home, if you have the whole piece, one of life's pleasures is to slice a piece with a thickness not too thin or too thick and savor it directly. You'll enjoy it like never before! You can also cut several slices, create a nice presentation, and surprise your friends or family with a platter of ham to snack on, eat, or have for dinner.
Even when enjoyed on its own, in the next post, we also recommend some great accompaniments for ham.
Jamón and Wine Pairing
Incorporating Ham into Your Recipes
Adding Iberian ham to your everyday recipes is perfect. You'll gain in flavor, intensity, and nutritional properties. Nevertheless, we advise you NOT to COOK it, neither in the microwave nor in the pan.
The ham will lose its flavor nuances and texture. Use it in your recipes just as if you were eating it in slices, or play around with other formats like ham shavings or small cubes. The result will still be delicious!
On our blog, you'll find all sorts of dishes for you to start cooking with ham: healthy recipes, seasonal dishes, traditional meals, innovative ideas, and more.
Goat Cheese Salad
Endive Boats with Ham
Asparagus Cream Soup with Ham
Broken Eggs with Iberian Ham
You might be interested in:
- How Acorn-Fed Iberian Ham is Made