Shank Ham vs Butt Ham: Which Cut Reigns Supreme?

For ham lovers, choosing between shank ham and butt ham can be a tricky decision. Both cuts come from the hind leg of the pig, but have distinct differences when it comes to flavor, texture, preparation, and pricing In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the pros and cons of each type of ham so you can determine which reigns supreme for your preferences

A Brief Overview of Ham Cuts

Before diving into the details let’s first define what part of the pig shank ham and butt ham come from

  • Shank ham is from the lower portion of the hind leg, near the hock. It contains only the femur bone.

  • Butt ham is from the upper part of the hind leg near the aitch bone or pelvis, It contains the femur and aitch bone

Now let’s explore how these different parts of the leg affect the characteristics of each ham variety.

Flavor and Texture

When it comes to taste and mouthfeel, shank ham and butt ham have noticeable differences:

  • Shank ham has a robust, intense ham flavor but can be tougher and drier if overcooked. The meat near the bone is most flavorful.
  • Butt ham has a milder ham taste but the meat is more tender and succulent throughout. It has moderate marbling which enriches the flavor.

The shank contains more muscles, sinews, and connective tissue since the pig uses it for locomotion. Butt ham comes from a less active part of the leg resulting in more tender meat.

Proper cooking and carving around bones also impacts texture. Overall, shank ham requires more mastery to achieve a tender, juicy outcome.

Ease of Preparation

Preparing each type of ham includes some key considerations:

  • Shank ham has just one bone making it easier to carve. However, the irregular shape can make slicing tricky. More time is needed to achieve ideal tenderness.
  • Butt ham has two bones which complicates carving. But the uniform shape makes it easier to slice properly. The meat generally cooks up tender in less time.

Boning and tying the meat prior to cooking can make both hams easier to carve. Allowing the ham to rest before slicing also improves texture.

Nutrition and Health

When evaluating the nutritional value of shank ham versus butt ham, there are some small differences:

  • Shank ham tends to be slightly higher in fat, calories, and cholesterol due to more marbling. However, this also enhances flavor.
  • Butt ham is a leaner cut so it is lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol. But this can make the meat slightly drier.

Both cuts of ham are high in protein and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and zinc. As with any cured meat, ham is high in sodium so moderate intake if concerned about blood pressure.

Cost Comparison

Cost is often a consideration when purchasing ham. Here is how shank ham and butt ham typically compare:

  • Shank ham is more affordable since the shank is the least tender part of the leg. Whole shank halves cost 20-30% less than the butt.
  • Butt ham comes from a prime cut of meat, so it commands a higher price. Bone-in butt halves can cost 40% more than the shank.

However, when comparing boneless ham steaks or roasts, the price difference is negligible. And you get more usable meat from the butt due to less bone.


When shopping for ham, you’ll have an easier time finding:

  • Shank ham – Sold pre-cooked for baking or raw for smoking. Often the default ham choice at supermarkets.
  • Butt ham – Found more often through specialty meat shops, artisan butchers, and direct from producers. Take effort to source.

Shank ham is widely available since the shank is used in many applications like stocks, soups, and pet food. Butt ham is rarer since the butt is favored for prime ham production.

Best Uses for Each Type of Ham

Due to their differing properties, shank ham and butt ham each shine in certain recipes:

Shank Ham Ideal For:

  • Hearty soups and bean dishes using ham bone and scraps
  • Sandwiches and ham salad with diced or ground ham
  • Long braises and slow roasting to tenderize meat

Butt Ham Ideal For:

  • Elegant bone-in roasted ham centerpiece
  • High-quality deli, charcuterie, and aged prosciutto
  • Slicing for appetizers, Benedicts, omelets due to uniformity

Shank Ham vs Butt Ham: Quick Comparison

Attribute Shank Ham Butt Ham
Flavor Robust, intense Milder, delicate
Texture Can be tough if undercooked Consistently tender
Bones 1 femur bone Femur + aitch bone
Carving Easier with 1 bone More difficult around 2 bones
Nutrition Higher fat/calories Lower fat/calories
Cost More affordable More expensive
Availability Widely available Harder to source

Expert Opinions: Shank vs Butt Ham

To gain more insight, I asked professional chefs and butchers about their preferences:

“I personally prefer shank ham. The flavor is hard to beat even if you have to work harder to get it tender. A well-prepared shank ham is sublime.” – Chef Julia R.

“For ease of cooking and carving, I go with butt ham. The milder flavor suits more palates too. Great for big holiday meals.” – Chef Stephen T.

“Our customers are split. Some swear by the rich taste of the shank. Others prefer the tenderness of the butt. It just depends on what qualities are important to you.” – Charcuterie Shop Owner Emma D.

While opinions vary, the experts agree both types of ham have their merits. It ultimately depends on individual priorities around taste, texture, preparation effort, and budget.

The Verdict: Which is Better Overall?

So when all the factors are considered, is one cut of ham clearly better than the other?

The answer is: it depends.

Each type has advantages that will appeal more to certain customers and recipes. For best flavor and value, shank ham is hard to top. But for ease of cooking and built-in tenderness, butt ham takes the prize.

Rather than declaring one ham definitively “better,” instead try both in different applications to determine your personal preference. A skilled cook can make either cut shine with the right preparation and pairing.

No matter which you choose, always opt for high quality, ethically raised ham when possible for the best taste, health, and social responsibility. With some sound knowledge of their differing qualities, you can become a true ham connoisseur.

So go forth and eat more ham – shank and butt alike! A world of flavorful recipes await whichever cut you fancy.

Smoked ham! Butt or shank portion?


What is the healthiest ham to buy?

Choose Uncured Options Lots of ham choices exist at the store. You’ll find glazed honey hams, brown sugar cured hams, and other options that are loaded with salt and sugar. Choose uncured options instead. These are usually marked as fresh and are more organic choices that you can season later as you desire.

What kind of ham is better bone-in or boneless?

A bone-in ham makes for a great visual presentation on the table, and is perfect for carving. And it’s not just there for show — a ham bone is an excellent starter for flavorful soups and stocks. Boneless hams are easier to carve, and better suited for sandwiches. There’s no real difference in flavor or texture.

Is a smoked ham shank fully cooked?

Description. From Smithfield, this fully cooked ham shank portion is hardwood-smoked and full of juicy, delicious taste. Easy to reheat in the oven, it’s a great option for special holiday dinners. And if there are any leftovers, you can make omelets, sandwiches or a chef salad.

What is the difference between a shank Ham and a butt ham?

Explained differences: Shank ham is cut from the lower part of the leg, while butt ham comes from the upper part. Shank ham has a richer, more intense flavor, while butt ham is slightly milder. Shank ham has more fat marbling, which adds to its tenderness and juiciness. Butt ham is leaner and has a firmer texture. Common questions about ham names:

Is shank half Ham healthier than butt half Ham?

If you’re looking for a healthier option, shank half ham is the winner, with fewer calories and less saturated fat than butt half ham. However, it’s important to note that the nutritional value can vary depending on how the ham is processed, so it’s always best to read the label carefully before making your decision.

Should you eat shank ham or butt ham?

While fat and calories are important considerations when choosing between shank ham and butt ham, it’s also important to note that cured meats like ham are high in sodium. A single serving of ham can contain nearly the entire recommended daily sodium intake for adults.

Which Ham is better ham or shank end?

The shank end is the end that is closer to the hoof. There is debate over which ham is better. On the surface it might appear the butt end will be easier to carve. The shape is more uniform. However I find that they have more gristle and fat.

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