What Makes a Great Deli Shaved Ham?

The ham sandwich is a classic and Bar-S Shaved Ham is the perfect way to treat yourself to one. Easy to come by at your grocery store, it’s great to keep on hand for quick lunches and savory snack urges. High quality deli shaved ham should be a deep pink or red-brown color. The color may vary across the slice, and there may be a darker rind or cover. There may be some creamy fat spots, and some small holes or air pockets are acceptable. Shaved ham should be thinly sliced, with the slices mostly intact. They should not appear shredded, nor be too difficult to separate. Ham should be the primary aroma. There may also be additional or secondary aromas of smoke, brine, and pork. There may also be a sweet aroma such as honey or brown sugar. Secondary aromas add depth and complexity. There may also be a liver or organ meat aroma, but this aroma should be low compared to the other aroma notes, and never dominate. If present, the liver aroma should have a minimal iron or metallic character. The most evident basic taste in high quality shaved ham should be salt, low to moderate in intensity. Sweetness should be slight to low in intensity, and sourness and bitterness should be low as well. The aromas described above should also be present in the flavor of the ham. The primary flavor should be the meat itself, and the secondary flavors of smoke, sweetness, and brine will add to depth and complexity. None of the secondary flavors should take over, leaving the meat tasting only of smoke or brine, for example. Deli shaved ham should be tender and toothsome. The meat should not be tough, but should have some resilience and spring. The ham should chew in evenly, and not break into bits. The meat should be moist, without being slick. While it should not be stringy, some ‘grain’ or fibrousness can keep the meat from seeming too processed. The ham should leave meat flavor and saltiness on the palate, and not have a bitter aftertaste. When featured in a sandwich, the ham should still have its own identifiable flavor and texture. It should neither overwhelm the sandwich nor get lost in the flavor of the bread or condiments. The meat should provide some texture contrast to the sandwich bread.

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Tasting terms

  • sweet

    One of the basic tastes; often considered pleasing while exhibiting characteristics of sugar. Example: Honey, ripe fruits and syrup all have a pronounced sweet component.

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • metallic

    Having the flavor of a can or foil; typically an off note acquired from a product’s packaging. Example: Some canned foods, like ham, can acquire metallic flavors from their metal containers.

  • character

    The combined aromas and flavors of a particular food or ingredient. The character of a food is considered simple when it is one-dimensional, but it is complex when it has many discernible ingredients. Example: Mole sauce has several ingredients that blend to give the sauce a complex character. Granulated sugar has a very simple character.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • chew

    The texture of a food as it is being chewed, as opposed to the texture of the first bite. Example: High-quality beef jerky should be tender but have a long chew.

  • bitter

    One of the basic tastes; often considered harsh and unpleasant in abundance, but a key basic taste for foods like coffee and dark chocolate. Example: Unripened fruit, aspirin and coffee all have bitter components.

  • aftertaste

    The taste remaining in the mouth after eating or drinking; sometimes associated with unpleasant flavors or bitterness. Example: Some diet sweeteners contain notes of bitterness.

  • salt

    One of the basic tastes; tasting of or containing salt. Example: Potato chips, sea water and cured meats all have a strong salt component.