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Cooked ham

Article index
 Meat parts
 Brining
 Tumbling
 Forming
 Cooking
 Removing of the form
 Smoking
 Storage
Cooked ham is part of the group of heated, not decreased (pig)meat. There are many hamrecipes, which can be varied by adding spices, grilling or cooking of the meat. The cooked ham can be classified in a formed and unformed ham. The unformed kind exists of one meat part. The size of this ham depends on the size of the pig and can differ every time. Formed ham exists of several small parts which become one part by the meat protein. Formed ham has a higher protein content than unformed ham. Formed ham is produced more than unformed ham.

The process described below is the process of formed cooked ham.

Meat parts

The meat parts needed for the ham are parts of the topside and shoulder of the pig. These meat parts are unboned. Important parameter for the quality of the meat is the pH. The pH of the meat parts in living animals is 7,2. Six to twelve hours after the slaughtering the pH of these meat parts is decreased to 5,4 - 5,8.
The pH has an effect on
  • the water binding properties of proteins,
  • the effectiveness of brining (salt intake and colouring),
  • the shelf life of the product (more or less favourable pH for microorganisms) and
  • the properties of taste (toughness, juiciness and meat aromas).
Click in the left menu for more information about the quality of meat.

Brining

Giving the meat a better taste, consistence and shelf life the meat is brined to a saltiness of 1,8 - 2,4%. The brine can be injected into the meat. Brine is a mixture of salts, and other ingredients like spices and preservatives. There are several ways to inject:
Brining by means of artery injection: the brine is added to the meat through intact blood veins. By this method there is very little brine loss, but equal distribution is difficult. The distribution depends on the diameters of the veins totally.
Multi-needle injection: a lot of thin needles inject brine into the meat. Multi-needle injection gives a better distribution through the meat. It is also possible to add a small amount of brine several times. But multi-needle injection damages part of the meat structure.

Tumbling

Tumbling of meat (also massaging) takes place in a tank which contains a stirrer or which tumbles itself. Purpose of tumbling is:
a better distribution of the brine, other meat parts absorb the free brine,
damaging of binding tissue which increases moisture binding and
bruising of the muscle tissue. Proteins at the surface set free and bind the meat parts together

The meat should have 4.000 to 8.000 turns before tumbling is done, with 20 turns per minute the duration time is thus 3 to 7 hours.

Forming

Due to the tumbling the meat parts become sticky during tumbling. The ham parts are ready to be put in the form. The meat parts are pressed together, to give the freed proteins optimal binding circumstances. The form can exist of an individual form with the size of one ham or it can exist of a long form of which several hams are being cut. In the individual forms the meat parts are vacuum packed in plastic bags mostly, to prevent the meat of great losses during cooking. Hams produced in long forms are packed after the cooking process.

Cooking

Cooking of the meat has several purposes. It does the meat well, stabilizes the colour, forms specific meat aromas, inactivates enzymes and gains microbiological safety of the product. The centre of the ham needs to have the same properties as the outside of the ham. This means that the inside temperature of the ham needs to be controlled during cooking. The center of the ham should be heated to at least 68ºC to kill relevant micro organisms. The maximum temperature during the cooking process is 75ºC. At higher temperatures undesired damage occurs on the outside of the product. The cooking time depends on the time the center of the meat needs to warm up and the time needed to do the meat well. Fixed delta-T-heating is the best principle for heating. Principle of this process is that the difference between the heating temperature and the temperature of the center of the product is (for example) 25ºC. Damage due to cooking is therefore reduced to a minimum. An indication for the duration of the cooking process is 2 hours. After cooking the hams should be cooled.

Removing of the form

After cooking the hams are can be removed from the form easily. These hams are well done and consist of one piece. The hams produced in the long forms are cut to the wanted size and vacuum sealed in a plastic bag.

Smoking

After removing the forms the hams are smoked. Smoking gives a specific taste to the ham. Smoking can be done in smoking cabins, or with the addition of liquid smoke. During smoking in smoking cabins the temperature of the ham increases, cooling after smoking is therefore needed.

Storage

Storage of the hams takes place at low temperatures (0 - 2ºC), to prevent microbiological growth. The plastic bag in which the hams are packed reduces loss of moisture. These hams have a shelf life of a few weeks.
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process description

cooked ham

Cooked ham is part of the group of heated, not decreased (pig)meat. There are many hamrecipes, which can be varied by adding spices, grilling or cooking of the meat. The cooked ham can be classified in a formed and unformed ham. The unformed kind... read full description