How to carve ham

How to carve ham?

Cutting ham may seem to be an easy task, but it is really an art, the taste of a delicious ham depending thereon, as well as the appreciation of all its aromas and flavours.

Likewise, one must bear in mind that the adequate preservation of the piece is important to achieve better use and enjoyment of the product.

Before beginning with the cut and arranging the ham, it is important that the temperature thereof be between 23-25ºC; the slices or “shavings” should be cut just prior to the moment of eating them, so that they do not lose their juiciness, flavour, and aromas.



The first step to follow is to place the ham (with the hoof downward) on the stand or ham holder and peel it, cutting off the outer skin and some of the salt pork of the part on which we are going to start the cut (that will be the narrowest part or Stifle/Fore-shank). We will perform this operation with a strong and wide bladed knife. The steps to follow for cutting are:

• Make a deep incision in the leg at about 30 cm. from the hoof at the height of the ham hock.

• With a firm grip on the ham, remove the skin and some bacon off the section of the Stifle (or Fore-shank), making cuts from the incision of the ham hock towards the end of the same. This cutting should be done in small pieces, with fine cuts and in the same longitudinal direction, never cross-cutting.



Once the ham is cleaned and prepared, we start to cut fine slices. For this task we are going to use the long and thin bladed knife. We then start to cut fine slices that contain lean and fatty parts, using the width of the piece and the length at one’s discretion. It is recommended that small cuts be made.

The direction of the cut should be horizontal and even (from the hoof toward the tip).

While the cut is being made, the skin and exterior fat on the edges should be removed.



When the hipbone is reached, with a sharp and short knife, an incisive cut should be made around the bone; in this way the slices from this section will be cleaner.
The meat closest to the bones should not be cut in slices but in cubes.



When there is no more meat left on the main section, the leg is turned over to continue cutting through the Shank section (the hoof should be up), and the same steps are performed.



In order to keep the ham in proper condition, provided the cutting process has ended, we should:

  • Remove any wrapper the piece came with upon acquiring the same.
  • Consume it as soon as possible, not allowing more than 3 days to go by without cutting the same.
  • Massage the leg in its own fat each time a cut is made or cover it with a cotton cloth saturated therewith.
  • Do not wrap it with the cotton netting it was sold with, neither with plastics, tinfoil, decorative paper or pieces of bacon.
  • Keep it in a dry and cool environment.
  • Protect those parts already cut from insects.
  • Maintain the structure thereof intact, without tears or holes, to avoid it becoming rancid.
  • If mites appear over time, wash the piece with a clean and humid cloth and apply olive oil at 0.4º on the surface.

In order to cut ham it is good to have:

• A ham holder or stand to secure the ham.

• A strong wide bladed knife, short and sharp-pointed (useful for the preparation and cleaning of the leg).

• A flexible, long, and narrow bladed knife (useful for cutting in slices).

• A sharpening steel or sharpener (since the utensils and the correct condition thereof are just as important as a good technique. Therefore it is essential that the knives be correctly sharpened).