Differences Between Iberico Ham and Serrano Ham

Enjoy the best Iberico and Serrano Ham  Visit our shop!

For avid Spanish ham fans, it should not be hard to tell whether you're looking at a good ham or not. But you might wonder whether you're dealing with an Iberico ham or a Serrano ham.

What real difference is there between the two, and where did those differences come from? Is Serrano a special breed? Are the pigs fed differently for the two types of Spanish ham? Why would you choose one over the other?

Iberico ham and Serrano ham: appearances are deceptive

While it might seem that we're talking about two very similar products, especially at first glance, in fact there's a large difference between Iberico and Serrano ham, with the two having very different aromas, flavors, colors and textures.

This despite the fact that ultimately, a leg of pork is the origin of both products.

Differences in the breeds of pigs used, the curing methods and the feeding regime of the pigs all contribute to this divide.

The sensory properties of Iberico and Serrano ham

In short, these organoleptic properties to which we refer are the aroma, flavor, color and texture of the Spanish ham. Using these, we can establish some of the most important differences between Iberico and Serrano ham.

In terms of aroma, all experts agree that Iberico ham has a unique aroma that is hard to miss and even harder to mistake for anything else.

There are clear color differences too: Serrano tends to be a pinkish color, in contrast to the deep bright red of Iberico ham.

jamón ibérico jamón serrano jamón ibérico

In terms of flavor, a good Iberico ham is distinguished by a more intense falvour and a juicier texture, due to the quality of intramuscular fat present in the ham.

Meanwhile, the Serrano equivalent tends to have a saltier flavor. Finally, Serrano tends to a less juicy texture due to a lower proportion of intramuscular fat, and Iberico tends to have a more rugged texture.

However, we don't need to taste or feel a Spanish ham to know whether it is Iberico or Serrano. We can distinguish at a glance if we know what to look for.

Iberico is typically a longer ham with an elongated shape and a narrower bone, and typically ends on a black hoof. If you can't tell by looking at the ham directly, look at the price: Iberico is much the more expensive of the two types, with its increased quality reflected in a larger price tag.

A question of genes

The main difference between Iberico and Serrano ham is the origin of the raw material - the type of pork that's used. Iberico ham has to come from pigs that are at least 50% certified Iberico breed, and can only be mixed with one other breed: White Duroc.

The highest quality Iberico ham is considered to come from 100% Iberico pigs. This breed is black with a long snout and has little fur, and is genetically predisposed to storing up fat between its muscles, meaning that when it's hung to cure the flavor from the fat is absorbed into the muscles.

This is just one reason for its popularity.

Meanwhile, when we speak of Serrano ham, we can see that we're referring to any non-Iberico pig breed. Serrano can be made from mixed-breed pigs with a small amount of Iberico blood, but it's more usually made from White Duroc, Large White, Landrace and Pietrain.

The importance of the feeding regime

Another factor is the feeding regime. Iberico ham is considered to be 'graded' based on what the animal has been fed and fattened on, with the 'montanera' ('mountain pasture') regime resulting in the best flavor and most prestigious product.

This means the pigs have been reared and fed in mountain pastureland, eating wild grasses and acorns, resulting in the 'bellota' flavor that characterizes the very best Iberico ham.

Meanwhile, lower-quality hams come from pigs fed more modern diets including grains.

jamón ibérico cerdos explotación intensiva jamón ibérico cerdos ibéricos

The origins of Iberico and Serrano ham

When we speak of Serrano ham, we're talking about non-Iberico pigs reared intensively and fed lower-quality diets focussed on mass rahter than flavor in the fattening period before slaughter.

This means that the flavor cannot compare to Iberico pigs reared and fattened in traditional open pastures.

However, Serrano hams are graded based on quality too, with the grades being 'bodega' (cellar), Reserve and Grand Reserve. The term 'serrano' refers to the process of curing the ham in the dry, cold air of a mountain climate.

The consumer who wishes to purchase either product will have no difficulty in identifying, through labelling, the origin, breed, feeding regime and quality of the majority of Spanish hams on the market. (All those sold through Jamonprive are labelled clearly.)

There are four main designations for the origins of Iberico hams: Guijuelo, Dehesa de Extremadura, Huelva and Los Pedroches. Meanwhile, the best-known Serrano hams come from Salamanca, Teruel or Trévelez, though they are produced virtually across the entire Iberian peninsula.


  1. Types of Iberico Ham
  2. How to Consume Iberico Ham
  3. How to Cut Iberico Ham | Carve Iberico Ham
  4. How to Preserve and Store Iberico Ham
  5. Pairing of Iberico Ham
  6. Quality Laws for Iberico Ham | The New Law 2014
  7. The Dehesa | The Meadow
  8. DOP Protected Source of Origin of Iberico Ham
  9. Nutritional Properties of Acorn-fed Iberico Ham
  10. Recipes with Spanish Ham
  11. Differences Between Iberico Ham and Serrano Ham
  12. Differences Between Shoulder and Iberico ham
  13. Differences Between Iberico Ham and Iberico Shoulder
  14. Iberico Ham and its Competitors Around the World
  15. Nutritional Properties of Iberico Ham
  16. Protected Denominations of Origin of Iberico Ham
  17. Production Areas of Spanish Ham and Iberico Ham
  18. Spanish Ham – Machine cut or Hand cut
  19. Museums of Iberico Ham Worldwide
  20. Inside Secrets of Iberico Ham Tasting
  21. Tourist Trails for Iberico Ham Aficionados
  22. Acorn-fed Iberico ham and the ideal pairing
  23. The Production Process of Iberico Sausages
  24. History of Iberico Sausages
  25. VAT and Spanish Ham: Frequently Asked Questions
  26. Spanish Ham in Great Spanish Literature
  27. Curiosities of Iberico ham
  28. How to Store Your Serrano Ham
  29. Regulations and the Quality of Serrano Ham
  30. Preparation of Serrano Ham
  31. Denomination of Origin of Serrano Ham
  32. Nutritional Properties of Serrano Ham
  33. Recipes With Serrano Ham
  34. Types of Serrano Ham
  35. Pairing of Serrano Ham
  36. How to Consume Serrano Ham
  37. How to Cut Serrano Ham | Carve Serrano Ham
  38. All the Secrets of Pata Negra Ham Tasting
  39. Choosing a Good Ham Holder
  40. Pata Negra Ham and Pasture
  41. The secrets of pairing pata negra ham
  42. What is the best para negra ham?
  43. Is the term pata negra correct?
  44. How can you know which ham to buy?
  45. Why is good ham so expensive?
  46. How to buy ham from online stores
  47. Myths and Truths, Benefits and Prejudices of Ham
  48. Is Iberian ham fattening?
  49. What to do with the ham bone?
  50. Why do we usually hang ham?
  51. Ham and Pregnancy: Can Iberian ham be included in pregnant women’s diets?
  52. The Role of Ham in a Child’s Growth and Develeopment
  53. Tips for Preserving Ham
  54. What is ham shaping and why is it done?
  55. New Technologies and Ham – MRI in Ham Tasting – Spectral Images
  56. The Iberian Pig Begins to Migrate
  57. Cured Sausages: Origin, Composition and Classification
  58. Production of Hams and Pork Shoulder Hams
  59. Iberian Ham Tasting Guide
  60. Quality: Differential Elements Between Ham and Iberico Cured Meats

Ham carving manual

Cutting step Cutting step Cutting step Cutting step Cutting step

Enjoy the best Iberico and Serrano Ham Visit our shop!