Demystifying the Infamous Orange Coating on Breaded Ham

Chances are you’ve encountered it at a buffet, holiday potluck or family gathering – slices of ham coated in a crunchy, orange crumb topping This peculiar coating is a source of fascination and controversy among ham lovers While some adore its zesty crunch, others see it as an artificial abomination. But what exactly is this mysterious orange stuff on breaded ham?

As a cured meat enthusiast, I’ve long been intrigued by the science, history and cultural lore around this ham topping After digging into the details, I discovered some fascinating facts about the origins, ingredients and purpose behind the ornamental ham crust. Keep reading to get the full scoop on this polarizing pork product!

A Brief History of Breaded Ham

Coating ham in breadcrumbs is an age-old cooking technique tracing back centuries. Archaeological evidence shows ancient Romans enjoyed crumbed boiled hams during lavish feasts. The crumbs helped dried-out boiled ham stay moist and added flavor.

Later, Victoriancooks perfected the art of breading ham by dipping it in flour, egg wash, and fine fresh breadcrumbs before frying to achieve a delicate crunch. This technique spread across Europe and eventually to America, becoming especially popular in the 1950s-60s.

But when and why did the iconic orange coloring become so ubiquitous? Food historians haven’t pinpointed the exact origins, but suggest it took hold in the 1970s as a marketing gimmick. The striking color helped set “new and improved” breaded hams apart on crowded supermarket shelves.

The Purpose and Composition of the Coating

The crumb topping serves several purposes beyond just looks. The coating:

  • Provides flavor from spices and herbs like garlic, onion, paprika

  • Adds crunch and texture contrast to the tender ham

  • Absorbs any moisture leaking from the ham

  • Contains corn starch to help it adhere tightly

  • Uses annatto, turmeric or food coloring for the orange hue

  • May include corn or wheat-based breadcrumbs or gluten-free varieties

Despite some claims, the coating is not just saw dust or wood pulp. It does contain anti-caking agents like cellulose to keep it dry and free-flowing, but this is a harmless and common food additive.

Why Some Love it, Others Loathe It

Public opinions on the orange ham crust fall into two passionate camps.

Fans enjoy:

  • The aesthetic appeal and appetizing color

  • The crispy, crunchy texture contrast

  • The spike in flavor from seasonings

  • The nostalgia of enjoying it since childhood

Detractors complain:

  • The artificial color seems unnatural

  • The soft ham texture is ruined by the crunch

  • It can have a stale, dusty, bitter taste

  • It seems like a gimmick just to sell more ham

The polarizing nature of this topping has even inspired mocking songs and holiday sketches comedy routines. The coating certainly adds flair, but isn’t for everyone.

Other Uses for the Coating Beyond Ham

In addition to its primary role in ham products, the orange breadcrumb coating has found other applications including:

  • As a crispy topping for casseroles or grilled cheese

  • For adding crunch to baked chicken or fish fillets

  • Combined with butter and herbs as a breadcrumb crust for roasted vegetables

  • As a filler in meatloaf or breaded cutlets to add absorbing texture

  • For making schnitzel or tonkatsu with its crispy, seasoned exterior

  • Dried and sprinkled on salads for a zesty, crunchy topping

So whether you love it or hate it on ham, this versatile coating can bring its signature taste and crunch to all kinds of dishes.

Making Your Own Breaded Ham Creations

If you’re intrigued to recreate the breaded ham experience at home, either traditional or with your own spin, here are some tips:

  • Choose good quality sliced ham, preferably without added water for better adhesion.

  • For the coating, use fine dry breadcrumbs, panko, cornmeal or a gluten-free alternative like almond meal.

  • Season the crumbs with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, herbs and spices for extra flavor.

  • For color, add a pinch of turmeric or annatto powder, or use food coloring.

  • Dip ham slices in flour, egg wash, then coating and fry in oil on medium heat until crispy.

  • Or for a healthier bake option, spray ham with oil then coat and bake at 400°F for 10-15 minutes.

  • Play around with alternate crumb colors and flavors like lemon pepper or Cajun spice.

What’s your take – do you consider the orange breaded coating a crunchy delicacy or a tacky travesty? Have you discovered any creative ways to use this versatile topping? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this iconic ham accessory we all love to debate!

Huge Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cooking Ham


What is the orange stuff on ham?

Iridescence is a physical phenomenon that results in shiny, rainbow-like colours (e.g. green, red, orange) seen in raw and cooked meat products, e.g. sliced roast beef and ham products. Meat contains iron, fat, and other compounds.

What is the crumb on ham made of?

INGREDIENTS: Pork (98%), Mineral Sea Salt, Gluten Free Breadcrumbs [Rice Flour, Cornflour, Rapeseed Oil, Salt, Colours (Curcumin, Paprika Extract), Dextrose], Brown Sugar, Stabilisers (Potassium Triphosphate, Sodium Triphosphate, Tetrapotassium Diphosphate), Pork Gelatine, Antioxidant (Sodium Ascorbate), Preservative ( …

What is the shiny stuff on ham?

What gives sliced ham that iridescent sheen? The shiny, greenish, rainbow like color on sliced ham is a sign of oxidation that occurs when the meat is exposed to the metal on a knife or slicer. The nitrate-modified iron content of the meat undergoes a chemical change that alters the hams pigmentation.

What is the yellow stuff around ham?

Look on the edges of the (standard cooked ham) slices, and you should see a slight yellow edge. This is your crumbed section (la section pané); it is very thin…

How do you cook a ham with oranges?

Cut the 2 remaining oranges into slices and lay over the ham, pinning in place with the cloves. Brush the ham all over with half the sugar mixture then put it on a trivet in a roasting tray. Pour 1 litre of water into the tray and cover with foil. Bake the ham for 2 hours 20 minutes, remove from the oven and take off the foil.

Is honey baked ham as good as regular ham?

The addition of honey will affect the calorie content of the food. One tablespoon of honey contributes to approximately 64 calories. In addition, the use of heat when making baked ham will reduce the quality of the honey.

Do you cover a glazed ham with orange slices?

Covering Ham with Orange Slices: This step is entirely optional; however, it does add a bit of flavor and help prevent the ham from drying out during baking. Storing: Store slices of orange glazed ham in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Is this sweet orange glazed ham a good holiday feast?

This Sweet Orange Glazed Ham is one of the easiest ways to create a memorable holiday feast… Plus it’s a godsend for procrastinators. For many of us, Ham is synonymous with holiday feasts, and was a staple on our Christmas or Easter dinner tables. But once you see how easy and delicious this ham recipe is, you’ll want to make it year-round.

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