The OED defines ham as:

The thigh of a slaughtered animal, used for food; spec. that of a hog salted and dried in smoke or otherwise; also, the meat so prepared.

It defines gammon as:

The bottom piece of a side or flitch of bacon, including the hind leg. In later use also: a smoked or cured ham.

It defines bacon as:

The back and sides of the pig, ‘cured’ by salting, drying, etc. Formerly also the fresh flesh now called pork.

In Britain there is a street-wisdom about when to describe meat as ham, as bacon or gammon. Ham is usually bought ready-cooked. Gammon usually comes as a joint, bacon in slices.

But is there a clear distinction which is not being picked up here?

  • 1
    My understanding is: Ham and gammon both come from hind legs and are cured meat, but gammon is the raw state. Bacon is cured meat from the back and belly.
    – Spagirl
    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:28
  • 1
    In the US, bacon is "pork belly", cured, smoked, and optionally sliced. Not really part of the "ham". Not sure I've ever heard "gammon".
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:32
  • 2
    @WS2 - It's known as "Canadian bacon".
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 17, 2017 at 13:00
  • 2
    @HotLicks Like the Australians, and the Irish the Canadians also no doubt know all about proper bacon. I explained to a chef in an Italian hotel this summer, that he was serving American bacon, and explained one easy step to improving his breakfast menu - acquire some proper bacon.
    – WS2
    Sep 17, 2017 at 13:03
  • 3
    @WS2 We are aware of the problem, but are concentrating on fixing our beer first, which we are having some luck with. I will suggest that we tackle bacon next.
    – Phil Sweet
    Sep 17, 2017 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


The following extract tries to outline the main differences:

From SeedToFeedMe:

  • Gammon, ham and bacon are all cured meats (which means they are preserved using salt or brine), and all can be smoked. However there are some key differences between them.

  • The main difference between gammon and ham is that gammon is sold raw and needs to be cooked, whilst ham is sold cooked and ready for eating. Therefore it is true that a gammon is a ham that has not yet been cooked. If a gammon is prepared and cooked it can be called a ham, and is generally sold as a gammon ham.

  • Gammon and bacon are both cured pork. The main difference between them is the part of the pig from which they originate. Gammon is the hind leg (haunch) of a pig whilst bacon is the meat from other parts of the pig such as the loin, collar or belly.

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