Iberic ham is one of the most exquisite delicacies in the world. The Spanish cured meat offers endless layers of flavor and the silkiest texture. Still, there are several other similar products in the market, and they’re fantastic as well. We’re talking about the Serrano Ham, also from Spain, and the Italian Prosciutto. The question is, what’s the difference between them?
Here’s all you need to know about Iberic Ham, Serrano and Prosciutto. The best part? You don’t even have to choose; they’re all easy to love!
What is Serrano Ham?
Serrano is pork ham that’s cured, dried and aged in many regions of Spain, particularly in the highlands or ‘sierras.’ To make Serrano ham, producers use the legs of a wide variety of pigs, including Duroc, Large White and the Landrace — let’s just say these are regular pigs, just like the ones you find everywhere around the world.
The pigs eat a varied diet that usually contains grains and legumes — nothing special to see here. What’s special is the curing process. The front and hind legs are salt-cured and hung to dry for between 6 and 18 months, and the result is quite lovely.
What is Iberic Ham?
Iberico Ham is the king of Spanish hams, and although it does look a bit like regular Serrano, this one is entirely different. It all starts in the fields where producers keep an exclusive breed of pigs — the Iberico pig. This native species accumulates a large amount of body fat, which gives ham flavor.
And there’s more. Producers can feed the pigs traditionally, but they are also allowed to feed them on acorns out in the open. It comes without saying there are many types of Iberico ham, and the difference between them is the race of the pig and what they eat.
Iberico ham is also aged for more extended periods compared to Serrano, so the ham is much more complex.
What is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is the Italian’s take on air-cured ham, and they’re good at it. We won’t lie. Formally called Prosciutto di Parma, you might not be surprised this ham is produced in the Parma province in Central Italy.
As for the pigs, Prosciutto is made with Large White and Landrace pigs, just like Serrano, and is usually fed with a mixture of grains. Prosciutto producers age their ham for at least 12 months, just like the finest Serrano, but still not as much as the Spanish Iberico.
By the way, prosciutto legs are often larger than Iberico’s because the Spanish pigs are a tad smaller.
The Bottom Line?
Serrano is a wonderful ham, and it’s inexpensive compared to Iberico and Prosciutto. This one is perfect for cooking, and you can enjoy it on any given weeknight.
Prosciutto is more sophisticated than Serrano; its flavor is sweeter and more complex. This is, without a doubt, amongst the finest hams in the world. And although you’ll find immense pleasure in a plate of figs and Prosciutto, it’s still not as rewarding as Iberico.
Iberico ham is on another level but varies widely. The best is made with 100% Iberico hams that feed on acorns, but even the most inexpensive type of Iberico ham is a beauty. Which is your favorite ham? We’d love to know!