Most animals harvested for their meat provide various types of cuts. Cows, for example, yield both ground beef as well as steak. Similarly, pigs offer a number of different types of meat. Two of the most common forms of meat harvested from a pig are pork and ham.
What is the difference between pork and ham? The short answer is that they come from different places of a pig’s body. Ham specifically comes from the upper hind leg of the animal. Pork, on the other hand, is actually a catch all term for any meat derived from a pig.
In this way, the relationship between pork and ham mirrors that between rectangles and squares. A square is a type of rectangle, but a more specific shape. Likewise, because ham has traits that separate it from the rest of a pig’s meat, it requires its own special category.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the differences between ham and pork, or the other meat cut from a pig.
Most pork products look pinkish in hue. Tenderloin and other lean cuts tend to look lighter versus fattier cuts, such as pork butt, show darker. However, none but cuts of ham look deep pink. When placed beside one another, ham makes other pork look nearly grey by comparison. This is because of the curing process, which also glazes the outside of the cut, turning it orange-red. Despite looking similar to its raw state, the pinker ham cuts contain sodium nitrate that retains the color.
The curing process separates ham from pork with regard to flavor, as well. Pork offers a lighter flavor than ham, which means it pairs well with various rubs or sauces. Ham contains a strong flavor all its own. Ham is salty, with smoky notes, as well. While ham tastes great smothered with gravy, you wouldn’t cook ham in a crockpot after purchase.
Ham comes fully cooked, whereas pork usually requires cooking.
Different uses of ham and pork
Since pork serves as the umbrella term for pig meat, pork naturally has greater versatility. Pork may be grilled, roasted, baked, smoked, and slow cooked in a crockpot. Pork features prominently in many barbeque recipes. For example, pork butt slow cooked at a low temperature in the oven for up to 20 hours results in deliciously soft, delicate meat that falls off the bone. This pulled pork makes for great sandwiches.
Pork also makes a great stir fry, when combining tenderloin with cut up vegetables in a soy sauce. Pork fried rice, pork roast, and pork tenderloin on its own demonstrate the wide variety of pork applications.
Ham, on the other hand, already has such a specific flavor it doesn’t feature the same extensive library of recipes. That said, plenty can be done with the cured pork. Diced ham tastes great in all sorts of dishes, from pasta to salad. Ham also serves as one of the most popular alternative to pepperoni on pizzas. Casseroles, pot pies, baked pastas, and sandwiches make excellent use of ham.
Christmas marks a favorite occasion for ham, often forming the dinner table’s centerpiece. Slices of the salty meat pair well with sides of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and green beans.
Between the two, other pork meats are healthier options when compared to ham. This is because the curing process packs ham with loads of sodium. High sodium foods eventually wreak havoc with the cardiovascular system. For this reason, pork edges out in front of ham.
That said, all pork products contain healthy nutrients. In addition to protein, ham and pork both contain valuable amino acids, as well as a lot of iron. Additionally, pork is a good source of B vitamins. Still, all red meat puts miles on the body. Many health problems result from the sustained consumption of beef and pork products. They’re known to increase the risk of diabetes, various cancers, and heart disease.
Well, that depends on personal taste. Considering the health impact differs little between the two, ham and other pork products offer various applications for different occasions. Whether you want to throw a few slices of ham between bread for a quick and easy lunch or feed your extended family a pork tenderloin slow cooked in a crock pot, pork serves your needs.