Is it possible to buy ham that isn’t cooked? If so, where can you find it? And how can you tell the difference between raw ham and ham that you don’t need to cook? In our guide, we’ll take you through the finer points of this versatile cut of pork.
You may be able to order fresh ham, also known as “green ham,” from your local butcher. Be sure they understand that you’re looking for raw product, and not a city or country ham. If they can’t get it for you, try searching online retailers until you find what you’re looking for.
In technical terms, ham is the rear leg of a hog. The meat is usually cured or smoked, but it’s possible to buy fresh ham (see the section below for more details).
When it’s sold whole, you can expect a ham to weigh 15 to 20 pounds. That’s enough to serve 20 to 30 people, depending on whether you’re planning on leftovers. Since the cut is so huge, most people save the purchase for special occasions.
Ham wears many different labels, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with each of them. That way, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect when you take it out of the packaging.
Fresh ham may also be called green ham. The meat is neither cured nor smoked, so you can season and cook it according to your own specifications. Note that the meat from the rear leg is leaner than pork shoulder, so it isn’t ideal for pulled pork recipes.
When you see ham labeled as “cured,” it means the meat is flavored with a blend of salt and other seasonings. The salt preserves the meat without cooking it, and also imparts a savory flavor.
There are two types of cured ham: wet and dry. A wet cure uses a brine to season and preserve the pork. Sometimes, but not always, wet-cured hams are smoked after their brining treatment.
Dry-cured ham relies entirely on salt for flavoring and preservation. The method draws out moisture, so you can expect dry-cured ham to have a drier and firmer texture than a wet-cured product. Some examples include prosciutto and Serrano ham.
You might also come across these labels: city ham and country ham. The former, which is very popular in the US, refers to a wet-cured ham that’s boiled or smoked. Because the meat is cooked beforehand, it’s ready to serve by the time it hits the shelves.
Country ham, by contrast, is a dry-cured ham that may or may not be smoked after curing. The technique dates back to the days before refrigeration made preservation easier. Virginia ham is an example of a smoked country ham.
Where To Buy Uncooked Ham
Before you try other avenues, ask your butcher if they would be able to procure you a fresh ham. Make sure you’re clear about wanting a ham that isn’t cured beforehand, as some modern butchers might be unfamiliar with this request.
If you aren’t able to purchase an uncooked ham locally, try an online search. There are several reputable online retailers that list fresh ham among their offerings. If you’re happy with the product, you can try the same company the next time you’re looking for a pork shoulder or beef brisket for the smoker.
Again, when you’re searching, make sure you understand the difference between fresh ham and ham that’s been cured beforehand. Both types have their strong points, but if you want to season and smoke the pork from scratch, you’ll need fresh raw ham and not simply “uncooked” ham.
How Much Does Uncooked Ham Cost Per Pound?
Like most large cuts of pork, fresh ham can be purchased at a reasonable price. $1.99 per pound is typical for online retailers. If you can find it on sale for less than that, you’re getting a real bargain.
The shank portion of the ham—the part that comes from the lower section of the leg—is often cheaper than the butt portion, though the difference is negligible. This may be because the butt end is leaner. However, shank ham has a stronger pork flavor.
How To Tell If Ham Is Cooked Or Raw
As you probably know, it’s possible to purchase ham from the deli and enjoy it right out of the package. That’s because it’s been cooked to a safe temperature beforehand, so you don’t need to heat it up in order to destroy potentially hazardous bacteria.
Deli ham has been either baked, smoked, or cured. Often, the label will indicate which cooking procedure was used, which should give you some idea of how it will taste. Obviously, smoked ham will have a smoky flavor, while a cured product might be saltier than regular baked ham.
The hams that are sold whole in the supermarket are usually precooked as well. While they’re safe to eat already, the meat will be more appetizing if it’s heated through before serving.
If you’re unsure whether the ham you’ve bought is cooked or raw, check the label. Uncooked ham should come with cooking instructions, as well as a clear statement indicating that the product will need to be thoroughly cooked before it can be eaten.
Does Cooked Ham Need To Be Refrigerated?
In most cases, yes. Most meat products, whether cooked or raw, need to be refrigerated at 40 degrees or lower. That’s why we suggest refrigerating all leftovers as soon as possible.
That said, some dry-cured meats can be stored at room temperature. Prosciutto is one obvious example. Pepperoni and hard salami should also be fine at room temperature until you’ve opened the package, at which point you should refrigerate any leftovers.
Cooked ham should keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator when stored properly. If you’ve frozen leftover ham, try to thaw and reheat it within 3 to 6 months.
Ideas For Leftover Ham
If you have a lot of ham left over after your feast, you’re in luck. Ham is a delightful and versatile ingredient that can add a savory note to numerous dishes. Here are some of our favorite uses for leftover ham.
Cut the leftover ham slices into cubes, then mix with mayonnaise, mustard, and dill pickle relish. Season with salt and pepper and serve on bulky rolls.
Mix cubed ham with green pepper and onion, then saute in a nonstick skillet until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add 2 lightly scrambled eggs and cook undisturbed until the eggs are just set, then add a slice of American cheese. Fold and cook gently until the cheese is melted.
Use sliced ham as a pizza topping, along with chunks of pineapple. For a special treat, add diced green pepper and smoked Gouda cheese.
Au Gratin Potatoes
Cubes of ham can be used to liven up a humble dish of potatoes and cream topped with cheese.
Macaroni and Cheese
Boost the protein content of your homemade mac and cheese by adding in some of your leftover ham.
Toss cubes of just-stale bread tossed with melted butter, ham, shredded cheese, and sauteed mushrooms. Put the mixture in a baking dish, top with lightly beaten eggs, salt, and pepper, and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re looking for a ham that you can simply reheat and serve, or you want to cure and smoke the pork yourself, it’s important that you buy the right product.
Read all labels carefully before making a purchase to avoid disappointment. As long as you understand the difference between the various types of ham, you should be well pleased with the results.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!