Ham--butt or shank half

Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2005 06:53 am
For years, when purchasing a half ham, I've selected the shank half, preferring the ease of slicing the meat with just the shank bone to carve around.

Last Friday I purchased a national brand half ham--shank half as normal, and when I took it out of its packaging noticed it was actually the butt half containing the knuckle. It was mistakenly marked.

Anyway, I cooked the ham for Sunday dinner and was immediately taken in by the great taste, something I haven't experienced in years.

Here's my question, and excuse me if it's patently obvious: Are butt half hams known for their better flavor, or was it just this particular ham? The flavor was more intense, naturally ocurring gelatin was present also.

I'm going to buy another butt half the next time to see if the same results are achieved, but I just wanted to see if you might say, "Well of course, stupid."
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Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2005 03:52 pm
Hams are available bone-in or boneless. Most people feel that bone-in hams are more flavorful and have better texture than boneless hams. Bone-in hams will have part of the leg bone or hipbone intact, plus some smaller bones depending on the cut. Boneless hams have had all the bones removed and are then bound up and tumbled in order to fill any voids in the meat. Boneless hams are easy to carve, of course, but a spiral sliced bone-in ham is probably a better choice since it combines better flavor with ease of serving.

You'll want to buy a ham of appropriate size based on the number of people you want to serve. You can purchase a whole ham (pretty much the entire leg of the hog) that will feed an army, or you can buy a half ham. Half hams come in two varieties: the butt end and the shank end. The butt end comes from the upper thigh and has a rounded end, whereas the shank end comes from the lower portion of the leg and has a pointed or tapered end.

Figure 2. Half Ham Varieties and Center Slices

Sometimes the best "center cut" slices are removed from half hams during processing. If the label on a half ham reads "shank end half" or "butt end half", then it includes these meaty center slices. If it says "shank end portion" or "butt end portion", then the center slices have been removed.

When choosing a whole, bone-in ham, authors Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly of The Complete Meat Cookbook write, "A short, plump shape with a stubby rather than an elongated shank is the best choice."

There's a lot of conflicting information about which type of half ham is the best one to buy. Cook's Illustrated writes, "You're better off getting a shank end rather than the butt end. This is because the butt end has less desirable meat, as it contains a lot of membrane, fat, and gristle. Its bone configuration can also make carving tricky." However, some butchers recommend a butt end ham, saying that it's meatier and has better flavor.

It's not clear to me that there's a big difference, and often when you visit the supermarket you just end up having to pick from what's available based on price and the size of ham you're looking for.

This info from http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/hamselect.html
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Reply Fri 28 Oct, 2005 08:39 am
rhymer wrote:
However, some butchers recommend a butt end ham, saying that it's meatier and has better flavor.

So really no consensus among the experts. However, we can rule out it being meatier, it simply is not with the ball and socket in the butt end. Here in the U.S., the industry practice usually is to cut most of the shank bone off, so there is no pointed end. So there really is no comparison between the two in meatiness; the shank half is much more so.

Here's what I'll suggest: If you like tastier ham, and enjoy making things like ham and bean soup with the leftovers, buy the butt half. It's a good choice for personal family meals. It should be cheaper also.

Feeding guests I would consider the shank half. Ease of slicing along with much more meat would be the considerations.
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Reply Fri 4 Nov, 2005 06:07 am
Also to consider: If you like soup buy the butt half.

I made ham and bean soup with the leftovers, though it's never been my favorite. I simply took the bone, which had some meat left on it and covered it with water in a crock pot, along with a couple peppercorns. I boiled a cup of great northern beans two minutes and let sit one hour, drained and rinsed. After about 6 hours I removed the bone and carefully cleaned and cut the meat, eliminating all gristle and returned it to the pot, along with a medium sliced onion, and two heaping handfuls of cabbage and the beans.

My wife started getting hungry around three so she tried a cup of soup and said," I like it this way, it's done!" The beans had a slight crunchiness and the cabbage was still a bit crisp. I tried it and agreed. Very good.

We took a bowl to our neighbor who is suffering terminal cancer. The soup, she said, was the best thing she had in a long time and hopefully strengthened her.

I'm definitely going to give the butt half another try and add the soup into the rotation.
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Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2016 03:37 am
I prefer the butt end when I'm not buying the whole ham. I prefer it for the flavor. I love your sense of humor, dear!! Best to you!
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