Choosing the right kind of meat can truly make or break a meal, and everyone has their own opinion on which is best – especially when it comes to the shank versus butt ham debate!
Wondering which one you should choose for the perfect meal? Then read on to learn all you need to know to make the right choice!
Butt Ham Vs. Shank Ham
There are two different types of pork that fall under the category of “shank”: butt and shank.
Butt hams are typically found at grocery stores and are sold with the bone still attached.
The shank is the part of the pig that runs from the shoulder down to the hip.
It’s usually cut into smaller pieces and used in stews, soups, and other dishes where its flavor will be appreciated.
The shank is also known as “the knuckle” because of its shape.
If you want to buy a whole butt ham, look for one that says “butt” on the package.
If you don’t see this word anywhere, then check out the back label to make sure there isn’t any information about the bone being removed.
You’ll have to ask your butcher if they sell them. If you want to get a shank, then look for packages that say “shank.”
Again, you may have to ask your butcher to tell you what type of shank you’re getting so you can choose the right one.
How To Identify Shank
If you’ve ever had a hunk of beef steak, you know how tough and chewy they can be.
That’s because the muscle fibers are tightly packed together.
When you cook these steaks, the connective tissue breaks down and makes them more tender.
This same principle applies to pork shanks. To identify a shank, look for a thick piece of meat that is fairly long.
It should be about 1-1/2 inches wide, and about 2-3/4 inches tall.
If you hold the shank up to the light, you should see lots of white fat running through the center of the meat.
How To Cook Shank
There are two ways to prepare a shank. First, you can boil the shank.
Boiling removes most of the fat from the meat, making it easier to chew. Second, you can roast the shank.
Roasting gives the meat a nice brown color, which makes it taste better.
Put the shank into a large pot filled with water.
Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and let the shank simmer until it is cooked through for about 45 minutes.
Remove the shank from the pot and set it aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the shank in aluminum foil. Place the shank on a rack in a roasting pan.
Bake the shank for 30 minutes. Remove the shanks from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.
Slice the shank into thin slices and serve.
How To Serve Shank
Serve the shank with mashed potatoes, polenta, rice pilaf, couscous, pasta, or another starchy side dish.
Or, use the shank like you would any other type of meat.
Simply grill it, chop it, or slice it thinly and add it to salads, soups, or casseroles.
How To Identify Butt Ham
Butt ham is a thicker version of shank ham. The difference is that butt ham has more fat, so it cooks faster than shank ham.
Because of this, you don’t need to boil butt ham as much as you do shank ham.
The best way to tell whether you’re buying butt ham or shank ham is by looking at the packaging.
Shanks will usually be wrapped in plastic wrap, while butts will be covered in wax paper or parchment paper.
How To Cook Butt Ham
Cooking butt ham is similar to cooking shank ham. You just need to reduce the amount of time that you cook it.
Butt ham needs only 15 to 20 minutes of boiling before it is done.
Grill Butt Ham
Place the butt ham on a hot grill. Grill the butt ham for 5 to 7 minutes per side.
Remove the butt ham from the grill and cut it into serving pieces.
Pan Fry Butt Ham
Put the butt ham in a skillet. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat.
Add the butt ham to the skillet. Cook the butt ham for 4 to 6 minutes on each side.
How To Serve Butt Ham
Like shank ham, butt ham tastes great when served with mashed potatoes, polentas, couscous, rice pilaf, pasta, or other starchier side dishes.
Or, use the butt ham like you would any other kind of meat. Chop it finely and add it to salads or soups.
What Is The Difference Between Ham And Pork?
Before we take a closer look at shank ham versus butt ham, it is worth understanding the differences between pork and ham, as the two are often easily confused.
Pork shoulder has a higher percentage of intramuscular fat which gives it a richer flavor.
If you want to make ham, you need to buy pork shanks rather than pork shoulders.
Pork shoulder is leaner than pork shank, making it a good choice if you want to use it to make sausage.
When buying pork, look for cuts that have been trimmed of excess fat. Fatty cuts will taste greasy when cooked.
Look for cuts that are firm and springy when pressed; a soft texture when raw usually means that the meat is underdone, and the final taste is likely to be compromised.
When choosing pork, you should also look for cuts with marbling; marbled cuts contain more fat within the muscle fibers, and so tend to have a juicier, richer taste.
A well-marbled piece of meat will have a pinkish color, and this indicates that the meat was properly stored and handled during processing.
If you don’t see any signs of marbling, ask your butcher about purchasing an uncured pork chop.
This is a cheaper alternative to purchasing whole legs of pork. You can then cure the chops yourself using salt, sugar, and spices.
Ham is made from pork leg quarters (shanks). Ham is usually cured, smoked, and then glazed.
Pork shoulder is another type of cut that can be used to create ham.
What About Bacon?
Another popular option is bacon, which also typically comes from pigs.
Bacon comes from the fatty side of the pig, and so you will need to buy pork belly to create a delicious bacon dish.
Bacon is typically brined, smoked, and then air-dried. It is sometimes salted first for extra taste.
How To Cook Pork And Ham
There are a number of different ways that pork and ham can be cooked, and the most common include:
The key to curing pork is to ensure that the pork is dry enough to prevent spoilage.
Soaking the pork overnight in water will help remove moisture. Once soaked, place the pork in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove the pork from the fridge and rinse off the salt. Place the pork back in the refrigerator for 48 hours.
Rinse again, and repeat until no longer salty. Once the pork is ready, you’ll need to apply a curing solution to the meat.
There are many different types of cures available on the market today.
For instance, you could choose to use a liquid cure such as brine or a dry cure such as a powder mix.
You may also wish to add additional ingredients to the pork depending on what kind of product you’re trying to produce.
Some people like to add garlic, onion, black pepper, or other herbs and spices to their pork products.
You may also want to consider smoking your pork. Smoking adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the finished product.
The best way to smoke pork is to wrap the whole leg of pork in aluminum foil and then place it in a smoker.
Alternatively, you can simply rub the pork with a spice mixture before smoking.
Smoking pork is a great way to preserve food and, as an added bonus when this process is done correctly, the result is tender, flavorful, and juicy meat.
For those who do not own a smoker, there are several options available.
You can purchase a commercial smoker, or you can build one yourself.
Building a homemade smoker is relatively easy, but requires some planning ahead.
Which Is Better: Shank Or Butt Ham?
When choosing between shank and butt ham, both are excellent choices that are perfect for creating delicious meals.
However, if you prefer a leaner cut of meat, you might find that shank ham has less fat than butt ham.
Both cuts of ham are very versatile and can be served in many dishes.
They are often used to make sandwiches, and they can even be grilled.
Ultimately, the answer to the shank versus ham butt question is a personal one – it is worth trying an array of recipes with both types of meat to help you come to a decision, or simply accept that you enjoy both equally, and double the number of tasty dishes that you have at your disposal!