What is Iberico Presa: Everything you Need to Know About this Special Cut

If you’ve heard of Iberico pork, you probably know that it is an expensive and highly sought-after product rivaling other food items that are considered a delicacy such as wagyu beef or truffles. These authentic hams originate from black-footed pigs on the Iberian peninsula primarily between the countries of Spain and Portugal. What you may not know is that, while the legs and belly of most pigs are the desirable meaty products most people jump for, there are three special cuts that are a unique treat from Iberian pigs.

Keep reading to learn why these cuts are special, where they come from on the pig, and how to best prepare them.

Where Does the Presa Cut Come From?

You may be surprised to learn that the presa cut is not unique to Iberian pigs, and it is possible to find these cuts from less famous but still high-quality pigs. This is because butchering animals is still largely influenced by one’s cultural background and so which meats get cut and sold can depend on where the butcher was trained, as well as the foods they are familiar with.

In many other countries, it is common for these cuts to be eaten from all pigs. However, in the United States, we tend to only eat a select few cuts of pork unless they are from these special pigs. 

The presa cut is located slightly below where the pork tenderloin is, in the shoulder area of the pig. This cut is the largest of the three special cuts associated with Iberico pork and is succulent and flavorful, easily weighing around one pound.

Special Cuts of Iberico Ham

Pluma

  • Cut from the front end of the shoulder loin
  • Diamond-like in shape
  • Less than an inch thick
  • Best seared over a direct heat

Presa

  • Cut lower than the pluma, part of the pig’s shoulder
  • Roughly oval shaped
  • Usually between one and two inches thick
  • Best prepared using the “reverse sear” method

Secreto

  • Hidden cut found by the shoulder blade
  • Thin, sheet-like appearance
  • Only weighs 10-15 ounces and is half an inch thick
  • Best prepared with a quick sear 

How to Prepare a Mouthwatering 16oz Iberico Presa

Preparing a tantalizing cut of Iberico presa is not an overly difficult task and can be done in several ways. This method makes use of a grill but similar results can be achieved using an oven and stove top.

  • Begin by trimming any thin membranes that may still be present on the surface of the meat - this is quite easy as presa cuts usually require minimal trimming.
  • Next, rub half a teaspoon of salt into meat on both sides, taking care to make sure it is distributed evenly. If you would like, you can also rub in four tablespoons of your favorite steak rub into the meat at this step.
  • Let the meat rest uncovered in the fridge for a few hours if you are pressed for time. Let rest overnight for the best results.
  • Preheat a grill to the 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit range by heating just one side of the grill. Place the meat on the opposite side of the grill, away from the heat, and close the lid. This gives the meat some time to cook without getting burnt on the outside or drying out on the inside in a process known as reverse searing. Allow the meat to cook for about 30 minutes in this state - do not be tempted to open the lid or flip the meat at this stage.
  • After it has been about 30 minutes, crank the heat up to high and move the meat over to the heat. Sear until golden brown on each side - this should take about two or three minutes per side.
  • Check the internal temperature of the meat. It should be between 133-136 Fahrenheit. You may notice this is lower than the recommended minimum temperature of 145 Fahrenheit from organizations like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is because Iberico ham is still safe to consume at lower internal temperatures than regular pork and ham.
  • Rest the meat for a few minutes before cutting it against the grain, and serve.

Final Thoughts

While Iberico presa is not dried and cured like the world-famous product, it is still a wonderful treat to indulge in, and is surprisingly simple to prepare. Its beautiful marbling, flavor, and size lends itself to a more refined culinary experience for a couple wanting to try a cut which is off the beaten path.

Depending on the availability at your local grocery store or butcher’s, it may even be possible to get the same cut from a regular pig breed as well - keep in mind that you may not find the same quality of meat as that of an Iberian pig though.

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