Demystifying Shankless Ham: A Complete Guide to Understanding this Unique Cut of Pork

During the holidays, a beautifully glazed ham often takes center stage on the dinner table. But when choosing a ham, you may come across the term “shankless” and wonder – what does this actually mean? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about shankless ham, from its distinctive features to how it impacts flavor and preparation

What is Shankless Ham?

Shankless ham refers to a ham or portion of ham that has had the shank (or lower leg bone) removed before curing and smoking Shank removal leaves the rest of the leg bone intact but creates a ham without the iconic tapered shape

The shank itself doesn’t contain much meat. Removing it creates a chunky, cylindrical ham shape that is more easily portioned into slices or chunks for serving. Both bone-in and boneless hams can be shankless.

Where is the Shank on a Ham?

On a whole, bone-in ham, the shank is the narrower portion towards the bottom of the leg. It contains a single long bone and may have just a thin covering of meat. When left on, it creates that classic tapered ham form.

If you imagine a whole hog leg, the shank corresponds to the lower part of the animal’s leg below the knee. The upper ham and hip align with the thicker parts of a human thigh and hip. Removing the narrow shank leaves just the meatier ham sections behind.

Why Do Companies Produce Shankless Ham?

There are a few reasons the shank is often removed from ham:

  • Meat yield – The shank doesn’t contain much edible meat. Removing it allows processors to use the rest of the leg more efficiently.

  • Easier to carve – The rounded shape of a shankless ham makes it simpler to carve neat slices or chunks. With the tapered shank, it can be tricky to get uniform slices.

  • Appearance – Shankless hams have a tidy, cylindrical shape that may have more visual appeal for some consumers.

  • Reduced waste – Since the shank meat is tougher and stringier, removing it reduces waste from pieces that might go uneaten.

Does Removing the Shank Impact Flavor?

Eliminating the shank does not significantly impact the flavor of the ham, since this section doesn’t contain much fat or meat. The rich taste comes primarily from the upper leg and hip where more marbling occurs.

Of course, if a ham is brined or cured with the bone in, the bone does impart some subtle flavor. A bone-in shankless ham would retain good flavor from the leg bone. Boneless hams rely more on the curing process for seasoned taste.

How to Cook a Shankless Ham

Since the shank contains mostly bone and connective tissue, its removal doesn’t alter cooking times or temperatures. You can prepare a shankless ham using similar methods as you would an intact bone-in ham:

  • Oven – Bake at 325°F until reaching an internal temperature of 140°F. Allow 15-20 minutes per pound.

  • Slow cooker – Add ham and 1/2 cup of water. Cook on low for 4-6 hours until heated through.

  • Grill – Indirectly grill ham over medium heat for 12-15 minutes per pound until 140°F.

  • Smoke – Ideal for smoked hams. Smoke at 225°F for 5-6 hours until the internal temp hits 140°F.

Always use a meat thermometer for doneness, regardless of bone status. Rest at least 10 minutes before slicing into a shankless ham.

Serving Tips for Shankless Ham

Thanks to its shape, shankless ham can be portioned in several ways:

  • Carve thin dinner slices across the grain.
  • Cut thicker chunks for hearty sandwiches.
  • Dice ham for omelets, pizza, pasta, and more.
  • Slice crosswise into round discs for appetizers.
  • Stuff large chunks into potatoes or peppers.

A shankless shape also lends itself well to stuffing into ham nets or bags for easy portioning. Feel free to get creative with how you serve it!

Buying and Storing Shankless Ham

When purchasing shankless ham:

  • Look for hams labeled “shankless” or check that the tapered shank section has been removed.

  • Opt for a size based on the number of servings needed; estimate 1/3 pound per person.

  • Inspect the ham’s aroma, color, and feel as you would any fresh meat.

  • For storage, follow guidelines for keeping leftover cooked ham:

  • Store ham for 3-5 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

  • Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil to prevent freezer burn.

  • Freeze ham for 1-2 months to extend shelf life.

  • Slice ham before freezing for easier reheating.

Shankless Ham Nutrition

Here are the nutrition facts for a 3 ounce serving of roasted shankless ham:

  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 5g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Cholesterol: 50mg
  • Sodium: 1,050mg
  • Carbs: 1g
  • Protein: 19g

Like any cured meat, shankless ham is high in sodium. Watch intake if limiting salt consumption. Select low sodium varieties when possible.

Is Shankless Better Than Ham with Shank?

Whether to get a shankless ham comes down to personal preference. Here are some pros for each:

Shankless ham

  • Easier carving into uniform slices
  • Ideal shape for chunking or dicing
  • Better meat yield from the leg
  • Appealing round shape

Ham with shank

  • Classic tapered holiday ham shape
  • May retain slightly more bone-in flavor
  • Provides more visual fat/marbling
  • Keeps ham anatomy intact

Both shankless hams and hams with the shank kept on can offer great taste. Choose based on your needs and serving style preferences.

Buying Shankless Ham on a Budget

While some shankless hams can be pricey, here are tips for staying budget-friendly:

  • Buy on sale leading up to holidays for deals.

  • Opt for less expensive partial shankless hams.

  • Choose bone-in over pricier boneless.

  • Skip pre-sliced or spiral cut to save dollars.

  • Purchase large sizes and portion out leftovers.

  • Make flavorful beans, soups, or casseroles with leftover bits.

With some smart shopping, you can serve up serious ham flavor without breaking the bank.

Key Takeaways on Shankless Hams

To recap, here are the key points to remember:

  • Shankless means the narrow shank portion of the leg is removed.

  • This leaves a rounded, chunky shape ideal for carving neat slices.

  • Flavor comes mostly from the meaty thigh and hip area.

  • Cook as you would any bone-in or boneless ham.

  • Slice, chunk, or dice the uniform shape with ease.

  • Choose based on budget and preferred ham shape.

Now that you’re a shankless ham expert, you can select the perfect holiday showstopper or weekly dinner with confidence. Happy ham season!

Huge Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cooking Ham


Which ham is better, shank or butt?

Butt portion vs. shank, which do you need? The butt portion will cost more per pound and will yield the largest amount of attractive slices. The shank bone is preferred by many for cooking with beans or in making soups, and others prefer the “fully cooked” varieties for ease of preparation and cooking time.

What is a shank ham?

The shank is the lower half of the leg above the hock and is the cut most associated with baked ham. The shank cut contains the femur bone only, making it a little easier to carve. It is more budget-friendly, but the meat tends to dry out more during cooking.

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