Differences between Pata Negra Ham and Paletilla

When the time comes to buy a pata negra ham for Christmas, a gift or a special celebration, one of the most common doubts is to choose between ham or shoulder ham. Read on to learn the differences between one piece and the other and find out if it is better to buy pata negra ham or pata negra shoulder ham. Ham and shoulder ham, similar but not the same

The differences between one piece and the other may seem small to those who are not familiar with the world of Iberian ham, since both pieces follow a very similar production process. But for experts and lovers of this delicacy, the differences between the ham and the shoulder are considerable. It is important to bear in mind these differences in order to buy intelligently according to our tastes and needs.

Differences in weight and size

This is one of the main differences between the shoulder and the Iberian ham, since the front legs (shoulders) are a little smaller than the back legs (hams). Normally, a ham is between 70-90 cm long while a shoulder is between 60-75 cm. The shoulder is also wider and contains less meat than the ham. For this reason we can say that approximately 45% of a complete ham is used and 35% of a shoulder.

Differences in flavor

Flavor, aroma and texture, what we usually call organoleptic qualities, are the main differences when deciding whether to buy pata negra ham or shoulder ham. For many expert tasters, the paletilla is tastier, partly due to a higher concentration of fat, which makes it juicier, but also because its curing time is shorter.

On the other hand, the Iberian ham, having a longer curing and maturing period, develops a greater amount of aromas and nuances, having a more rounded flavor than the shoulder ham.

Buying pata negra or paletilla ham?

What has been said so far are factors to be taken into account, but they depend more on the tastes of each person. Beyond the differences described above, you are probably thinking about the price differences between pata negra ham and pata negra shoulder ham. Ham will always be more expensive, partly because it needs much more curing time.

Our recommendation is that you buy pata negra shoulder ham on occasions when it is going to be consumed in one sitting, since once it is started, as it has a lower proportion of meat, it dries out more quickly. On the other hand, for catering or people who foresee a longer consumption, we recommend buying pata negra ham, since it has a higher yield.

Finally you can always buy hand-cut envelopes of both pata negra ham and pata negra shoulder ham, this way you can compare and decide which product suits you best, without the need to have to buy a whole piece and without having knowledge of ham slicing.