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How Do I Choose the Best Ham Steak?

By David Bishop
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ham steaks are a pork product consisting of a slice of meat from the hind leg of a hog. These steaks are relatively easy to cook and can be prepared using any one of several methods. Choosing the best ham steak involves finding a fresh cut that is not visibly discolored. Buyers should check the size and thickness of the ham steak to find the product that will work best with their recipe, cooking method and number of people being served. People who are sensitive to salt or nitrates may wish to look for steaks with a lower sodium content.

The most important thing to look for when selecting a ham steak is freshness. Out-of-date meat products can easily spoil and harm consumers through food poisoning. Most steaks are packaged in a clear plastic wrap that allows buyers to inspect the meat before purchase. Ham should be pink with no discoloring or visible blemishes. Buyers may want to look for steaks that have been cut to an even thickness for easier cooking.

While making their selection, buyers may want to consider how they are going to cook the ham steak. Smaller steaks often are sold as breakfast hams and are intended for one or two servings. Larger steaks offer more servings, depending on the size and thickness. Thinner varieties often are best for pan frying and broiling. Thicker steaks can be baked or grilled.

Some varieties of ham steak can be purchased fully cooked, while others may be raw or partially cooked. Buyers should make note of which type of ham steak is mentioned in their recipe before going to the store. Fully cooked hams may dry out if they are prepared using a recipe for raw ham and cooked for too long. Larger steaks usually are sold as bone-in, while the smaller varieties may be boneless.

In general, ham steak contains a large amount of sodium, which can be a concern for salt-sensitive consumers. Some salt can be removed by rinsing or soaking the ham steaks before cooking, but buyers should look for products with a lower salt content if it is issue for them or their family. Some ham steaks are labeled as country ham, which may have been cured longer and may contain even more sodium than regular ham steaks. Buyers may wish to consume these products in smaller quantities or soak them before cooking. While many varieties of ham steak utilize nitrates as a preservative, some brands are labeled as nitrate-free for consumers who are concerned about the potential health risks arising from this category of preservatives.

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Discussion Comments
By Inaventu — On Dec 04, 2014

Whenever I have an outdoor barbecue party, I always offer a grilled ham steak along with the usual hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken breasts. Some people prefer putting a piece of ham on a bun instead of a beef patty. I'm one of those people, truth be told.

When I buy ham steaks for the grill, I also buy a ham steak marinade and soak them for a few hours. My advice is to look for sugar or "city" ham steaks, not the saltier country ham. A fair amount of marbling is also a good thing, since lean ham can get a little dry while grilling. If there's a rim of fat remaining on the ham steaks, I usually leave it intact.

By Buster29 — On Dec 04, 2014

I have a ham steak at least once a week, mostly because I love the taste of ham but I don't need to buy a whole one. One thing I've noticed is that there can be a significant amount of shrinkage as the water is drawn out of the ham while cooking. If you're looking at the ham steaks in the meat department, keep this shrinkage in mind. A baked ham steak is probably going to shrink down by a third, so don't be afraid to buy a larger one at the store.

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