How to Carve Spanish Ham

Please note that these instructions only apply to premium hams supplied on this website and should not be regarded as an accurate guide for lower quality supermarket examples. Thank you.

Carving a Spanish ham requires two essential pieces of equipment – the ham knife and the ham stand. It is important to keep the long flexible blade of the ham knife very sharp to maintain the thinnest slices possible. Ham stands are specifically designed for the purpose of clamping the ham securely to prevent movement. How to carve Spanish ham –

ham carving


Secure the ham by tightening the fixtures on the ham stand, ham stands differ in design and have different clamping systems, the important factor is to clamp up the ham as tightly as possible so that there is as little movement as possible.The first cut should be a vertical one around 6 – 8 inches below the hoof. This will provide a clean edge for your slices and make carving in the latter stages easier.




2The second step is to cut the primary slice. This is achieved by cutting the top from the ham to expose the meat inside. It is also possible to carefully carve away the fat and rind from this top section to avoid wastage, a large slice however plays an important role later on.

Retain the slice mentioned above as this is used to help protect the exposed meat after carving has finished.



3This next step really does make carving your ham so much easier, depending on how much Ham is to be consumed cut away the rind from around the circumference of the exposed area.

The angle of the cutting action to achieve this should be almost vertical – just sufficient to remove an inch or so of rind.

Try not to cut away too much of the fat as this is all part of the flavour.



ham carving

4At this point the ham is ready to carve, there should be a nice raised area of meat with no edges of rind to compromise smooth carving. The aim is to cut wafer thin slices, ideally these slices should be almost transparent.

Create a smooth sawing action, let the knife do most of the work for you (sharpen if required).

Resist the temptation to carve only in the centre of the exposed meat, this will result in a curve, try and maintain a flat surface at all times.

There may be small white specks in the meat, these are amino acids which have built up during The curing process. These white deposits are completely harmless and are actually regarded as a sign of quality curing and maturity.



ham carving

5Eventually you will reach the hip bone, the most effective way to combat this is to take a sharp knife (a boning knife is ideal) and cut vertically all the way around the bone.

The area around the bottom of the ham (the punta) is more difficult to carve, small slices should be carved from this area or thicker slices which are ideal for recipes.

Once one side of the ham has been exhausted turn over and repeat the process.

The ham bone can be sawed into pieces once the ham has been completely finished, the bone is ideal for soups and stews and also makes a great stock.

Practice makes perfect!

Carving a serrano or iberico ham does take practice, the aim (and best way to serve) is in short thin slices. Try to cut your slices approximately an inch wide and three inches long.

Be Sharp

The flexible ham knife is the ultimate tool for carving your ham. The knife needs to be kept very sharp. In Spanish restaurants and tapas bars where hams are always cut in view of the public the ham carver always sharpens his knife before setting to work, sometimes sharpening several times during slicing.

spanish ham standsClamping up

There are several designs of ham stand but by far the most popular and functional are the traditional design stands where the ham is placed either horizontally or standing up vertically at an angle. Decide which way you will feel most comfortable carving your ham. Tighten the screws or clamping system so the ham is fully secure in the stand with no movement. View Ham stands >


Ham carving in Spain is sometimes even regarded as an art form, professional chefs and ham carvers make the tradition look very easy! Remember though the knife is ultra sharp and big heavy hams need a big heavy ham clamp.


After carving your ham, place the slices on a wooden board and allow them to breath for at least thirty minutes. This intensifies the flavour of the ham. The ultimate Spanish tapa is usually served with a good extra virgin olive oil and manchego cheese . . . see our recipe pages for some local ideas on serving your “jamon”.