Difference Between Ham and Pork


A popular question in the cooking world is, “What is the difference between ham and pork?” In this post we will describe the differences between the two in detail, tell you why it matters, and help you know when to use each one. And if you still have questions, please post a comment and we will be happy to answer it.

difference between ham and pork
Difference between ham and pork

What’s the Difference Between Ham and Pork?

What exactly is the difference between ham and pork? Both ham and pork are two kinds of meat cut from the same animal, that being a pig. Even though they’re cut from the same animal, they have different looks in appearance, different tastes, different textures and require different cooking methods.

In short, all ham is pork, but not all pork is ham.

sliced ham
Sliced ham


Ham is a specific cut of pork taken from the pig’s thighs, or its upper leg. Usually, ham is cured and salted when it is processed, and before it is sold.

Ham usually comes completely ready to eat, whether you’re buying lunch meat, a deli slice, a huge ham for a meal, or a spiral sliced ham for the holidays. They’re all completely prepared and ready to be eaten. We just warm them through before serving them as in the case of a large spiral sliced honey ham that we would serve to our guests during the holidays.

The curing and salting process is what makes the difference in ham as opposed to pork.

Cut of pork
Cut of pork


Pork, on the other hand, is raw meat which in essence includes any cut of meat from a pig that’s ready to be cooked. This can be any part of a domesticated pig.

Pork can be cooked as is with seasonings, soup mixtures, barbecue sauce added to the cuts. It can also be used to make other things like sausage, bacon, or pulled pork.

Pork is versatile and can be used for a variety of purposes and recipes.

What Can I Cook With Ham?

There are many dishes that can include ham. You can add ham to a variety of breakfast dishes such as eggs, casseroles, burritos, and sandwiches. Ham can be added to soups and salads for lunch. And it can also be served as the main event for dinners.

The beautiful thing about ham is that you can add it straight into whatever dish you’re using it in. You don’t have to pre-cook it because that’s already been done before you purchased it.

What Can I Make From Pork?

You can make just about anything from pork. Depending on the cut of meat you intend to use, you can make roasted pork, baked pork, grilled pork, use pork as an element in a recipe or casserole, or even make pork the main event. Below are a few ideas of different cuts of pork and how they can be served.  

Pork can be used as a substitute for beef or chicken in many recipes.

Barbecue Pork
Pulled Pork
Pork Cutlets
Pork Stew
Roasted Pork Chops
Pork Roast
Pork Tacos
Various Soups
Pork Stir-fry
Pork Steak
Pork and Noodles
Pork Burgers
Pork Shoulder
Barbecue Pork Baby Back Ribs
Pork Kabobs
Pork Loin
Braised Pork Belly
Pork Sandwiches
Pork Salads

Ham vs Pork: What’s The Difference And Why Does It Matter?

The reason the difference between ham and pork matters is because once we understand the differences in how it is prepared, then we will understand the difference of how it each one can be used and how they can be stored.

Breaking Down The Differences

In the following section we will break down the differences of pork vs ham. We will describe their differences in color, flavor, preparation and consumption, and shelf life.

Color: Ham vs Pork

Pork is pale pink or white when raw. On the other hand, remember ham has already been cooked when it’s ready for purchase and has hints of orange and red in color.

Flavor: Ham vs Pork

Pork is very mild in flavor when cooked. It often requires seasonings or sauces to give it the desired flavor in various dishes. Ham is smoky and salty in taste, because of the way it has been processed, cooked and cured. 

Preparation and Consumption: Ham vs Pork

Pork needs to be cooked before it is eaten. It has flexibility in preparation and be prepared baked, fried, grilled, roasted, and more. Remember, cured ham is sold ready to eat. It can be used as the main dish or cut up and used as an element within various dishes.

Shelf Life: Ham vs Pork

Another difference between ham and pork is shelf life. Ham has a longer shelf life because it’s cured and salted.

Country ham can be refrigerated for up to a week. Dried cured pork meats, like prosciutto, can be left at room temperature for up to two to three months.  Ham can be frozen but should be consumed in about a month for best results.

Raw pork needs to be cooked the same day it is purchased, or placed in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days. The other option would be to freeze raw pork right away. Raw pork can be frozen for up to 12 months.

Proscuitto on a cutting board
Proscuitto on a cutting board

Difference Between Ham and Prosciutto

Prosciutto has become an increasingly popular style of meat. While country ham is similar to prosciutto, there are a few key differences which provide each their own unique flavor.

Prosciutto is cured with salt and sugar, is lightly smoked, and has aged about 14 to 18 months. Prosciutto can be nitrate and antibiotic free and is a lighter, sweet and salty dry cured ham. It is extremely thin sliced.

Ham is usually salt cured, has a smoky flavor and has aged about 9 months, and has a rich robust flavor.

Recipe Ideas For Ham

Ham can be used as the main dish, or can be used as an ingredient or element within a dish. Here are some ideas:

Honey Glazed Ham
Baked Ham
Ham and Bean Soup
Ham and Cheese Quiche
Ham, Eggs and Cheese Casserole
Ham Salad
Hawaiian Ham and Cheese Sliders
Split Pea Soup With Ham
Ham and Broccoli Pasta Bake
Deli Style Ham Sandwiches
Ham, Cheese and Sausage Burrito
Chef Salad with Ham
…and much more

Recipe Ideas For Pork

Pork can be used as a main dish or it can also be used as an ingredient within another dish. Pork typically is in a raw form when purchased and needs to be thoroughly cooked. Here are some recipe ideas:

Pork Roast
Honey Pork Chops
Barbecue Baby Back Pork Ribs
Pulled Pork
Pork Sausage
Sweet and Sour Pork
Pork Loin Roast
Pork Stir-Fry
Ground Pork Burgers
Pork Tenderloin Fajitas
Creamy Pork and Noodles
Pork Cutlets
…and much more

Main Difference Ham vs. Pork

The main difference of ham vs. pork is that ham has already been processed and in most cases is ready to eat. Pork is a cut of domesticated pig meat and is still in its raw form.

Definition: What is Ham?

Ham is the near rear leg thigh, rump to shank, of a hog. It is preserved by smoking, dry-curing or wet-curing raw pork. Ham curing can take 8 months to 2 years. A non-cured ham is a fresh ham.

Ham includes whole parts of meat with bone in them as well as pieces of meat that have been mechanically formed and processed.

Definition: What is Pork?

Pork is the culinary name for any cut of raw meat from a domestic pig. It is the most common meat that is eaten around the world. Pork is eaten both freshly cooked and preserved.

If pork is cured, it extends the shelf life of the meat. Bacon, sausage, ham, smoked pork are all examples of cured pork.

Processing Methods

Ham includes curing, smoking or drying. 
Pork is meat in its raw form and does not undergo processing. 

Use of Food Additives

Some meats use additives in the processing. Ham uses sodium nitrate as a part of its curing and processing. Pork, on the other hand, does not have additives and is just straight cut raw meat.


Ham is typically used as a sliced application. Pork is often used in domestic cooking as a curry and is used in sausages, salami, ham and bacon.

Summary Table & Comparison Chart: Difference Between Ham and Pork

Below is a summary table and comparison chart that shows the difference between ham and pork. While all ham is pork, not all pork is ham. Here are the differences at a glance:

Cut of MeatPig’s hind legAny portion of animal
FlavorSalty, smoky, sweetMild flavor
ColorDark, bold colors, sometimes appears pink, orange or redVery light pink
PreparationReady to eat, no additional cooking neededNeeds to be thoroughly cooked before eaten

Does Ham Taste Like Pork?

If your definition of ham tasting like pork is the familiarity and flavor of ham more than pork, then yeah, ham tastes like pork. But in our humble opinion, they taste like two different things. Ham is definitively and naturally salty and smoky in flavor. Whereas pork has a very mild meat flavor until it has been seasoned or sauced.

When Should You Use Ham?

A main difference between ham and pork is that you should use ham when needing a meat that has already been cooked. For example, use ham in dishes such as sandwiches, pasta, omelets and soup. Ham can also be used as the main dish, but is traditionally warmed through first, on this occasion.

Can You Substitute Ham for Pork in Recipes?

Yes, you can substitute ham for pork in recipes using a 1:1 ratio. One difference between ham and pork, however, is that you can’t always substitute pork for ham in recipes. Sometimes the pork will lend too mild of a flavor or will require to be cooked first.

Can You Make Ham From Pork?

Yes, you can make ham from pork if you have the time, equipment and ability. There are many articles that describe how to make ham from pork.

Is Smoked Pork Shoulder The Same as Ham?

No, pork shoulder is not the same as ham. Pork shoulder is a different cut of the hog. It is a shoulder, rather than the hind leg such as is used in a ham.

The Difference Between Cured Pork Shoulder & Ham

There are many differing opinions about the flavors of pork shoulder and ham. Some feel that ham is tastier due to the flavor’s contrast. But we conclude that the real judge of the better tasting meat is the person tasting it.

Ham is made from the back legs, using the upper thigh of the pork.

Pork shoulder is made from the front legs.

Ham is typically a bigger cut of meat just because of where it sits on the animal’s body. And the pork should is typically smaller. Ham is wider and pork shoulder typically is flatter. Because of this, ham usually is more expensive than pork shoulder because ham is usually preferred.

sliced bacon
Sliced bacon

The Difference Between Ham and Bacon

There are many differences between ham and bacon, beginning right with the cut. Ham is cut from the upper thighs of the back legs, whereas bacon is cut from the back, loin, collar or belly.

Ham is sold already processed and is ready to be eaten, but bacon is sold raw and must be cooked before it is consumed. Ham can be eaten cold, straight from the package, but bacon is eaten hot after it has been cooked.

Can You Reuse Bacon Grease?

Yes, bacon grease can be reused after it is saved from a pan where bacon has been cooked. Just save it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Bacon grease can be used in place of cooking oil on the stovetop or in the baked dishes as well. Bacon grease adds a rich flavor.

Can You Eat Bacon or Ham Raw?

The difference between bacon and ham is that you can eat ham raw, but bacon needs to be cooked before it is eaten. Bacon is purchased in a raw form and can make a person ill if it is not cooked before it is consumed.

The Different Types of Ham and How To Prepare Them

There are so many kinds of ham that are available today. They range from city ham, to country ham, shank end, butt end, boneless ham, bone in ham, ham hocks, Canadian bacon, as well as special varieties of ham.

Types of Hams and How They Are Cooked

Following are some different kinds of hams and how they are cooked:

City Ham vs. Country Ham

City hams are wet cured hams. They’re mostly found at grocery stores. City hams are smoked and can be eaten without further cooking or preparation.

Country hams are dry cured hams and sometimes are smoked. Country hams can be eaten just as they are since they’re preserved. They can also be cooked but need to soak for up to 24 hours first.

Shank End vs. Butt End

The butt end is exactly what it sounds like. It is the half of the ham that comes from the cut that is closer to the tail of the pig. Butt end ham is usually leaner than shank end, but it isn’t as flavorful as the shank end.

The shank end of the ham is the half that come from the end that is closer to the hooves of the pig.

Boneless Ham vs. Bone in Ham

Ready to eat hams are available in both boneless hams and bone in hams. The quality, flavor, and everything about a bone in ham is superior to a boneless ham in every way but one, the ease of slicing it. Having the bone in the ham adds flavor, presentation, and moisture. Additionally, a ham bone is a particularly desirable item. It can be used for so many things.

roasted pork knuckle meat, also known as ham hocks
roasted pork knuckle meat, also known as ham/pork hocks

Ham Hocks

Ham hocks are sometimes referred to as the pork knuckle. It is the joint between the foot and the leg, where the two were attached. It would be comparable to a human ankle. Ham hocks are typical cured with salt and smoked. They can be used as savory flavoring for soups, vegetables and other slow cooking dishes.

Canadian Bacon

You might be interested to know that Canadian bacon doesn’t actually come from Canada. In fact, it is only called this in the US. Canadian bacon is cut from the loin of the pig. It usually comes in round slices that are already cured and have been fully cooked.

Specialty Varieties of Ham

There are many specialty varieties of ham. Specialty varieties typically include special flavors or a variation in how the ham was prepared. Black forest ham is an example of a specialty ham.

What’s The Difference Between Gammon and Ham?

Gammon and ham are both meat from the pork coming from hind legs, but the difference is in how the meat has been cured and treated. Gammon is sold raw and it needs to be fully cooked before it is eaten. Ham is sold cured and is all ready to eat. It can be used right away in salads and sandwiches.

Pork Hocks vs Ham Hocks: What’s The Difference?

Pork hocks and ham hocks are both hocks. So what’s the difference? Or is there a difference? Yes.

Pork Hock

A pork hock can be taken from either the front leg or the back leg. That differentiates it from the ham hock. It is that knuckle joint where the pig’s foot attached to the leg. Pork hock is rich in fats and can be the hardest part of the pork meat. It is a combination of fiber, tissues and ligaments. It can be served smoked or unsmoked.

Ham Hock

Ham hocks are the cut that adjoined the pig’s back foot to its back leg. It includes a little meat and is usually salt cured and is smoked. It typically comes ready to be eaten. It’s used as a flavoring for soups and vegetables.

Do Smoked Ham Hocks Need To Be Refrigerated?

It is best to refrigerate any kind of meat, including smoked ham hocks. A smoked ham hock will have a low moisture content and a long shelf life. A smoked, refrigerated ham hock should last for weeks, or even months.

Do You Leave Skin on Ham Hocks?

How you plan to use the ham hock will determine whether the skin should be left on. If you are not making soup, but are simply planning to roast it in the oven, you should definitely leave the skin on. Leaving the skin on allows the hock to create and release more flavor.

Can You Substitute Bacon for Ham Hocks?

Because one of the most enticing aspects of ham hocks is its smoky flavor, smoked bacon works very well as a substitute. Another reason is that because ham hocks are a fatty cut of pork, it makes logical sense that a fatty cut like bacon would be a good substitute.

How to Smoke a Fresh Ham – Recipe, Tips and Complete Guide

If you someone who likes to try new things, or maybe you just really like ham, the following includes instructions on how to smoke a fresh ham.

Things You’ll Need To Smoke A Fresh Ham


fresh ham

charcoal or wood chips

dry rub

yellow mustard

pineapple juice

brown sugar

aluminum foil


basting brush

Preheat Your Smoker

It is quite a process to smoke a fresh ham. So, the first step is to preheat your smoker and bring it up to your desired temperature while other preparations are being made. When smoking a ham, you’ll want to maintain a temperature of 225F degrees.

Prep The Ham

While your smoker heats up, it’s time to prepare the ham. Make long slits into the ham with a knife. This will allow the seasonings to go into the ham. Be careful not to cut into the meat. Apply a generous amount of seasonings and spices.

Fresh Ham On the Smoker

Put the ham on the smoker after it’s been seasoned and the smoker has reached 225 degrees.
The rule of thumb for cooking a ham is 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Every 2 hours mix some pineapple juice with brown sugar and glaze the outside of the ham.

Rest, Then Prepare The Feast

The last and important part of smoking a fresh ham is to let it rest. Remove the ham from the smoker and wrap it in aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 30 minutes before slicing it. Enjoy!

Difference between ham and pork pinterest pin
Save to Pinterest!

For more posts like this one, follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

You might also like:
Red Skin Potato Fries Recipe
Copycat Edwards Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe
The Best Oatnut Bread Recipe
Amazing Harvest Chicken Casserole Recipe
How To Cook Bacon on The Grill
How To Cut A Head of Lettuce For Salad
Ultimate Arby’s Mint Chocolate Swirl Shake Recipe
Amazing Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Rachel Ray
Copycat Cheesecake Factory Four Cheese Pasta Recipe
Turkish Potato Recipe: Stuffed Jacket Potato
Outback Broccoli and Cheese Copycat Recipe

Photo of author
Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating