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Differences between Iberian ham shoulder (paleta) and Iberian Jamón

diferencias entre paletaibérica y jamón ibérico

Otros idiomas: Español

Which is better, the Iberian jamón or the paleta?

Many customers before buying Iberian ham shoulder (paleta) or buying Iberian Jamón ask us what the differences are between the two, especially from a quality point of view, either to consume at home or to give away. Our answer is always the same, in terms of race is the same product, but in all other aspects are completely different products. Obviously the part of the pig from which they come is different, as well as its taste and curing time, the latter being the determining factor along with the weight in the price difference between an Iberian shoulder and an Iberian ham. Let’s shell each of the differences!

They are totally different products, even though they come from the same Iberian pig, a unique species that is distinguished by its unique ability to infiltrate fat into the muscle.  This means that both Iberian jamón and paleta are characterized by a tastier and more juicy meat, incomparable to any other ham on the market.

Jamón or Paleta?

No one is better than the other, they are simply different. Whether it is better or worse, it will only depend on the taste of the diner or whether the piece is at its optimum curing point. What do we mean by the latter? Simply that, although if generally one prefers the ham shoulder (paleta) to the ham (jamón), it may be that on one occasion one also likes better the ham or vice versa. It’s like when we make a paella, and we always use the same ingredients, but for no apparent reason, one day we say, wau how delicious I got it today!

The Jamón experts also play with circumstantial factors to elaborate and cure each piece: the final weight of the animal, the percentage of the Iberian breed, the climate, etc. That’s why in Enrique Tomás we say that no two hams are the same, no two ham shoulders are the same either; let alone a jamón and a paleta.

Iberian Jamón (ham) 5* Enrique Tomás
Iberian Paleta (ham shoulder) 5* Enrique Tomás

The basic differences between paleta and Iberian jamón

In order to know which one to decide on, we are going to raise the characteristics of each one in order to know them better:


Being both parts of the same Iberian pig, the jamón is the back leg of the animal and the ham shoulder paleta is the front leg.


Iberian jamón usually weighs between 7 and 8.5 kg approximately. The paleta weighs 4 to 5.5 kg instead. Since the morphology of the paleta is smaller, narrower and less rounded than that of the jamón, the slices are somewhat smaller and thinner as well. With regard to the length, the paleta measures between 60 and 75 cm compared to the 70 and 90 cm of the jamón.


In our opinion this is the factor, even before the price, that differentiates both extremities more. It will therefore depend, and we insist on this, on the taste of the diner. In the case of the shoulder, as it is somewhat smaller than the ham, the meat is closer to the bone, which will facilitate the rapid absorption of the salt and the infiltrated fat. Hence, the more intense red colour of the shoulders than the red of the ham. At the same time this directly influences the taste, the fat is still in each slice, but its meat is more cured, and therefore its taste is more intense on the palate with respect to the ham.


The curing of an Iberian paleta takes about 18 months and about 24 months for an Iberian Bellota paleta. On the other hand, the Iberian jamón takes about 24 months and the Iberian Bellota jamón 36 months. Logic indicates that the heavier the ham, the longer it will take be cured.


Bearing all the above in mind, it should now seem clearer why the price of Iberian jamón is higher than that of the paleta.  It is not the quality that determines the price, but the size and curing time that a master ham expert has invested in transforming a piece of meat into a gastronomic jewel such as an Iberian paleta or jamón. So now we will understand why 100% Iberian Bellota hams are the most expensive, not only because of the percentage of the breed but also because of the three years that the jamón experts have needed to achieve such exquisiteness.

Number of diners:

When buying a jamón or paleta, we should also take into account how many of us are at home and how often we cut ham. It’s no nonsense! If we are one, two or three people at home, the most recommendable thing is to get a ham shoulder. The size is not only the reason, it is also advisable not to exceed 17 days of consumption to maintain the maximum texture and flavor of the meat. If we don’t like to get the meat spoiled, we should cut about 100 gr approx. on a daily basis.

If there are more people at home or we are going to have many visits, the jamón would be more convenient. Certainly, we shall always take into account the daily or almost daily consumption of 150 gr. for the same reason as the ham shoulder. The consumption should not exceed three weeks, even less in summer.

It’s just a recommendation! There are coulours for every taste!!. Obviously, we can buy what we like the most. Likewise, there is another possibility, which Enrique Tomás recommends in these cases, and that is to order our piece already sliced and vacuum-packed in sachets. This way we will consume it only when we want and we will not have to be so aware of time.

Sliced ham
Tipo de servicio
Sliced ham
Nombre del proveedor
Occitania 45,Badalona,Barcelona-08911,
Telephone No.+34 93 383 84 85
Sales Dpt.
Differences between iberian ham shoulder and iberian ham. Jamón refers to the front leg whereas ham shoulder refers to the front leg. Let's get deeper!

Otros idiomas: Español


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