Shaving Ham at Home


So, you are in the deli meat section and you are either selecting your pre-sliced ham or you took a number to have it sliced for you on the spot.

While you are standing at the deli counter and you take notice of the hunks of deli meats they use to slice. Now you begin to wonder how hard could it be to slice it and would you save money if you just knew how to slice it at home?

Is It Worth Slicing Your Own Ham?

Is it possible to slice or shave your own meats at home in your own kitchen? What would I need to get the meats shaved thin? Would it save money? Let’s dive in.

The first item to think about is the prices of deli meats. Ham is a great example of this since it is also readily available as whole units in the meat section of the grocery store.

In the past few years, the prices of sliced deli meats have increased to become a high ticket product. Ham and cheese sandwiches are generally thought to be affordable options at lunch, to keep it simple.

Today regular sliced ham at the deli is anywhere from $5-$6 per pound but could be more depending what part of the country you are buying your meat. If you want a tavern ham or honey ham you could be anywhere from $8-$10 per pound.

It’s no wonder as to why we may want to begin slicing our own ham. Whole units range from $4-6$ for the premium honey ham. That translates into big savings depending on your ham consumption.

Buying sliced ham has its benefits with the largest one being time. Buying pre-sliced items simply save time based on the convenience.

Alternatively, buying and shaving your own ham has the financial benefits as long as you have the time to do it at home.

Possibly shaving your own ham gives a sense of satisfaction as well. It’s always fun beating the “system” right?

What You Need To Slice Ham

You decided to slice or shave your own ham. Ok, decision made! At this point there are only two options, a slicer or a knife?

Of course, each method has pros and cons. With a slicer you will need to spend at least $250 to get the quality you need and mostly, slicers take up space.

If you are trying to lower the price then a $250 slicer would take a while to get your investment back and if you find you don’t like slicing it home you now own a big piece of equipment that is inconvenient to store. So, the best and most affordable method is by knife.

Read more: Using A Mandoline To Slice Meat

Before we discuss proper technique to slicing meat with a knife we should discuss briefly, “waste”.

Waste would be the parts you can not utilize. You can only slice so far before it becomes unsafe to cut another slice. So you spent $5 for a unit of ham but you can only slice 75% of it.

Now you paid more for the ham at $5 for ¾ of a pound, so roughly $6.25 per pound.

At this point you just utilize that piece you can not use for other meals like in an omelette or split pea and ham soup, so you have 100% utilization. The idea is to save money and not waste it.

Okay now you are home and ready to slice or shave your ham. You will need the following:

  • Brisket knife (very sharp)
  • Good quality cutting board
  • Time

If instead you’re ready to get your own deli slicer, then check out the best deli slicers for home use on Amazon here.

How To Shave Ham

The first step is to cool, chill, or slightly freeze the ham. You want the meat to be very firm so it will not flex or resist the blade. The firmer it is the easier to shave but you don’t want it frozen completely.

Place the meat on the cutting board and make sure you have a flat surface on the ham, never slice something round on a flat surface, you are just asking for trouble.

If you don’t have flat area on the ham it is okay to make one, it will really help make the rest of the slicing safer. Now check to be sure you have a very sharp knife. A dull knife is a very dangerous knife and you will never get the thin slice or shave.

A good quality, stable cutting board is essential as well. One trick is to have a damp towel under the cutting board so the board will not move during the slicing.

Utilizing the “C” shape with your thumb and fingers slice the meat backward to forward.

If you are shaving it then it doesn’t matter if you don’t get full slices. Just keep going until it becomes unsafe to slice more and save the rest for another recipe.

So, it is rather simple once you get the hang of it. To recap:

  1. Cool, chill, or slightly freeze the ham
  2. Have good quality cutting board with a damp towel under it to stabilize the board
  3. Use a good quality brisket knife that is SHARP!
  4. Be sure the ham has a flat surface to place flat on board
  5. Using the “C” shape on your non-cutting hand behind the blade begin to slice or shave
  6. Save the remainder for other recipes

Yes, shaving your own ham is a more affordable option as long as you give yourself the time.

It can some with a sense of satisfaction and it can also sharpen your knife skills as well (pun intended).

Knife skills come with lots of time and practice so go slow, build your confidence without becoming overconfident.

Have fun shaving your ham and a little elbow grease can go a long way. Time to get those ham sandwiches affordable again.

Eric M Wilkens

Content writer and recreational cook. I also enjoy craft beer, comedy and the outdoors.

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