Brush up on your Spanish ham-eating etiquette. 

Bridget Hallinan
Updated May 01, 2019

Last month, New York City’s long-buzzed-about Hudson Yards development finally opened its doors—a residential and commercial complex that also happens to house a packed restaurant roster. There’s Anya Fernald’s meat-forward Belcampo, brand-new David Chang concepts, and Estiatorio Milos, by Costas Spiliadis. You’ll also find a massive, multi-concept installation from José Andrés called Mercado Little Spain, dedicated to, as you might guess, Spanish cuisine and culture. Among three restaurants—Leña, Mar, and the not-yet-opened Spanish Diner—and bars dedicated to wine and spirits and beer, there’s also a market, filled with kiosks hawking cocas, churros, and jamón and queso.

Recently, iconic Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, who helped bring the concept to life, paid Andrés a visit to discuss jamón-tasting etiquette—and there’s a demonstrative video to match. 

Adrià does the talking while Andrés follows his lead, making goofy expressions at the camera the whole time (as is his way). Here are the essentials you need to know.

Ainhoa Garnil/Getty Images

Make sure the jamón is thinly cut

The chefs start with two jamón—the first step to tasting jamón is to find good jamón, naturally—and then, Adrià says it's important to have a good cutter. Andrés points at himself, while Adrià quips that Mercado doesn’t have one (upon noticing Andrés, he amends to “not too bad”). The next thing he mentions is a good knife, so that you can slice the jamón nice and thin. (We’re already planning a charcuterie board to go along with it.) He says to keep the temperature in mind, noting that you’ll have to adjust depending on the climate.

Note the marbling, then smell it

Once the jamón is cut, Adrià says to look at the marbling first, which shows that the meat is “extraordinary” quality. Then, you smell it—you want the scent to be a little bit rancid, but not too much. After taking a whiff, pass the jamón over your lips (it’s “sensual,” he notes) so you can appreciate the fat.

Refrain from folding

Finally—mind you, they still haven’t even tasted the jamón yet—they eat the meat, and Adrià discourages folding it, so you can taste it fully. Andrés, however, defiantly folds his jamón into a tiny little piece and shoves it in his mouth, so at the conclusion, Adrià says it’s your choice—his way, or the Andrés way.

If you’re looking for more Spanish cuisine tips, Andrés recently appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to teach the TV host and comedian how to make Tortilla Española. Andrés calls the dish “the most important dish in Spanish cooking,” and his recipe uses potatoes, onions, eggs, olive oil—even potato chips, if you’re so inclined. Check out the full segment to learn how to make it.

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