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So what is the difference? "Jamon" meaning ham always refers to the back leg of the pig, "Paleta" is the front leg.


The rear leg is a substantial ham weighing in at around 7 - 8 kg. This leg is almost twice the size and weight of the Paleta. As a general rule the meat from the rear leg tends to be a little more moist on the thicker side of the ham with a slightly higher fat content. The fat is a vital part of the flavour making the rear leg a real delicacy.

The full ham is also cured for longer, in some cases up to two years. This is possible, again because the ham is larger and generally has been "salted" for longer given its size. Smaller rear legs are also available, coming from younger animals it is possible to purchase hams that weigh as little as 6kg. The opposite also applies - from a larger, older animal a ham weighing up to 11kg can be purchased, a very large ham indeed! It is worth noting that unlike some other meats Spanish hams from the same producer taste very much the same no matter what size or age of the animal they have come from. For a moist texture a larger ham may be preferred.


These little hams are just as good as the rear legs. They weigh between 4 - 5 kg and tend to be a little more "intense" in the flavour department, why? This is due to the paleta being thinner (almost by half) compared to the full rear leg. The paleta is cured in the same way as its larger rear cousin but for less time due to its size. The meat from the front leg is slightly firmer but just as tasty. Described as "muy Buena" by the locals in Orce village the paleta is often favoured over the full ham. The reasons apart from the deeper flavour are that a paleta is ideal for tapas - a nice smaller ham to have in the home for personal consumption.

Size for size a paleta will also last longer as it is less moist in the centre and therefore has less opportunity to dry out. Colouration of the flesh is also darker.

So which one to choose?

In our kitchen we always have a full ham (they never tend to last very long!) consumption is the main factor to take into consideration, if your ham is for a function or to be consumed regularly than a full "jamon" would be the choice. For "little and often" tapas then the paleta may suffice.


  • Higher fat content in the full rear leg
  • Better texture in the rear leg (moist in the centre)
  • Rear leg significantly larger with more servings
  • Front leg has a more intense flavour
  • Meat from the front leg is slightly firmer

No matter which ham you choose they both provide a real flavour of Spain! A unique gourmet product with a great flavour ideal for any occasion.


Serrano Ham direct from Spain : www.orceserranohams.com

© Copyright 2008 Orce Serrano Hams - www.orceserranohams.com

Published 14 February 2008