Savoring Food

Buying a Spiral Cut Ham vs Whole Ham

What’s in a name?

For New Year’s Eve dinner, I decided to cook up a ham. I chose to purchase a “whole bone-in” ham. I opted against the numerous varieties of “spiral cut” hams. The main drivers for this decision were:

1.) Price – The whole ham was the cheapest per pound of all the options at the grocery store. Seemed like a logical choice.

2.) “Authenticity” – I must admit I had preconceived notions about the “spiral cut” ham. I thought I was being more authentic and more “from scratch” by buying the whole one.

After cooking my first ham, I now see the wisdom behind the spiral cut version.

Misguided in judgement, I assumed it was not really a big deal to purchase the uncut, bone-in ham. I thought “What’s the big deal? We can carve this ourselves!” and “the bone adds more flavor.” Plus the price was considerably lower than the pre-cut ones, with or without the bone.

What’s the difference?

I now see that the whole ham is just annoying to deal with! In terms of my desire to be more “from scratch,” ham is one of those things where the modern advances are a good thing. Carving the ham was ridiculously difficult. Because of the bone, it is difficult to get more than a handful of evenly cut flesh with a conventional straight kitchen knife. You have to carve awkwardly around the bone, leading to irregular sizes and shapes in slices. The bone also makes it difficult to anchor and stabilize the ham as you carve.

In a butcher shop or processing facility, the ham is placed on a spit-like contraption that spins the ham slowly while a stationary blade makes the cuts.

Watch this video here to see how a ham is spiral cut.

Unless you have this device, your ham will likely not yield such pretty slices. It will get annoying and possibly frustrating to get the meat off the bone!

Cheap becomes the new expensive

With the difficulty in carving, the unsliced ham ends up yielding considerably less meat. Then you factor in the bone and you’re not left with a whole lot. I don’t know for sure and did not do a cost comparison specifically, but I suspect that the cheap whole bone-in ham ends up costing more per servable ounce.

Without a device like the one in the video, carving a ham yourself is not very effective or efficient. It is kind of a waste. Next time, I’m getting the spiral cut. And I recommend you do so too!

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