When we talk about ham we also talk about ham shoulder and if the ham is the back leg of the pig, the ham shoulder is the front leg and they are used to make an exceptional product, at the same level as the ham although not as well known.
Whatever your preference might be, the most important thing is to know the differences between each product, because although when it is sliced in a dish looks very similar, ham and ham shoulder are very different products, each with unique attributes.
Differences between ham and ham shoulder
There are some people who prefer ham and other people who would not change a ham shoulder for anything in the world. The truth is that each product has its own benefits and characteristics and that is why, for example, the ham shoulders are cheaper than the hams.
Due to the morphology of the piece, the ham is much easier to cut than a ham shoulder and also usually contains a little more fat but the basic differences between a ham and a ham shoulder are:
- Morphology: The ham shoulder is smaller than the ham with an average weight between 4.5 and 6.5 kilos. Also, the hock of a ham shoulder usually measures about 60-70 centimetres, which is about 20 centimetres less than the hock of a ham.
- Bone: The ham shoulder has less meat than the ham, so the proportion of bone is 40% while the ham has only 30%. This means that out of 5 kilos of ham shoulder, 2 kilos are made of bone.
- Curing: As the ham shoulders are smaller, they need less time to be at their optimal time of curing. This time depends on the quality of the product and is usually between 12 and 24 months, while a ham needs between 20 and 48 months.
In terms of flavour there are also differences, the ham shoulder is tastier and has a more intense taste due to the proximity of the meat to the bone, but the best way to appreciate these characteristics is to have a ham and a ham shoulder and try both, this way you can appreciate with sight, touch and taste what makes each product special.
Thus, what is better ham shoulder or ham? This question has no wrong answer because it’s all a matter of taste and need (if you are few at home, it is better a ham shoulder so that you can eat it before it gets too dry).
As a curious fact, we can tell you that the popularity of the ham shoulder depends on the geographical area: for instance, a large part of the production of ham shoulders of the whole country are sold in Catalonia and the Basque Country, whereas in other places like Madrid ham is the most successful, ham in all formats is the preference.