Serrano Ham vs Prosciutto

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At first glance, it might seem that Serrano ham (or Jamón Serrano) and Italian Prosciutto are the same thing. They’re not the same. They have similarities, but they also have significant differences. It takes a keen eye and culinary knowledge to be aware of Serrano Ham vs Prosciutto.  

Prosciutto vs. Serrano

Prosciutto ham and Serrano ham are two kinds of paper-thin sliced ham that both come from the same breed of pig. However, in comparing Serrano Ham vs Prosciutto, they have a different flavor. Prosciutto is a milder, sweeter flavor and Serrano has a more intense flavor. 

Prosciutto on wooden cutting board
Prosciutto on wooden cutting board

Cured Meats: The Difference Between Prosciutto, Jamón Ibérico and more

The following will help to describe the similarities and difference between the various kinds of cured hams.

Jamón Serrano vs. Italian Prosciutto Are They The Same?

We have established that there are differences between JamónSerrano and Italian Prosciutto. But to the common, untrained eye they can appear to be the same thing or very similar.

Serrano Ham and Prosciutto. Their Similarities

Let’s start by looking at their similarities. As far as their appearance is concerned, the slices appear to be similar. They are both similar in color being dark pink, they both have fat marbled throughout, and they are both generally sliced paper thin.

Beyond their appearance, both come from the same breed of pig which is a white pig.

Difference Between Prosciutto and Serrano Ham

If we look more closely, we will find that there are differences that can result in significances between the two.  Jamón Serrano is cured ham from Spain. Whereas, Prosciutto originates from Italy.

Other significant differences of Serrano ham vs Prosciutto include the diet of the animals. Serrano ham comes from pigs that have fed on Oak acorns and Prosciutto comes from pigs that have fed on fruit and whey.  During the curing process, humidity is maintained in the storage areas where Prosciutto is cured, but a dry environment is required for Serrano hams. As a result, Serrano hams come out quite tough and dry, but they are very expensive. And Prosciutto comes out quite moist and soft and is more affordable.

Below is a table that lays out the differences.

JamónProsciutto
Made in SpainMade in Italy
Pigs feed on oak acorns.The diet of animals includes corn and fruits, sometimes whey.
The highest quality product is slightly blackLight color
Meat is dried in closed containersA level of moisture is maintained
Quite tough and dryA more juicy and soft delicacy
Raw meat is not heat treatedIn some cases, ham is boiled before salting
The aging period reaches 48 monthsThe aging period is 10-14 months
More expensiveMore affordable

What is Italian Prosciutto?

Italian Prosciutto originates from the word meaning to dry well. Prosciutto is produced by processing the hind legs of white pig that has reached a minimum weight of 352 pounds. It is cured by using a generous amount of salt. The ham is then hung to dry for 9 months to 2 years, until it is fully cured.

Prosciutto on wooden cutting board
Prosciutto on wooden cutting board


Texture and Shape

Prosciutto is sweeter and moister than Serrano. Prosciutto is pink in color and is usually fully or partially boned before it’s cured. On the other hand, Serrano ham is completely boned at the time the piece is ready to be eaten.

Feeding and Curing

The amount of time for curing for both Serrano ham and Prosciutto is similar. The main difference in the curing process is the type of salt that is used as well as the drying conditions. Prosciutto is cured in humid conditions which produces a moist meat.

Serrano is cured under dry conditions which produces a dry and somewhat chewy meat. 

Pigs that are processed for prosciutto consume feed and whey. But pigs that are raised for the purpose of Serreno are fed fodder and cereals. The combination of differences used in the feeding and curing creates a significant flavor difference between the two types.

Prosciutto and Iberian Ham

Iberian ham comes from breed raised solely on the Iberian Peninsula. This breed is known for the Infiltration of fat into the muscle, which helps to distinguish the type of meat after it’s processed. The Iberian pig is also distinguished by its diet. Prosciutto pig can only be distinguished by origin. Both kinds of meat are typically eaten raw and usually alone or with bread or cheese of some sort.

What Is The Difference Between Prosciutto, Jamón Ibérico and Jamón Serrano?

A good culinary guru is able to distinguish the differences between the three kinds of meat. To the common man, and based on appearance only, they could be mistaken for one another.

Prosciutto, a Fancy Ham

Prosciutto is considered a dry cured Italian ham made from hind legs of pigs. As a part of the curing of prosciutto, the meat is covered with salt for 3 weeks until the moisture is removed. The salt is then washed off, hung in dark, cool room until dried. Tastes sweet.

Lawfully Prosciutto

There are some kinds of meat that are protected, such as Prosciutto di Parma. It has a protected designation of origin mark. This means that any meat that is to be labeled with the Prosciutto di Parma name needs to come from a designated specific geographic region and certain quality standards have to be followed. The regulations specify that the animal’s diet has to include whey from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese production.

Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico

The names of these two kinds of meat are sometimes used interchangeably in U.S.  But Serrano and Prosciutto meats have more alike than Ibérico. Serrano can be a saltier flavor that is deeper red color.

Same, Same but Very Different

Likewise, tasting a good slice of Ibérico should be enough to help one solidify the difference. Ibérico meats have a defined richer flavor, are precisely more fragrant, and are the most expensive of the three meats.

serrano ham on melon
Food. Tapas on the table

What’s on Your Ham Menu?

All three hams behave in such a way that they make a really good addition to a charcuterie board. But if you’re having a hard time deciding which one to use, you might like to know that prosciutto goes well with Italian foods. Or if you’re planning a night of tapas, that would call for Jamón.

Prosciutto is Not Serrano Ham

Serrano ham is very popular in Spain. In fact, it is estimated that if you were to open the refrigerators of Spainards, you would find Serrano ham in about 85% of refrigerators. Serrano ham is more cured, saltier and has a more intense flavor and scent. It is the preferred ham of natives.

But What is The Difference Between Jamón and Prosciutto?

Some products appear to be identical to the eye, but a gourmet cook knows better. Here’s a closer comparison:

First Difference: Appearance

Prosciutto has a round shape. The cut is the pig’s leg which weighs about 15 to 22 pounds without the hoof. The rind is thick, slices appear moist, and there is a small portion of white fat in center.

Jamón is smaller and weighs about 12 to 15 pounds, has a coral red color. This meat includes an Infiltration of fat and is rectangular in shape. The leg is elongated and has a thinner ankle compared to Jamón Serrano.

Second Difference: Production Area

Italian Prosciutto is produced in Parma province. But most of the production is concentrated around the village of Langhirano where the economy bustles and thrives around cured pork meat. The pigs come from surrounding Italian farms.

Spanish ham comes from regions of Extremadura, Salamanca, Andalusia, and Guijuelo.

Ageing Process

Prosciutto di Parma is aged for at least 12 months. The ageing process of Ibérico ham ranges from 24 to 36 months.

Pig Breeds

Italian raw ham is made from only 100% Italian natural meat. Large White pigs that are at least 9 months old and weigh at least 350 pounds are used. Pigs used for Prosciutto di Parma are raised on corn, barley and whey.

Iberico ham is made from black Iberian pigs, they free roam while eating oak acorns, grass and wild herbs.This contributes to the flavor of the meat.


Trademark

Prosciutto di Parma uses the Ducal Crown for its trademark and Ibérico uses a black seal.

Spanish dried pork also known as Jamon Serrano
Spanish dried pork also known as Jamon Serrano

Cut

Both types of meat are cut in extremely fine slices. If hand sliced, the process requires very experienced carver because the technique is quite difficult.

Ingredients

Nothing but salt is used for Prosciutto di Parma meat. That means no smoking, freezing, or chemicals.

Contrary to the processing the Parma meat, preservatives can be used in Ibérico ham.

On-Palate Sensations

Even though the hams can appear to be very similar, even the same in some cases, the flavors are different because of the processing and the diet the pig has had.

Ibérico Ham vs Prosciutto. What’s The Difference?

Iberian ham:

Iberian ham goes by three different names, Jamon Ibérico, Ibérico ham, or Serrano ham. It is produced in Spain and is made from Iberian pork. Iberian Ham is a better quality and flavor because pigs live wild and free. This results in the meat being less fatty. For Iberian ham, meat is taken from the hind leg or thigh.

Italian Prosciutto:

Italian Prosciutto is dry cured, thinly sliced, and is served uncooked. It comes from hind leg or thigh of a pig or wild boar.

The Difference Between Ibérico Ham vs Prosciutto:

How the ham is cured is one of the main differences between the two. Prosciutto is cured longer and in open air. Spanish ham consists of a more intense flavor.

Prosciutto & Jamón Ibérico Recipes

Once you understand the differences between the kinds of meat and that they are intended to be eaten raw because of the way they were processed, it is fun to think about recipes that use them. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Carving serrano ham
Carving serrano ham

Prosciutto With Mozzarella:

To make prosciutto with mozzarella, place mozzarella balls on prosciutto slices and drizzle them with basil sauce if desired. This is an easy no cook recipe that just requires assembly.

Asparagus Wrapped In Crispy Prosciutto:

Cook asparagus spears by oven roasting them. Remove them from the oven and wrap them in prosciutto, dip in any cheese sauce, and return them to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Your Guide to Cured Hams: Understanding the Delicious Differences Between Prosciutto, Speck, Jambón, and Jamón

Italian Prosciutto and Speck

Prosciutto is uncooked but ready to eat because it’s been cured. Prosciutto is dry cured ham from pig’s hind leg. To look at it, it appears moist.

Speck Alto Adige ham uses air-drying and smoking as a part of its curing process. It is milder than a Black Forest Ham for example, but is stronger and spicier than Prosciutto. Speck is salt cured, and uses several seasonings including, pepper, bay leaf, juniper berries and rosemary. It is stored to age for at least 22 weeks.

French Jambón de Bayonne

French Jambón de Bayonne is another type of cured ham. It is most well-known ham by the French and is most consumed by them too. It is made from pigs raised in southwest France, who have eaten a corn-based diet. Dry cured with salt, makes a ham that tastes delicate, little salty, and melting.

Spanish Jamóns

Jamón Serrano is a cured country ham that includes about 90% of Spanish ham production. It is made from white pig that feeds on cereal grains. The flavor is of the essence of being nutty, woody, intense, and salty. When including it on your menu, it can be used with other ingredients and in dishes.

Jamón Ibérico is known to be eaten plain. It is an exquisite luxury ham.  This ham is processed from black skinned Iberian pigs who feast on a diet of chestnuts, acorns, herbs, roots and grasses. Their diet lends to the meat’s flavor of being rich, buttery, sweet and nutty. It is waxy in appearance and often leaves a film on the roof of your mouth when eaten because it is so rich.

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota is eaten plain and is considered to be a luxury. It is processed from free roaming Iberian pigs which eat oak acorns. The meat has a distinct marbling, complex flavor, and has been aged for at least 36 months.

4 Cured Hams from Spain and Italy You Should Know

What Is Cured Ham?

The longer the aging process, the greater the flavor complexity.

Cured Hams From Italy:

Prosciutto di Parma and Speck is from pigs raised only in central and northern Italy. These animals are fed whey of Parmigiano-Reggiano and are cured with salt for 12 months. Their texture is dry, and flavor is smooth, nutty and funky.

Speck hams comes from Alto Adige Italy. This ham is processed using salt for curing. These animals eat Juniper berries and bay leaves. The ham is lightly smoked and is cured for about 22 weeks. The texture is dry and the ham has a sweet, smoky, herbal flavor.

Cured Hams From Spain: Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico
Jamon Serrano is a mountain country ham,  made from grain fed pigs raised in Spain’s mountains. Hams are salt cured for 18-24 months. The texture is tender and flavors are funky, nutty, gamey

Jamon Iberico is made from black skinned pigs from Iberia. They are salt cured for at least 3 years. These pigs are free range pigs. They eat acorns which gives hams a savory, buttery, sweet, and nutty flavor.

Differences Between Iberico/Serrano Ham and Prosciutto

Serrano/Iberico Ham vs Prosciutto Taste

Let’s take a few moments to focus specifically on the flavors of serrano ham vs prosciutto.

Serrano is rich, buttery and slightly spicy.
Ibérico tastes rich and nutty.
Prosciutto has a slightly spicy and sweet flavor.

Serrano/ Ibérico Ham vs Prosciutto Price

The prices of Serrano ham vs prosciutto vary in price compared to one another. They are both considered high in price for meat, but Ibérico can be found to be three times the price of Serrano ham. According to Walmart, Ibérico ham is about $80-150/lb, and Serrano is priced at $20-30/lb.

Jamón Varieties

There are three grades of Jamón varieties. Curado, reserve and bodega refer to the length of time the meat has been dried. The specifics are as follows:

Curado dried for 7 months
Reserva dried for 9 months
Bodega dried for 12 months

Typically the longer amount of dry time results in a more desirable piece of meat and the value of the meat also increases.

Prosciutto Varieties

There are two main grades of prosciutto. Crudo and Cotto help indicate how the ham is processed. They are as follows:

Crudo-large amounts of salt, dried in sun
Cotto-ham is boiled, ordinary ham

Serrano/Ibérico Ham vs Prosciutto Nutrition

Italian pigs are fed fruit, whey and corn. Iberian pigs eat acorns and fodder.

Serrano/Ibérico Ham vs Prosciutto Cooking Method

Jamón is abundantly covered with salt and dried for 48 months in a closed dry room. Prosciutto is dried and sprinkled with salt. But it requires humidity during drying.

The Differences Between Parma Prosciutto & Serrano Hams

Both kinds of meat are processed as dry cured, salted and hung to cure in the air. They are traditionally served in very thin slices.

The diets of the pigs differ. Parma pigs eat local chestnuts, and are fed the whey by-product of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Prosciutto, from Italy, is cured for about 10 to 12 months and includes a coating of lard.

Serrano, from Spain, can be cured for up to 18 months (and at the high end, for 24 months).

The differing times for curing and environments used during the curing process affect the final products.  Italian-made prosciutto is never made with nitrates. American made prosciutto, as well as both domestic and Spanish Serrano style hams, can have added nitrates.

Prosciutto is considered saltier and fattier. Serrano is considered more flavorful and less fatty.

Jamón Serrano vs Jamón Ibérico

Serrano Ham

Serrano ham is sometimes thought of being similar to American grocery store ham. But there is a significant difference. The difference is grocery store ham is boiled or baked as a part of its processing. But Serrano ham is cured and dried.

Ibérico Ham

Ibérico is the best quality of Serrano hams. It uses Iberian pig breeds who have been enjoying a diet of Oak acorns. Ibérico is one of the most exquisite hams which is also reflected in its price.

4 Options That Can Be Great Substitutes for Serrano Ham

Prosciutto

Prosciutto is also known as Parma Ham. Parma is air cured ham, served uncooked. It is similar in flavor to Serrano, is smooth, and lightly salted.

Speck

Speck can also be a substitute. It is also known as Speck Americano or Smoked Prosciutto. It comes from the hind legs, is cured in salt, rubbed with laurel, nutmet, garlic and juniper berries. Speck can be intermittently cold smoked over beechwood chips or juniper wood for many months which helps to give it its flavor. Use it in place of Serrano on top of pasta, in sandwiches, and in omelets.

Westphalian Ham

Westphalian Ham is also known as Schinken aus Westfalen, Westfalische Schinken, and Westfalischer Schinken. It comes from the hind leg of acorn fed pigs from Westphalia Germany. It is smoked over juniper and beechwood, has a bright pink color, smoky flavor, and is processed using 6 months drying. It can be substituted in place of Serrano because it’s salty and smoky aspects are similar to Serrano.

Smithfield Ham

Smithfield Ham is made in Smithfield Virginia. It is one of the oldest hams in the world. It has a smoked and salty flavor, and is dry cured. The big difference with Smithfield ham is that it needs to be cooked before eaten.

Essential Things You Need To Know About Spanish Ham

Jamón: Define ‘ham’!

Jamón in Spain refers to the salty and flavorful dry cured ham. It must be cured for at least 12 months and is loved by practically everyone in Spain. Making perfect Spanish ham is an art that’s taken very seriously.

The Importance of the Jamonera

Jamón is always cut fresh at the location where it is consumed. Jamonera is the holding device used for the chunk of meat while the barman passionately carves your share.

Let’s Talk Labels – Serrano or Ibérico?

So, by now you likely have a good grasp of the differences of serrano ham vs prosciutto. The difference is in the breed of pigs used to make the ham. Serrano uses the regular pink pig breed. Iberian ham is more luxurious and is made from the Black Iberian pig. Which one is your favorite?

Jamón Ibérico – What’s the Deal?

So why are Jamón Ibérico such a big deal? It mainly is because of their breed and that they have been fed acorns from various species of Oak trees as well as a regular diet with wheat and cereals. The more acorn-based diet, the more expensive.

Why Jamón Can Get Expensive

The three main factors that determine the price of the ham depends on the breed of the pig, what they have been fed, how it has been cured and the length of curing time. The longer curing time, the higher the price. And the more acorns for feed, the higher the price.

Let’s Cut It! Slicing Jamón

Cured hams can be sliced thin or thick, depending on your preference. So if you’d rather have a thick chunk of Serrano, just make your request to the carving guy.

Eating Jamón – The Right Times and Places

Jamón is typically eaten at night in tapas bars, which is served as a small amount of food with your drinks. It is often eaten with cheese, crackers, or olives.

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