Guide to cutting ham with a knife

Ham on the bone is a traditional Spanish delicacy.


If you are NOT going to eat the ham quickly (in 3 or 4 days maximum), it is recommended that you do not remove all the fat.

  • Only remove the fat from the area that will be eaten. To avoid accidents, it is recommended that you cut the piece only when it is securely fastened to the ham holder.
  • When cutting, the hand not holding the knife should hold the tongs to catch the slice. It is important that this hand remains out of the cutting path.
  • The cut must always be made from the hoof to the end, from top to bottom.
  • To best enjoy the ham’s flavour and aroma, it must be cut into as thin strips as possible, with a minimum amount of fat. Arrange the slices on a plate, making sure they don’t overlap.

Using the Committee cutting method, one leg of ham will give: 18 plates of maza (fatty meat) and 47 plates of contramaza (lean meat), of 80 grams each.

Tools you will need

  • Ham holder
  • Ham knife: 22-30cm
  • Paring knife: 14-22cm
  • Boning knife: 13-16cm
  • Sharpening steel
  • Gloves and tongs

How to cut a Spanish Serrano Ham?

  • Once the ham is placed in the ham holder, a deep cut of about 2cm is made with a broad-bladed knife cut around the leg, below the hock.
  • Next, remove the rind and fat that covers the leg, but always maintain a minimum layer of fat. This must be repeated as we progress with the cut.
  • It is important to remove the lean portion that covers the hip bone, proceeding as follows: three incisions are made, forming a triangle, that allow the extraction of the portion of lean meat, exposing the bone.
  • Cutting the piece starts with the «contramaza», using the point of the V-shaped cut we made as a reference.
  • The cut is made always from hoof to tip (top-down), keeping the hand on the opposite side to the cutting direction.
  • As you cut more from the leg, use the boning knife to «mark» the contour of the coccyx to separate the bone from the meat.
  • Final presentation of the product.

What should I know?

Small white dots (tyrosine)

Small «chalky» granules that appear between the muscle fibres during the curing process. They vary in shape, size and location. Their appearance is thought to be due to intrinsic differences in the raw material, the influence of certain stages of production and even environmental conditions. It is a biological component (amino acid) also found in other foods subjected to similar curing, conserving or aging processes (such as cheeses). They are not dangerous to consume do not affect the product. The final quality of the Serrano ham does not depend in any way on the presence or absence of this substance.

White covering
This appears on the cut surface of the ham. It is mainly composed of tyrosine. Its appearance does not indicate that the product is expired, contaminated or deteriorated. Simply remove the affected area by cutting the surface.

Darkening of the cut surface
This happens when a cut surface is exposed to the air for a certain amount of time, causing oxidation. This can also happen with fat, which turns it a yellowish colour. To avoid this, protect the product with clingfilm and keep it at a refrigeration temperature with a certain level of humidity.

A chromatic phenomenon (colour contrast) on the cut surface of the ham and certain muscular areas. It can be seen as a function of incidence of the light on the surface. It does not show any nutritional or sensory change in the ham.

Salty liquid
This appears on the cut surface. It is inorganic salt which precipitates on the surface due to external conditions of low humidity. It is not a problem, just eliminate it by cutting off the top layer.

Video: Guide to cutting with a knife