Jamon Iberico Slicing, Serving and Storage

Proper storage and preparation for serving are essential to enjoy the full flavour of jamones and the subtleties of their aroma. Following the suggestions below will allow you fully to enjoy Bellota grade Iberico Jamon, one of the world's great gastronomic pleasures.

Ham-Carving Tools

Ham Stand Buarfe (Folding)
Ham stand

Ham Stand Buarfe (Folding)

Stock: 26 ham holders.
Ham Stands
Ham Carving Knife Arcos Universal
Ham Carving Knife

Ham Carving Knife Arcos Universal

Stock: 62 knives.
Ham-Carving Knives
Zwilling TwinSharp Select Sharpener
Sharpeners and sharpening steels

Zwilling TwinSharp Select Sharpener

Stock: 7 sharpeners.


Jamon should be consumed at room temperature, or about 21ºC. At this temperature the fat appears lustrous; when it is too cold, its appearance is more opaque.

Slices should be thin, of medium size, and contain a certain amount of the marbled fat that gives them their particular succulence.

In addition to its incomparable flavour, the nutritional properties of "bellota" quality Iberico Jamon make it an ideal complement to a healthy, balanced diet.

How to slice a "jamon" (hind leg cut)

How to slice a jamon (PDF 1.1 MB)
Download our jamon slicing manual (PDF 1,1 MB)

In specialty butcher shops and shops where Ibérico Jamon is sold it is possible to obtain machine-cut slices from boneless hams. Popular wisdom has it, however, that a good jamon should be sliced with a knife to obtain optimum organoleptic qualities for consumption.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of watching a jamon being trimmed, cut and presented in the traditional manner, it is said that machine-sliced jamon actually loses some of its aroma (Dr. R. Cava, teacher at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Cáceres) and the characteristics that the fat lends it, due to the heat produced by the friction of the slicing blade against the meat surface.

There is no doubt, however, that the actual slicing of a jamon with a knife is part of the genuine, quality Iberico jamon tasting experience. It is a simple process too, with the right equipment. Nevertheless, certain safety measures should be observed.

  1. Use a holder designed for this purpose, to keep the jamon firmly in place.
  2. When slicing, the hand not holding the knife should always be higher than the hand holding the knife.
  3. Keep your body at a safe distance from the cutting area.
  4. Slice slowly, without applying too much force.

Equipment you will need to slice a jamon

Jamon slicing accessories
Jamon slicing accessories

To slice an Iberico jamon properly it is essential to have a:

  1. Knife sharpener (sharpening steel): use it to whet your knife quickly, easily and safely.
  2. Jamon knife: a knife specially designed for slicing jamon. The blade is long, narrow, flexible, and very sharp, allowing you to make thin, precise slices, adjusting movements to the shape of the area to be cut.
  3. Ham stand: a firm stand onto which the jamon or paleta (shoulder ham) is mounted in the appropriate position for slicing.

It may also be useful for you to have on hand a:

  1. Clean dishtowel: to cover the jamon when you have finished slicing it.
  2. Small knives: with a short, sharp blade, which you can use to make clean cuts in the most angular parts of the jamon.
  3. Tongs: for an elegant presentation, use them to handle jamon slices and slivers and arrange them on a serving dish.

1. Preparing for slicing

How to place the jamon
Parts of the jamon:
  1. Maza (thicker end)
  2. Babilla, or Contramaza (narrow end)
  3. Flank
  4. Knuckle

The ham stand should be placed at a height and position in which the jamon can be sliced comfortably without having to strain or adopt an awkward position.

If the entire jamon is to be consumed in a short space of time (1 or 2 days), begin slicing at the thickest part or "maza" (a). Begin by mounting the jamon in the holder with the hoof facing up, as shown in the photo.

If it is going to be consumed slowly (more than 2 days) it is better to begin slicing the narrower side, or "contramaza" (b), so that this area does not end up becoming too dry. To slice the jamon this way, have the hoof facing down.

2. Trimming the Jamon

Sequence showing how to trim a jamon
How to trim a jamon

Before beginning to slice the jamon it must be trimmed; i.e., skin and the outer fat covering the area to be cut must be removed until the meat underneath is visible.

On the outside of the jamon are natural moulds and exudates which occur naturally during the curing and maturation process, and which must be removed from around the area to be cut to avoid a rancid flavour.

If the jamon is to be consumed the same day the skin and fat may be removed completely; if not, they should be removed as needed around the area to be sliced.

3. Slicing

Sequence showing how to slice a jamon
How to slice a jamon

Cut fine (almost transparent) slices, the width of the jamon and 6 to 7 cm in length. As you slice deeper, remove the skin and outer fat from the sides.

The ham-carving knife, with a long, flexible blade, should only be used to cut slices so that it always remains sharp. For this reason, to trim the rind, remove excess fat and separate the meat from the bone, we will always use a puntilla (short knife).

Make parallel slices, away from the hoof. The cut surface should be flat, without ridges.

It is advisable to combine slices from the more succulent, fat-marbled maza, or central part (a) with slices from the flank (c).

When you reach the bone, cut around it so that subsequent slices detach easily.

Slicing the jamon's flank
Slicing the jamon's flank

The meat nearest the bone should not be sliced, but cut into "tacos" or small chunks, used to enrich soups and stews.

Slicing the jamon's knuckle
Slicing along the knuckle (d) to obtain jamon chunks
Cutting the meat into small chunks
Cutting the meat into small chunks

When all the meat has been removed from the larger side, turn the jamon so that the hoof is facing downward.

Turning the jamon
Changing the position of the jamon
Slicing the narrow end of the jamon
Slicing the narrow end
Cutting with the small knife
Cutting with the small knife

Place the slices on a plate in a single layer, slightly overlapping if desired.

Jamon slices on a plate
Jamon slices on a plate

4. Finally: Using the jamon bone

The jamon bone itself is also an excellent ingredient, adding flavour to broths, soups and stews.

For use in cooking the bone is sawed into medium-sized pieces (roughly the size of a fist) which can be frozen for future use.

How to slice a "paletilla" (shoulder cut)

How to slice a jamon-shoulder "paleta" (PDF 1.0 MB)
Download our jamon-shoulder "paleta" slicing manual (PDF 1,0 MB)

Slicing a shoulder cut is similar to slicing a hind leg cut: if it is to be consumed the same day, begin slicing at the thicker end (maza), with the hoof facing upward; if it is to be consumed over a longer period, it is better to begin on the opposite side (contramaza), with the jamon placed in the holder with the hoof facing down.

First remove the outer rind, moulds and skin near the area to be cut, just as you would with the hind leg.

In the case of the shoulder, however, small knives are normally used to cut the meat nearest the bone, whose flavour is considered particularly succulent.

Placing the paletilla on the ham stand
Placing the paletilla on the ham stand, and slicing the maza part
Slicing the paletilla
Slicing the paletilla

Crosswise carving

Not everyone carves a jamon the same way. The "classic cut" is what we have described in the preceding section. It is the most common and is done from hoof to butt end. Slices can be cut very thin but it requires an extensive carving area, so the piece will gradually dry out.

Crosswise carving is more like the way fresh meat is cut. Carving starts at the butt end and continues perpendicular to the bone (see images). It is called crosswise carving because the muscle is cut in cross section instead of lengthwise.

Jamon resting on the stand bracket
Jamon resting on the stand bracket (the part with the saw-tooth top) of a Jamotec F1 jamon holder, showing the crosswise cut
Example of carving a jamon crosswise
Example of carving a jamon crosswise

Cutting thin slices require much practice, although this is not a problem for many consumers. Some people prefer somewhat thicker slices.

This system was very common in the past and has some advantages:

  • The cutting surface is smaller so that most of the jamon is protected by fat and skin and stays tender for a longer time.
  • There is more taste variety in a single slice since muscles from several areas are included.

Today there are few ham stands that can be used for carving a jamon this way. IberGour sells the Jamotec JP Luxe and the Jamotec F1, both of which have a support bracket that facilitates crosswise carving.

Sharpening a jamon knife

The preferred metal for jamon knives is stainless steel, for its flexibility and resistance, although it requires frequent sharpening. For this reason, before slicing the jamon it is recommended that the knife be sharpened with a sharpening steel (a file that removes irregularities from metal) or a whetstone.

As shown in the picture, with the blade of the knife tilted at about 20º, place it against the upper part of the sharpener and slide it smoothly downward, making sure that the entire knife blade comes in contact with the file. Repeat, this time with the other side of the blade, and continue to do so in succession until the knife is well honed.

Placing the knife for its sharpening
Tilting the knife blade,
and movements made to sharpen it
Honing the knife with a sharpening steel
Honing the knife with a sharpening steel

If you use a whetstone, sharpen the knife by pulling it backward (not forward against the cutting edge), then lift the blade and place it back in the starting position. It is important to leave the whetstone to soak in water for at least 2 hours prior to using it.

To finish, wipe the blade with a knife to remove any metal dust which could otherwise lend an off taste or colour to the meat slices.

Storing your jamon

Sequence showing how to cover a jamon to store it
Covering a jamon between servings

Neither hind leg nor shoulder cuts require special storage conditions, although they should be kept in a cool, dry place (between 15º and 25º), preferably hanging, or on a ham stand.

Any jamon that is cut should be consumed immediately, or wrapped in wax paper or cling wrap to avoid contact with air. In any case, it is recommended that you cut only as much as will be consumed.

Each time you slice the jamon, protect the cut area with some of the larger pieces of lard and rind, so that the fat on the surface always remains fresh.

To further protect the jamon it is recommended that you cover it with a clean dish towel.

Jamon pairing

To enjoy all of the flavour and aromas of Iberico de Bellota Jamon, it is best to eat it only with some bread. Red wines, aged (crianza) or not, and moderately aged (crianza) dry whites with moderate acidity are a good accompaniment. In any case, the consensus among experts is that the best matches are fino and manzanilla sherries. Finos offer aromas that combine well, are smooth to the taste, and have low acidity and a hint of saltiness. The initial bitter taste of the fino sherries also combines perfectly with the slightly bitter flavour that develops in the fat of the jamon during maturation.

Beer is not only an excellent choice to accompany dishes that are hot, acidic or very spicy; it also goes very well with jamon, and all kinds of smoked meats and sausage.

International Jamon Pairings

Italy: Brunello de Montalcino and Chianti Classico, produced in the province of Siena, are two of the world's major wines, pairining perfectly with Iberico "bellota" jamon.

France: Look for rosé champagnes (the Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier or Pinot Noir varieties), which pair as well with jamon as they do with desserts or appetizers.