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Mar 10, 2009 04:50 PM

Which ham is better?

I'm making out my grocery list and a shank ham and a butt portion ham are on sale. The butt costs a little more. Which should I get? And what is the difference. If anyone knows..TIA

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  1. What are you going to use it for? I'll always choose shank for flavoring soups/stews/beans, but butt is meatier, so that might influence your choice.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      I just want to make a ham with a nice glaze. Would you recommend I get a butt?

      1. re: odatlynn

        It really doesn't matter. IMO, the shank has more cartridge so will give a slightly more tender roast.

    2. More meat on the butt, nice bone in the shank. Think about what all you're going to do with it and then decide. Oh, the shank is easier to carve, too.

      1. IMHO, the shank is the more economical of the two. Not just because it's usually lower in price, but it has so many uses. It's easier to carve than the butt and if you want more meat, just buy a bigger shank. That's what I usually do. And then there is all the things you can do with what's left...

        6 Replies
        1. re: CadienBelle

          I use the shank if I intend to carve,

          the butt if I intend to make something like pulled pork.

          1. re: todao

            It is interesting to find out so many feel the shank portion is preferered and is easier to carve. Is that for presentation purposes or for meat itself. Myself, I purchase the whole fresh ham or the picnic shoulder whenever available. The reduced overall price per pound and the fact pork is always reasonable makes the choice easy for me. I also prefer the rump portion's meat better for sandwiches and the shank portion for soups.

            1. re: BastedEggs

              My choice for shank if I'm going to carve isn't because it's easier to carve it's that the carved meat adjacent to the bone has, IMO, better flavor and I believe that the shank has better flavor over-all when baked. The butf often has more of the tendon/sinew running through it which I can more easily avoid when using it for pulled pork but find it difficult to work around if I'm carving. The butt also, IMO, seems to work better in a braise (that's how I prefer to do a pulled pork) than the shank does. But it could be my imagination. I still believe you should work with what you're most comfortable with in these kinds of preparations.

              1. re: todao

                So if you were going to make a hom for dinner, what kind of ham do you buy?

                1. re: odatlynn

                  If you get the shank, you can then make soup the next day out of the bone, so not only is it cheaper, you get more than one use.

                2. re: todao

                  Hams refer to the rear legs of the pig. The butt half of the ham is the upper part--the shank half is the lower part of the leg. Boston Butts are more accurately called pork shoulder roasts and come from the upper part of the front legs. The fresh picnics are the lower portion of the front legs. Pork shoulder roasts make great pulled pork. Hams do not!

          2. First, are we talking about a cured ham? And a rear leg as opposed to the front (picnic ham)? Butt, especially Boston Butt, refers to the shoulder.

            Usually if a cut of meat is priced lower, it is because there is less demand, and less desirable. A lower meat to bone and fat ratio is a typical reason for this.

            Those near ham steaks, with a single round bone in the middle are cut from the thigh, which would be either the lower half of the butt portion of a full ham, or the upper end of the shank. Carving around the pelvis bone in the butt portion may be more awkward, but so will the area around the knee.

            In the rear leg, the muscles are all large, so sinews aren't much of an issue. In the picnic ham, muscles are smaller, and there is a lot more connective tissue. In the uncured form, the front leg is usually braised or slow cooked, while the rear is usually roasted.

            4 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              I just want to know what is the kind of ham that will taste good on Easter. I don't care what part of the body it comes from, just what tastes good for dinner? What do people buy?

              1. re: odatlynn

                Lynn (?)

                From the responses, it seems subjective - both are good. They both will cook nearly the same (or are you buying precooked?). And both can be used for leftovers and soup. Go to the market, and see which looks better and is a better price. Good luck.

                1. re: odatlynn


                  (paulj) is asking if you are looking for a sugar/salt/smoked cured ham as opposed to a Fresh Ham, which is the not cured. Cured/Smoked Hams are are ones that go by the Brand Names:
                  * Hormel
                  * Cook's
                  * Carrando
                  * Hatfield
                  * Armour
                  * Honey Baked
                  * Spiral Cut

                  Fresh hams are something you select from the butcher or your supermarket and are pork cuts.

                  Whether you choose a cured or fresh ham, both are relatively cheap and if your supermarket has a store promotion, they are often free this time of year with a purchase total of $200-300 dollars, depending on store. If not free, they offer a value discount to purchase a better grade ham (Brand Name).

                  Hams are generally in the .99 -1.69 price range.....unless you are purchasing a Honey Baked Ham (or similar), the the ham should be $20 or less. A lot of taste for a little money.

                  My family buys the whole leg.....shank and butt.

                  1. re: odatlynn

                    Of the hams that are commonly available around Easter, it does not matter too much whether you buy a shank half or butt half. The butt half is going to have more meat, relative to bone, but with the typical price differential you are paying about the same per pound of meat (that's a guess). Most of the ham flavor comes from the curing, not nearness to the bone.

                    It's the difference between the upper half of your thigh, and lower half.

                2. I buy a whole cured ham if I have the whole family over for Easter, so there are plenty of leftovers, since I like to send some home with folks, and I adore all things made with ham, from scalloped potatoes to beans cooked with the bone. If it is a smaller group, I tend to buy the shank end of the ham, since it is a little easier to carve.