Best Cut of Pork for Curing a Ham: You Might Be Surprised

Want to try out the curing process for yourself?

Curing a ham is the best way to get started!

You might have a few questions such as the cure time and if you use liquid smoke.

We will cover everything but first things first…

What cut of pork do you pick to cure?

Let’s find out!

curing-ham

So, What Is The Best Cut Of Pork For Curing A Ham?

There are a few different cuts of pork that you can use for curing ham.

The traditional cut of pork used for ham is the hind leg.

This cut can be up to 24% of the animal’s weight and consists of the leg and back of the pig.

The hind leg cut contains varying muscles and pieces of meat that are great for curing.

The leg bone and shank are included and optional to keep in when curing.

The specific part of the hind muscle best for curing is the leg tip cut.

Further on we will discuss why and how to cure this delicious leg of pork.

What About The Other Cuts Of Pork?

You might be thinking if other cuts can be cured into ham.

As they can be more accessible or cheaper for your budget.

A good alternative to the leg tip would be the pork butt.

The butt comes from the pork shoulder and is usually sold lean without the bone.

Note: You can ask your butcher for a bone in pork shoulder or ‘butt’.

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Why Is A Pork Leg Best For Curing Into Ham?

Let me state that theoretically any cut of meat can be cured with the right technique.

But my mum taught me always to be the best!

Before we touch on our curing solutions, why do we want to cure meat from the leg?

– Even fat to lean meat ratio

– A large surface area and density.

– Natural flavor in the meat proteins.

– Option to have bone-in or bone-out.

A leg tip has a concentrated pork flavor profile and is prized for curing meats.

From the standard lunch meat ham to gourmet Spanish Serrano!

The animal works the muscles so it is very lean with a little intermuscular fat.

This lean meat-to-fat ratio ensures the cure is evenly disproportioned.

This means there are fewer chewy or hard fatty bits from connective tissue.

The concentrated taste is another reason we want to cure a leg tip.

The meat contains a naturally rich flavor that pairs well with your choice of seasonings.

Guaranteed to wow dinner guests with a delicious cured and cooked product!

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What Does Curing Do To The Pork Meat?

– Curing helps to preserve the meat by stopping bacterial growth.

– Curing makes the meat more tender and juicy.

– Curing enhances the flavor of the meat.

– Curing extracts and developing natural juices.

– Curing helps to preserve the color of the meat.

– Curing makes the meat easier to slice and chop.

– Curing pork to ham makes the meat last longer.

What Are The Different Types Of Curing For A Ham?

It is essential to know the 3 types of curing you can apply to fresh pork before cooking.

Know that each method will affect the finished product and can be used in different ways.

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Wet Cure

A wet cure consists of adding kosher salt, nitrates & flavorings into cold water. 

Once everything has dissolved, the salt solution cure is injected into the meat.

Pros

– Great for the larger cuts in the hind leg that a brining process can’t reach.

– Simple to prepare and effective in the final product.

– You control the salt levels.

Cons

– Labour intensive.

– Requires a specialist meat injector.

Dry Cure

A dry brine or cure is applying a concentration of pink salt (made for dry curing) & flavorings to the meat.

The salt liberally covers every area to form a crust which is then removed before cooking.

It is very common to add brown sugar to a dry cure with some herbs and spices.

Pros

– Easy and quick to apply.

– Great for smaller cuts and saving time.

Cons

– Can give your meat an excess of salty flavor if not removed correctly.

– This is not the best technique for larger cuts.

Brine Cure

A brine cure is submerging the meat for the entire time of curing in a liquid solution. You can use Morton Tender quick for this cure method.

This brine solution can be flavored with aromatics for extra flavor.

A wet brine may also contain some nitrates and sugar.

Pros

– Quick and efficient.

– Easy to disperse water soluble aromatics.

– Disperses the salt and nitrates evenly based on ratios.

Cons

– Finding a container large enough for your meat!

– Will ruin the proteins if left too long.

How To Cure A Pork Leg Tip Ham With A Brine

Below is a complete guide and brine recipe to cure a pork leg into ham.

Pick The Right Cut Of Pork

We already know what it is… The pork leg tip!

– Ask your butcher for a medium-sized pork leg tip.

– Explain to the butcher you are planning on curing with a wet brine.

They will trim and select the best leg tip and possibly give you some extra guidance.

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Decide Your Curing Method

We are going with a wet brine for this recipe followed by smoking.

Each curing process has its own benefits to experiment with!

So don’t be afraid to add your own creativity and flavorings.

The Salt Ratio When Brine Curing Ham

A 15% salt solution with 1% nitrates is the tried and tested method for wet brining ham.

1 cup per 1 gallon of fresh water (enough to fully submerge the pork leg tip) will do just fine.

Add a tbsp of your chosen nitrate and 50 grams of sugar, per cup of salt.

Submerge the ham and cure refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Adding Flavorful Aromatics & Spices In A Cure

This part is completely up to you and what you like!

I reccomend some cracked black pepper and a bay leaf for a traditional and nice flavor.

Other popular aromatics include.

– Juniper berries

– Fresh thyme

– Crushed fresh garlic cloves

Smoking Your Dry-Cured Ham

The last stage for curing a pork leg tip into ham is smoking!

The smoking process will cook and help further develop flavor.

I like to use an pellet smoker with apple wood pellets.

Smoke the brine-cured ham at 225 degrees for 20 per pound.

– Measure the internal temperature with a meat thermometer until 145 degrees.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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