Types of Ham: Explained

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HAMS, INCLUDING BAKED HAM, COUNTRY HAM, GLAZED HAM & SMOKED HAM

Melissa Cookston's Memphis BBQ Smoked Spiral Cut Ham
Melissa Cookston’s Memphis BBQ Smoked Spiral Cut Ham

Ham is one of the most versatile meats. Who doesn’t love to ham it up at breakfast with eggs Benedict or a side of thick Canadian ham?

Then, there’s lunch. Sinking our teeth into slabs of ham precariously piled high between slices of freshly baked bread is a satisfying way to break up the day. And don’t get us started on dinner, where ham may star as the main epicurean event any day of the year.

No matter how you slice it, you can carve out a place for ham at every meal. There are many types of ham and many ways to serve them. We love Christmas ham as the main meat at a holiday meal and in sandwiches like ham biscuit sandwiches and chipped ham sandwiches (“chipped” ham is thinly sliced smoked ham).

Take a bite into all things ham.

What is Ham?

Ham is a leg of pork that has been cured, typically from a hog’s hind leg. 

Ham can come bone-in, partially-boned, or boneless and aged or cured. They come in a variety of cuts, some which are fattier and some, like the butt, which are leaner. Aged hams are cured, smoked, and aged for a year or more.

There are variations of ham, including: 

  • SPAM,
  • ham bologna, 
  • and turkey ham. 

SPAM is made with ground ham and pork plus potato starch, salt, sodium nitrate, sugar, and water. Ham bologna is a German-style cold cut that combines ham and bologna into a tasty luncheon meat. Turkey ham is a ready-to-eat meat made from cured turkey thigh meat.

Lockhart Smokehouse Boneless Pit Ham
Lockhart Smokehouse | Boneless Pit Ham
Olympia Provisions Landrauchschinken Swiss Country Ham
Olympia Provisions | Landrauchschinken Swiss Country Ham

What Are the Three Types of Ham?

There are three types of ham:

  • Cured: Pork leg that is wet-cured or dry-cured. Wet cured ham is soaked in a brine. Dry-cured is ham that is coated in salt and stored for a period of time until it is preserved.
  • Cured-and-smoked: Pork leg that is wet-cured or dry-cured before it is smoked for hours, days, or weeks.
  • Fresh ham: Pork leg that has not been cured. The product name includes the word “fresh” in the U.S.

Styles of Ham

There are many styles of ham, which are popular in different regions. Styles of ham include:

  • Bayonne: a salty boneless French-style ham that is dry-cured for months before eating.
  • Black Forest: a boneless German-style ham that is salted, seasoned, and smoked. This ham has a black exterior thanks to its seasonings, which include coriander, garlic, juniper berries, and pepper. 
  • Canadian Bacon: The name is misleading as Canadian bacon is actually ham. Canadian bacon is pre-cooked smoked ham that comes from pork loin. It’s typically fried and eaten for breakfast.
  • Capicola: an Italian-style cured ham that comes from the pork shoulder or neck.
  • Country: an American-style ham that is dry-cured, smoked over hardwood, and aged for at least six months. 
  • Culatello: an Italian-style cured ham that is soaked in wine as part of the aging process.
  • Ibérico: a Spanish-style dry-cured ham that has been aged for two years.
  • Irish: an Irish-style brined ham that is smoked over peat wood.
  • Picnic: Refers to fresh or smoked meat from the foreleg and shoulder of the hog.
  • Prosciutto: an Italian-style salt-cured and seasoned ham that is air-dried and sliced paper thin.
  • Scotch: a boneless Scottish-style ham that is mildly cured, uncooked, and sold in a casing.
  • Serrano: a Spanish-style dry-cured ham that is sliced paper thin.
  • Smithfield: is a deep-red aged country ham that must be physically cured using a specific process in Smithfield, Virginia. 
  • Speck: an Italian-style dry-cured ham that comes from a deboned hind thigh. It is lightly smoked. 
  • Westphalian Ham: a German-style cured ham that comes from pigs who are fed a diet of acorns from the Westphalia forest. The dark brown ham is smoked over beechwood and juniper wood.
  • York Ham: a British-style pink ham that has a mild flavor and is often served with Madeira sauce.

What is the Most Popular Ham?

The most popular ham is cured ham, which has been brined before cooking. The brine is a liquid of water and salt, and seasonings are sometimes added to the brine. Hams are soaked in brine for a few days or weeks before it is smoked.

Most Famous Hams

The best farms, BBQ joints, meat purveyors, and restaurants are shipping the most delicious baked, glazed, and pit-smoked hams nationwide on Goldbelly! Glazed but not confused, we have the best fresh, frozen, and heat-and-eat Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter hams too.

Bludso's BBQ Pit-Smoked Honey Glazed Ham

Bludso’s BBQ Pit-Smoked Honey Glazed Ham

Pitmaster Kevin Bludso custom rubs his seasonal Bludso’s BBQ Pit-Smoked Honey Glazed Ham. Then, he slow smokes it over logs of hardwood, charcoal, and fire for 14 hours. This juicy, smoky, and savory spiral-sliced ham is 10 lbs. of dreamy ham deliciousness.

Pecan Lodge Whole Spiral Sliced Ham

Pecan Lodge Whole Spiral Sliced Ham

Legendary Dallas BBQ restaurant Pecan Lodge smokes its ham over hickory and oak woods.  The 7-9 lbs. Pecan Lodge Whole Spiral Sliced Ham is meticulously smoked and finished with an apricot and molasses glaze.

Weaver's of Wellsville Half Bone-in Ham

Weaver’s of Wellsville Half Bone-in Ham

Pennsylvania’s Weaver’s of Wellsville is an authentic taste of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Their Weaver’s of Wellsville Half Bone-in Ham is made the old fashioned way with love and time. Since 1889, Weaver’s of Wellsville has perfected smoking hams. Each ham is smoked twice in their outdoor smoker.

What a ham! The most delicious ham and country ham are shipping nationwide on Goldbelly!

Lauren-Mack
Lauren Mack

Lauren Mack is a journalist who writes about all things food for Goldbelly. She is passionate about exploring the world one meal at a time. Her favorite things to Goldbelly include cakes, biscuit sandwiches, and ice cream.

Lauren has been a journalist for more than two decades and has specialized in writing about travel and food for much of that time. Her work has appeared in 150+ websites, magazines, apps, and guidebooks, including Cheapflights, CultureTrip, INSIDER, Lonely Planet, Newsweek International, Savory Traveler, Seeker, The Daily Meal, ThoughtCo (formerly About.com), Thrillist, Time Out, TripSavvy, and Zagat.

A lover of Taiwan's night markets, Singapore's hawker centers, and New York City's food trucks, Lauren has never skipped a meal or dessert. She has an insatiable appetite for exploring the world's best food and will try — almost — anything. Her favorite foods are pizza, ice cream, dim sum, sushi, and Taiwanese braised pork rice, and she can't resist a chef's tasting menu.

From backpacking across Europe and Asia to circumnavigating the globe by ship to living like a local in multiple cities, her travels have taken her on food explorations to 60+ countries on five continents. She has called Miami, Beijing, Taipei, and New York home.