In Spain it is considered an art. There are plenty of competitions to determine who is the Best Ham Slicer every single year. It is not only about tasting the ham, it is about listening to it and presenting the slices like if it was a painting. It is a work of art.
It takes a few times to learn how to carve properly the ham, but it takes years to be an expert.
In order to know the right way to slice a ham, you should know all the parts in a ham. Clik here and take a look at it if you don’t remember.
How to start
It depends on what you will be using the ham for. Is it going to be used at home and you will eat it slowly? Is it going to be used in a tasting, wedding or in a food show? Let us help you with that.
If you want to use it at home and consume it slowly, you should put the ham with the babilla upwards. This part is drier than the maza so if you are going to eat it slowly, it is better to consume it first.
In case you want to exhibit the ham in a food show or tasting, you should begin with the maza. The ham looks much better this way and you know that the whole piece will be eaten during the event.
Being that said, we will explain here how to carve it starting with the maza upwards.
Even though it is not an indispensable requisite, it is quite appealing to take this into account. The best temperature to carve iberian ham is 20-25ºC (68-77ºF). This is not only because it is easier to carve it, but also because this is the best temperature to eat this ham. It sweats slightly and the meat exhibits all its flavours.
Use a knife with a wide and sharp blade.
2- Perpendicular cut and cutting away skin and fat
Make a cut in the narrowest part of the jarrete and reach the bone. This cut must be perpendicular to the table.
Now it’s time to remove the skin and a little bit of fat from the punta up to the cut you just made. Remove it from the top and a little bit from the sides. You can keep the fat for stews or soups. You can use it also to cover the cut later so it does not get dry.
Use the same knife used to make the cut.
3- Slicing the maza
Once you’ve reached the meat, use the special carving knife. It should be long, sharp and flexible. The right way to slice it up is by starting from the jarrete towards the punta. Every slice must be as thin as possible. It should be 3 or 4 fingers long and as wide as the maza.
After each slice you must start slicing at the same point where you finished the previous one.
When reaching the bone of the hip, you have to use the puntilla knife, which is short, sharp and it has a thin blade. Cut around the bone so the slices come clean and easy to take.
The cut must be straight, with no curves.
4- Turn it upside down
Once you reach the femur, turn the ham upside down. Now it is time to carve the babilla.
Firstly, remove all the skin and the outer layers of fat. The slicing process is exactly the same as with the maza. Carve from the jarrete towards the punta. Make a straight cut.
You should cut in this position until you carve half of the punta approximately.
5- Turn it 90 degrees
The idea is to carve the outer side of the ham that is left. So turn it 90 degrees and carve all from the jarrete to the punta.
Once you reach the fibula, cut around that bone to separate it from the ham. Break the fibula and remove it. Slice the remaining ham in that area.
At this point, if there is some ham remaining stick to the bones, you can remove it and use it as dices for stews or soups.
6- Bones for cooking
You can use the bones to give flavour to any stew, soup or casserole. Use a hand saw to cut it in small pieces.
Here you have a video that explains all this process step by step: