Ham Cooking Terms

Ham
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A cut of pork that is taken from the meat on the middle part of the shank bone extending to the hip bone on the hind leg of the hog. There are two basic types of ham: fresh ham (uncooked) or cured ham (cooked). Cured hams can be brine-cured or dry-cured and then boiled or lightly smoked. If ham is cured, smoked, and then allowed to age for a longer period of time (1 year or more) to develop more flavor, it is most often classified as a "gourmet" ham. Cuts of ham are available with (bone-in) or without bones (boneless), as specialty hams, and as cooked, partially cooked, or uncooked hams.

Water or natural juices are often added to hams to keep them moist and tender. When hams are categorized according to the protein and water content, there are basically four categories or levels that are used for identification. The highest level of 20.5% or above identifies a ham with no water added. The next level is a protein content of not less than 18.5%, which identifies a ham with natural juices. A protein level at least of 17% signifies a ham with some water added. The lowest protein level represents a ham product in which any quantity of water may have been added, decreasing the protein level and the flavor of the ham and making it somewhat rubbery. The label should identify the quantity of water added.

Store ham in the refrigerator and use it within 4 days to retain the best flavor and quality. Ham can be frozen to preserve it for longer periods of time, but the flavor is decreased when thawed. To freeze ham, place it in an airtight package and use it within 2 months.

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All your questions are answered in our extensive glossary of Ham cooking terms.

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