How is Ham Made from Pork?

Ham, a culinary staple known for its distinct flavor and versatility, is a processed meat product derived from the hind leg of a pig. The process of transforming raw pork into delectable ham involves a series of meticulous steps, each contributing to the unique characteristics of this cured meat.

Methods of Ham Production

The journey from raw pork to savory ham begins with two primary curing methods: dry curing and wet curing.

Dry Curing

In this traditional method, salt plays a pivotal role as the sole curing agent. The raw pork leg is meticulously coated in salt, which draws out moisture and inhibits bacterial growth. This process, known as “salting out,” is followed by a period of pressing to further expel moisture. The salted meat is then hung in a controlled environment, allowing the salt to penetrate and preserve the meat over an extended period, typically ranging from several weeks to several months.

Wet Curing

Wet curing, also known as brining, involves submerging the pork leg in a brine solution. This solution typically consists of water, salt, and other ingredients like sugar and spices. The meat absorbs the brine, resulting in increased weight and enhanced flavor. Wet curing is generally a quicker process compared to dry curing, often taking a few days to a couple of weeks.

Additional Processing Steps


Smoking is an optional step that imparts a distinctive smoky flavor and aroma to the ham. The meat is placed in a smokehouse and exposed to smoke from burning wood chips or other sources. The smoke contains compounds that interact with the meat’s surface, creating a characteristic color and flavor profile.


Seasonings play a crucial role in enhancing the flavor of ham. A variety of herbs, spices, and other ingredients can be used during the curing process to create unique flavor combinations. Some common seasonings include garlic, pepper, paprika, and juniper berries.

Aging and Finishing

After curing and any additional processing steps, the ham undergoes an aging period. This allows the flavors to develop and mellow, resulting in a more complex and nuanced taste. Aging times vary depending on the desired flavor profile, ranging from a few weeks to several years.

The final step involves removing the ham from its casing and trimming any excess fat or skin. The ham is then ready to be sliced, cooked, or further processed into various ham products.

Health Considerations

While ham is a delicious and versatile meat, it is important to note that processed meats, including ham, have been linked to certain health concerns. Excessive consumption of processed meats has been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Therefore, it is advisable to consume ham and other processed meats in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

How Ham Is Made from a Whole Pig — Prime Time


Is ham just made out of pork?

Although it’s mostly associated with pork-based products, “beef ham” refers to the cured leg of a cow or bull, and most people are also familiar with turkey or chicken-based hams, which are mechanically-processed, typically lower fat alternatives that are shaped and flavored to mimic pork ham.

What makes ham different from pork?

As the BBQ Host says – all ham is pork, but not all pork is ham. Ham is cut especially from the hind leg of the pig and usually cured and salted. Pork can be from any part of the pig and is typically raw, ready-to-cook deliciousness.

What part of the pig is ham from?

What Is Ham? Ham is a cut of pork from a pig’s hind leg. There are several types of ham, including cured ham, fresh ham, country ham, Black Forest ham, and hickory-smoked ham. A bone-in, whole ham is a full cut from the hind leg of the pig.

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