I don't know a thing about cured ham, but I just opened this ham, and while I realize a cured ham probably has a peculiar smell, I can't imagine this horrific stench being intended. My entire apartment smells like a trashcan on a hot day, and the ham has both black and green spots on it. Seven meters away, the smell is still strong enough that it just about makes me gag, and every instinct I have is telling me this is not edible.

tl;dr: are jamon serrano hams supposed to smell overpoweringly like old mouldy food, or did I just blow $80 and a perfectly good towel on a worthless chunk of rot?

This is what it looks like: Questionable Jamón Serrano ham

Follow-up: I've been in contact with the store, and I'm going to go get a refund. I showed the ham to some knowledgeable people in real life as well, and they agreed that it's spoiled. Thanks a huge lot for all your helpful answers!

  • 5
    Trust your nose. We evolved it for a reason.
    – user21524
    Mar 3, 2016 at 15:58
  • 10
    I am truly sorry to hear about your jamon. Mar 3, 2016 at 16:47
  • 24
    When I saw this in the Host Questions List, I was hoping that "Jamon Serrano" was a person, and this was from The Workplace.
    – user18838
    Mar 3, 2016 at 21:13
  • 1
    I'm not aware of any time you should eat something that makes you gag.
    – djechlin
    Mar 4, 2016 at 0:06
  • 4
    The part that surprises me most is the fact that you had to open it. (and that there was a plastic film, as you mentioned in a comment). There shouldn't be, as the curing process is enough to protect the ham without the need for extra packaging (on the contrary, the plastic keeps the humidity on the inside, favoring the development of molds and other bad stuff)
    – njzk2
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:52

6 Answers 6


The green from the picture looks.. strange. I'd expect a brand/tattoo, but not a green spot like that.

It should also not be dry and flaky. It has been cured with salt, so that may be what you're seeing.

Some hams will smell weird right out of the packaging. I don't think I've experienced one as bad as you're describing, though, but it could be the mold. I suggest cleaning off the mold and slicing it to see how the fat looks. Yellow fat is rancid and will stink. The fat should be white.

You might see yellow on the outside and white on the inside. In any case, the yellow shouldn't be more than a couple of millimeters wide in a slice. Just to be clear: DON'T EAT THE YELLOW FAT.

--answering your comment on another answer - the "outside" part of the ham will have skin or just fat, but the "inside" part will have exposed meat, and bone. Sometimes that will be covered with plastic or fabric, but you should take that off and clean the ham since it smells.

Also, cut and discard a vertical slice from the exposed side before you get ready to cut slices so you don't have to cut it off the individual slices. You can do the same for the yellow fat, but be careful not to cut all the fat off. A smaller knife makes this easier.

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    i.imgur.com/Tl2qMQz.jpg So I removed the plastic, and found this black substance - the smell was god-awful. Rancid fat is probably a possibility too, now that you mention it. Jeez, the trouble one has to go through for a piece of meat. I'll stick to porridge from now on. The yellow is pretty thin when sliced, and the meat inside is nice and red. I painstakingly cut a piece of it out of the ham - on its own, it didn't smell like anything at all. Tasted almost as rancid as the outside smelled, though - sour, and generally not very comforting.
    – Sir Guy
    Mar 3, 2016 at 17:21
  • @Guy I added some more details. Which part tasted rancid? If there is any brown fat in the middle of that ham... then yea, it's very rancid. You may have to scrape or cut away parts of it, assuming it's just the mold and fat that caught under the plastic that is causing the nasty smell.
    – cbay
    Mar 3, 2016 at 19:20
  • The red, good-looking meat inside the actual ham tasted sour and rancid. I'll try cutting away a larger part of the meat-side to see if the smell and look improves. If not, I'll have to go get a refund. Thanks a lot for the help, by the way!
    – Sir Guy
    Mar 3, 2016 at 19:24
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    Sounds like a lost cause, though it if was just from the first slice, it could be that it had the taste of the fat near it... I'm trying really hard to be hopeful, Serrano and Iberico hams are my absolute favorite thing.
    – cbay
    Mar 3, 2016 at 19:29

Nope, Jamon Serrano should not smell bad. It can be normal for it to have mold on the very outer surface, which is generally harmless and can just be scrubbed off, but a foul smell means that there is something wrong. I'm afraid your ham is trash.

  • The black stuff comes off with a good scrubbing, but the bright green stuff looks almost like a deep discolouration of the fat. The smell got a lot less potent once I got rid of the plastic wrapping, so I'm starting to wonder.
    – Sir Guy
    Mar 3, 2016 at 15:05
  • @Guy it's a hole leg and not just slices I take? Either way posting a picture will most definetly help.
    – dabadaba
    Mar 3, 2016 at 15:31
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    Yes, I only just realized I could post a picture. Here it is: i.imgur.com/yOYf6gC.jpg Is the plastic film only supposed to cover part of the meaty bit? The exposed meat looks dry, flaky and generally awful - hell, I had the impression there wasn't supposed to be any exposed meat.
    – Sir Guy
    Mar 3, 2016 at 16:14
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    @Guy it is a leg. when you cut a leg, there is some exposed flesh.
    – njzk2
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:47
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    @Guy also, there shouldn't be any plastic film. The ham is cured, and can be kept for quite some time in a cool and dry place. (Of course the exposed meat, and later the part where you started cutting it, dry faster than the rest of the ham, protected by the skin and fat)
    – njzk2
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:49

Microbiologist here. That meat is clearly spoiled, please don't eat it. While you could clean the mold off the outside, the discoloration and smell suggests that other microbes are at work too. Save yourself the intestinal pain and just toss it out.


As others have said, your jamon is almost certainly spoiled.However, I wouldn't throw it out just yet.

I assume you bought this jamon recently, or at least close enough to this moment that it hasn't turned spoiled while in your possession. If this is the case, it was likely already spoiled while in the store, which means the store essentially sold you a defective product. In many western countries, this means you are entitled for a full refund, provided you kept your receipt of course. From comments I've seen that you're already planning on this route, but I just wanted to reiterate it for any other people who have this issue.

Note: the above statement is void from any warranty for accuracy as legal advice. I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to be one. If you are not sure about the laws in your own country, first get the advice of an official lawyer.


Serrano ham has a much "milder" and nuttier taste than regular prosciutto. That is the beauty of the Serrano - made from a heritage breed of a specific type of hog, fed delicious nuts - the ham is mild, delicious, and should literally melt on your mouth - Anthony Bourdain likes to smear it across his lips too before devouring each piece, so you could do it that way too. It should definitely NOT have any mold on it. The type of ham that is sold in a sealed package is usually trimmed and cleaned of any naturally occuring mold prior to packaging. The best way I can describe the delectable smell of Serrano ham is: a tang of spicy musk, followed by an overall sweet nuttiness, as well as earthiness, a sharp yet pleasant overall sensation - you can tell this will have a lot of umami prior to tasting.

  • 10
    tl:dr; - It should not smell like death itself covered in the tar of the swamps from hell.
    – T. Sar
    Mar 3, 2016 at 17:54
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    I fear you are mistaken. What you describe is Iberico, not Serrano. (Iberico is made from acorn-fed Iberico pig)
    – njzk2
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:45
  • 1
    @njzk2 Not just that, but only jamón Ibérico de bellota is made from free-range acorn-fed pigs.
    – March Ho
    Mar 4, 2016 at 5:07
  • Iberico can be partially acorn-fed, but if it doesn't have the 'de bellota' specification, it will have been fed grain to make weight. Iberico hams are made from pigs that are at least 75% Iberico breed, while Serrano is made from white pigs. jamon.com/pigbreeds.html
    – cbay
    Mar 7, 2016 at 15:12

Jamon serrano smell should not smell badly. In fact, jamon lovers tend to love the smell. But this is an acquired taste that may take a few interactions to be acquired.

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