Kurobuta ham is widely considered one of the best ham by chefs and food connoisseurs alike. In this guide, we will look at the history, preparation methods, and common alternatives to Kurobuta ham.
If you’re a ham lover, then you have to try Kurobuta ham. Known as the Kobe beef of ham, Kurobuta ham is a tender, smoked ham with beautiful intramuscular marbling. Compared to other hams where salt is the primary taste, you can feel the notes of spices and herbs in Kurobuta ham.
Related: When it comes to cured Italian meats, Genoa salami takes the cake for taste and texture. Find out more about it in our Genoa salami guide.
Kurobuta Ham – The Basics
Kurobuta ham is not just any type of ham. It’s made from pure-bred Berkshire pork, which is considered the creme-de-la-creme of pork. These pigs are a rare breed from the English County of Berkshire. Dating back to the 1600s, this breed was prized for its superior quality.
East Asian pigs were imported to England nearly 320 years ago, where they were crossed with the Berkshire pig to produce the modern-day pig with 6 distinct spots and a black coat. Some of the Berkshire pigs were sent to Japan as gifts, and they were so impressed by the quality of the meat that they tried to replicate and improve it.
Not everyone can sell Kurobuta ham. You need to be a registered breeder, and the pigs need to be raised according to the guidelines to be called Kurobuta pork. According to the American Berkshire Association, all pigs need to be purebred and traceable to the source farms.
Fossil Farms is another popular online butcher shop where you can buy ethically raised and all-natural meats. Check out our review of Fossil Farms and find out if it’s the right place for you.
What does Kurobuta Ham look like?
From the first look, you can tell that Kurobuta ham is not a common ham. However, the beautiful streaks of intramuscular fat and the light pink color give it a very appealing look. Kurobuta ham is traditionally smoked, upon which it forms a lightly crispy shell and a soft, juicy interior.
What Does Kurobuta Ham Taste Like?
There’s a reason why Kurobuta ham is called the Kobe beef of pork. I smoked Kurobuta Ham on the 4th of July because it deserves a special occasion when you have meat like this.
I can’t tell you how good Kurobuta ham is. I thought I was biased because I had spent a good amount of money buying the pork, but every guest at my house enjoyed the taste.
Overall, the taste is better in every aspect compared to common pork. The salt and spices blend well with the meat, and the smoked flavor is consistent through every bite.
The best part is just how juicy this ham is. The marbling allows the meat to become tender, and the seasoning gives it a wonderful kick. Everything from the texture to the tenderness and flavor is great about this ham!
How Much Does Kurobuta Ham Cost?
Unlike commonly raised ham that can cost around $2 to $5 per pound, depending on the region and quality of ham, Kurobuta ham is quite expensive. The sophisticated breeding process means that these pigs are hand raised and prepared to produce the highest quality pork.
Expect to pay anywhere between $8 to $12 per pound of Kurobuta ham with bone and up to $20 boneless, depending on where you purchase the meat from. I bought 7 lbs of boneless Kurobuta ham, which cost me $17 per pound. This is by no means cheap, but it’s also no regular ham!
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How Do You Cook Kurobuta Ham?
Now, many people prefer to have little to no flavor on Kurobuta ham to taste the meat, kind of like how people eat Kobe beef. However, we’re going to try a Kurobuta ham recipe that involves smoking and glazing with maple bourbon.
These are the instructions to prepare Kurobuta ham:
- First, heat the smoker to 300° F and add a few apple or cherry wood pellets.
- Make ¼ inch incisions across the ham vertically and horizontally to form a diamond pattern.
- Rub salt, freshly cracked pepper, garlic powder, and paprika on the ham.
- Place the ham in the smoker and let it slow cook for about 4 hours.
- Apply the maple bourbon using a brush on the entire ham once it reaches an internal temperature of 135° F. Cover the smoker and let it cook again for 5 minutes
- Repeat the glazing process until the internal temperature is 140° F.
- Remove the Kurobuta ham and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes. Then, slice with a carving knife and serve.
And you’re done! If you’re more into salami, check out our guide on Cotto salami, one of the finest cuts of Italian cured meats you can find!
Kurobuta Ham Alternatives
I honestly don’t think there’s a replacement for Kurobuta ham. That’s how good it is. However, these are a few alternatives based on taste, meat, and price preferences:
- Shank Ham: this cut is sourced from the joint between the leg and foot of the pig. Shank ham is typically darker and tougher as that part of the pig gets a lot of activity during its life. However, the meat is equally delicious and flavorful, especially when prepared by a smoker.
- Kobe beef: Contrary to popular belief, the technique of making Kobe beef was actually inspired by Kurobuta ham as the Japanese were impressed by the quality of pork. KO=obe beef is an expensive delicacy but one that will surely tantalize your taste buds!
- Pork belly: Pork belly is one of the tastiest cuts of pork. It’s a fatty cut that’s very tender and juicy. The best thing about pork belly is that it gives you the versatility to prepare it in any way you like at very affordable prices.
If pork belly is not your thing, how about bacon? If you don’t know the difference between the two, check out our pork belly vs bacon comparison!
Kurobuta Ham Frequently Asked Questions
Have a look at some of the common questions about Kurobuta ham:
Question: Can I Buy Kurobuta Ham From a Butcher Shop?
Answer: Yes, you should be able to buy Kurobuta ham from a butcher shop that is registered with the American Berkshire Association.
However, keep in mind that Kurobuta ham is not as readily available as commonly raised ham. Therefore, the likelihood of finding a butcher that sells Kurobuta ham is fairly low. That said, you can always buy the ham online from Snake River Farms and other authorized sellers.
Question: Can I Eat Kurobuta Ham Without Glazing?
Answer: Yes, and I would suggest that you try to have it at least once without any additional flavors. Like Kobe beef, Kurobuta has a distinct taste that many people like to keep untouched. Just lightly salt the ham to bring out its own flavor and smoke it.
Question: Is all Berkshire ham Kurobuta ham?
Answer: No. Berkshire pigs need to be raised in very specific ways to ensure that the meat is certified Kurobuta. The American Berkshire Association has guidelines on raising and slaughtering Berkshire pigs to ensure that the Kurobuta ham is authentic and of the highest quality.
Question: Is Kurobuta Ham Healthy?
Answer: Yes, Kurobuta ham is one of the healthiest meats you can have. Berkshire pigs are raised with proper care and a healthy diet, which significantly improves the meat’s texture, flavor, and nutrient composition. In addition, Kurobuta ham is almost always smoked, which is one of the healthiest ways to prepare food.
Question: Can I buy Kurobuta Ham for Cheap?
Answer: Most likely not. Kurobuta ham comes from the Berkshire pigs that are raised under special care and supervision. That said, you may be able to save some money if you buy the pork directly from a farm that also slaughters and packs the meat.
Question: Can I Cook Kurobuta Ham in an Oven?
Answer: Yes, you can prepare Kurobuta ham in an oven. Preheat your oven to 325°F, add some wood pellets for smoking, and roast the ham for 4 hours or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140°F.
If you want to glaze the ham, remove it from the oven after 2 hours, brush it thoroughly and place it in the oven again. Repeat this process after every 30 minutes until the meat reaches the internal temperature of 140°F.
Question: Should I Get Kurobuta Ham With the Bone-in or Boneless?
Answer: To be honest, that completely depends on you. I prefer Kurobuta boneless ham, but I know many people who like ham with bone. The flavor profile will definitely change from cut to cut, so that’s something to keep in mind. However, it will all depend on your personal preference.
Capocollo is widely considered one of the best-kept secrets of Italian cured meats. Check out our Capocollo guide and find out what makes this cold cut of pork so popular!
Conclusion – Should You Try Kurobuta Ham?
Yes! Kurobuta ham is the tastiest ham you can have, and that’s not just my opinion. Ask food bloggers, critics, and ham connoisseurs, and they will tell you that it’s the best ham they have tried. It’s so different from a regular ham that you may feel that it’s made from some other animal.
Everything from the tenderness and flavor profile to the beautiful marbling and texture of Kurobuta ham is sensational. However, it does cost a pretty penny to buy Kurobuta ham.
For the price of 1 pound of Kurobuta ham, you can buy 5 lbs of regular ham or more. However, the taste speaks for itself, and the price is definitely worth it in the end.
I suggest having Kurobuta ham for special occasions so that you can truly savor the flavors and the experience. If you are looking to learn more about the origins and preparation methods of other types of meat, check out the resources and guides we have on Meat n Marrow.