Pork Shoulder vs Pork Leg (aka fresh ham)

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by summer57, Dec 8, 2018.

  1. summer57

    summer57

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    Are pork shoulder and leg, or 'fresh ham', interchangeable in recipes? In terms of a roast, with crackling?
     
  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Not usually, no. Hams are cured with salt and/or sugar and/or are smoked. Pork shoulder is a typically a large cut called " Pork Butt" or "Boston Butt." It can either be boneless or bone-in. They are generally 7-12lbs, sometimes bigger, and are often used to make pulled pork.

    But, recipes are often just "guidelines." I would have to see the recipe to determine if its possible to sub pork shoulder for ham.

    Edit: I overlooked the "fresh ham" part and only saw "ham." So, therefore, my answer is yes, you can sub "fresh ham" for pork butt. The time spent cooking the fresh ham should be longer because the ham is a bit tougher than the butt. However, flavor wise, they both are going to be in the same ball park.

    Good luck. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  3. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    “Fresh ham” is uncured and unsmoked... just raw meat from the rear leg. Not much different from raw meat of front leg (shoulder and butt) except for the muscle groups are different. I would think substitution would be okay.

    https://www.finecooking.com/article/cook-onceeat-twice-fresh-ham

    Are you just preparing as a roast?
     
  4. Pat Pat

    Pat Pat

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    They're not even close to being interchangeable. The shoulder is fatty and can be eaten just cooked, while the leg is lean and tough and needs to be cooked till tender.
     
  5. summer57

    summer57

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    Yes, it's leaner, and doesn't have the fat marbling I see in pork shoulder.
    I cooked it at 250F for a few hours, then 500F to crisp the skin.

    It was part of a whole pork leg I deboned, cut it up, and froze. This is one of the roast-sized pieces. I made a sauce with the minimal drippings, beef broth, apple cider and apple vinegar. It's good, but no, it's not shoulder.
     
  6. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Just curious, but, if they are both cooked until tender regardless of the difference in time it takes to get there and the seasoning is the same, why wouldn't they be interchangeable? :)
     
  7. french fries

    french fries

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    The two cuts don't have the same qualities, they don't require the same cooking methods, and in the end they don't yield the same results, so you can't take any recipe that has pork shoulder in it and interchange it for fresh ham.

    Fresh ham doesn't make great roasts. It's tougher than the shoulder, leaner and not as marbled, and therefore doesn't lend itself well to dry cooking methods. Best to braise it if you don't want it to get dry.
    Pork shoulder can be braised, but it also makes wonderful roasts, great pulled pork, or can be grilled over direct heat, all things that fresh ham doesn't do well.
     
  8. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I totally agree that fresh ham would not sub for shoulder in applications like pulled pork, carnitas, or other braise. But that wasn’t the question asked... can either be used as a roast was... and I suppose it depends on the recipe. I would not sub a fresh ham for porcetta...

    In my experience, as a “Sunday roast” it does just fine. Slow roasted to 145 internal or so... different flavor than a cured ham but not dry and inedible. Slow roast is the key... but I don’t hesitate roasting such meat at 325 (actually the FDA guideline)... can’t rush it with more heat than that.

    The textures of final product are very different, for sure. Roasted shoulder has a much moister texture than ham when roasted. I love it but had some complaints of “greasiness” from the abundant fat etc.... and due to the many muscles it doesn’t slice as pretty as a ham. Ham, like pork loin roast, is inherently less moist. Over cooked... and they very quickly become dry in a very unpalatable way.

    I must admit that my fresh ham experience is a bit limited as the aren’t easy to find. But I’ve done several as roasts and they were completely successful.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  9. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    So how did you butcher that leg... break down by muscle or bone it whole and tie? If the former, then you might get rather different results from the different muscles. And what, in terms of weight, are you considering “roast size”? Trying to roast too small of a piece of meat could be a further complication. What was your meat temp after the couple hours at 250, and at the end?
     
  10. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    I would like to know the recipe the OP used. It makes a difference. There are all together far too many good intentioned users who come in here looking for advice, ask their question, leave out key details and then, bail.

    If the OP is making pork carnitas, then, no. Fresh ham will not work. If they are making pulled pork, then, no. A fresh ham will not work. If the recipe is to simply make a roast, then, yes. A fresh ham can be sub'd for pork butt. Like others have pointed out, the ham will have to be cooked differently than the butt and their will be differences in the final product. However, that goes without saying. After all, would any of us cook a bone-in prime rib the same way we cook a rump roast? Or would we ever confuse the flavor of a prime rib with the flavor of a rump roast? Probably not.
     
  11. summer57

    summer57

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    I agree that it's a different cut. Less fatty than a shoulder, a different texture than loin. It was 3.2 kilos, tied like a roast. The other parts were cut into obvious muscle groups and used in different ways. The bone was soup, other bits were braised with beans, pork stew, etc.
    I'm obviously not a butcher, but when a whole pork leg is on sale for .99/pound, I buy it, cut it up and use it up as best I can.

    So this was rolled and tied like a roast. I rubbed with salt, pepper, thyme. Mashed some garlic and thyme and put it where the bone was Roasted at 250F until it was 145F, which took a few hours. Then, I pulled it and pre-heated the oven to 500F to crisp the skin. Watched and rotated it.

    It's not pretty, not perfect, but it was good. Pork leg will come on sale again, and I hoped you guys would give me ideas about how to cook and prep the next fresh ham or whole leg that come along.
    I didn't brine it, but I thought about stuffing something more than garlic into the space where the bone was. Anyone have ideas for me when pork leg goes on sale again? Looking forward to your thoughts!
    ham1.jpg ham2.jpg IMG_7235.jpg
     
  12. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    It looks good to me. That plus potato and gravy and a vegetable or two...

    Good use of the whole leg... You did good!
     
  13. summer57

    summer57

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    Thanks! Yes, I make use of the entire leg. My grandfather was a butcher, I have his knives, but not his skill, that's for sure.
    The gravy was the most difficult part. There weren't a lot of drippings. I used apple cider and beef broth to increase it. I like to reheat the slices in whatever gravy I get from the roast. Might have to come up with something else tomorrow.
     
  14. maryb

    maryb

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    As you found it CAN make a decent roast and I have even slow smoked it for people who insist on a sliced product instead of pulled pork. It is MUCH leaner so needs careful watching so it doesn't dry out, and internal done temps are different. I take a shoulder to 195-200f, the fresh ham to 145.

    And very different flavor between the two due to fat and collagen content. The ham is more tender also when cooked to such a low temp. The shoulder cooked to slicing temps is a very chewy piece of meat!
     
  15. Pat Pat

    Pat Pat

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    My answer was just in relation to the OP's question; with the goal being "a roast, with crackling".

    There are ways to achieve comparable results for sure, but I don't think that's what the OP had in mind.
     
  16. butzy

    butzy

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    I beg to differ. I have made some very nice pulled pork using a leg of pork (or fresh ham). Nice and slow on a weber smoky mountain, with water in the water bowl.

    Other than that: yes, the cuts are different ;)
     
  17. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I never would have guessed that, Butzy. Very interesting!
     
  18. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    :)

    Indeed. I would've never guessed that either. How was the texture etc? How did the end result compare to pork butt?
     
  19. butzy

    butzy

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    I'll need to find my notes, but for now (as far as I recall)
    I cooked it very slowly, with the fat at the top. Not sure if that makes a difference, but I sort of think that it may do.
    I didn't wrap
    I pulled and mixed in some adobe (phillipino adobo) sauce that I had left over.
    I like to chop the meat, I figure it pulls a bit more difficult than the shoulder meat, and it is a bit drier. I don't mind that, you could always add a bit more sauce to it if you like.
     
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