Spanish Ham Holders

ham holdersThere are a few factors to take into consideration when choosing a Spanish ham holder; these can include design, functionality and price. All ham holders will accommodate full bone-in hams. For heavier, larger hams a bigger stand is better though to help maintain stability when carving. The most common design of ham stand is the basic “jamonero”, found in most kitchens all over Spain. These models vary in appearance but are generally made from pine and have a two point clamping system – a spike on the base and a large screw at the top for securing the top of the leg nearest the hoof.

Progressing further up the range ham holders typically become larger in size, are more sturdy and will hold your ‘jamon’ more securely with a more substantial clamping system. As mid range models these larger ham stands are usually made from pine or laminated in a range of colours and boast chrome effect fixtures which not only secure the ham more effectively but also makes it a smart piece of kitchen equipment. ‘Double clamping’ is a common feature with mid range ham holders which means unlike more economical designs which hold the leg from the top this system clamps the top of the leg from both sides similar to a vice. This system prevents the ham ‘rocking’ and keeps it more stable when being carved.

Rotating models are further up the scale again, these stands or holders are large, usually with longer and wider bases to compensate for the weight of the clamping system. Rotating ham holders have a single neck and at the top is a circular swivel design, the hoof of the ham goes through this and id secured both by spikes on the inside of this design as well as a key for tightening everything up. Many of these models also have an adjustable base spike which can be slid backwards or forwards making them ideal for smaller hams and also longer Iberian hams which by their nature tend to be 6 – 8 inches longer than a Serrano ham. The main purpose of this design is make turning the ham over much easier as the hoof of the ham never leaves the clamp, it is simply ‘swiveled’ over where carving can then begin on the other side of the leg.

At the very top of the ham holders range are designs that are used by the professional and can regularly be seen at ham carving exhibitions and other events throughout Spain. These ham stands truly are a beautiful piece of functional kitchen furniture and come hand crafted by artisan tradesmen. Stainless steel and wood are usually present in most stands creating a subtle blend of materials that work together in complete harmony. Some of the finest examples are made by Don Paulino Pantaleon who carves each base by hand using hardwood sourced from the Ivory coast.

Professional stands such as these are substantial in weight, sometimes weighing up to 15kg which makes them very sturdy indeed and also very safe, the less movement you have when ham carving the better for both safety and achieving the best ham slices. ‘Afinox’ are another company in Spain well known for making some of the best ham stands in the world. A patented design allows the carver to maneuver the ham safely to whichever angle is most comfortable, with bases cut from olive wood, siltstone, marble and stainless steel the Afinox range has quickly gained a reputation as being one of the most prolific in Spain.

Ultimately when choosing a ham stand you will be searching for quality at a good price and with ham stands ranging from 20 euros to 1000 euros the choice is extensive. For the Spanish ham enthusiast or for those who would be considering further ham purchases in the future then a slightly larger, more robust model will certainly be better value in the long term. Basic models such as the ‘gondola’ model (or simply ‘ham stand’) represent very good value and are the model of choice for the everyday domestic kitchen in Spain.

Key things to consider:

How often will the stand be used?
Will the ham holder be used for large heavy hams?
Is the stand to be used professionally?
Will the stand also be on display?

As a general rule big heavy hams prefer a big heavy ham stand, smaller stands will struggle to clamp a large 9kg ham for example, the leg will be off balance and although secured the stand will probably move or slide on whichever surface you place it on making carving unsafe. Smaller stands are best suited to lighter front legs (paleta’s) or small hams weighing around the 6.5 – 7.0kg mark. As mentioned earlier Iberico hams are much more elongated than the standard Serrano Ham so will also be best suited to a more substantial stand, Iberian hams will be quite at home in more economical models as well as the top of the range stands, if the base on the stand is adjustable then this is ideal to accommodate the extra length of the leg.

Ensuring safety comes first is of the upmost importance when carving ham, the ham knife works in tandem with the stand and is razor sharp, having a firm steady base and a ham that remains as still as possible is crucial to reducing accidents. Choosing the correct ham stand best suited to your ham will not only make carving a safer, more pleasurable experience but will result in hours of happy ham carving.