Why does ham get so salty when fried?

The margin is relatively slim: A minute in the pan is okay, but after two or three minutes it may be inedible. It happens without any other ingredients in the pan and no added salt, and I’m pretty sure frying doesn’t create salt, so the only remaining possibility, AFAIK, is that the evaporation of water in the ham concentrates the salt. Is that it or is it something else?

That’s it.

I defer to the Kids in the Hall on this question.

Ham is cured in salt, so the outer surface is coated with it. When you fry it, the salt disperses. Put water in the pan first, then drain it away after frying. Or, you could add flour to it and make gravy.

Goddamn bastard brine.

I’d be pretty salty too if someone tried to fry me.

Although this is a factual question, it’s also about food and cooking. We tend to put factual questions about food and cooking in Cafe society. So I moved it.

Some people try to put me down
Just because fine ham abounds.
They are square; the world is round.
Gonna throw the dice and change my town.
They call me (?) and aloof…
But I can taste the ham… of truth!

  • Kids In The Hall, F—-ing Good Ham

How much water would evaporate in mere minutes? Possibly enough. Might the heat change the distribution of salt? Turn solids into saline?

Which is also why if you’re making a sauce, you salt to taste after the liquid reduces.

Sure, that kind of thing I understand. With ham, though, the increase in saltiness seems disproportionate.

I wish you hadn’t. I was hoping for a factual answer because I’m interested in the science behind the matter, not a random seven-minute video of silliness.

So “ham is cured in salt” wasn’t scientific enough for you?

Everyone knows it’s cured in salt. As I said above, the increase seems disproportionate.

Well, prosciutto tastes more salty than a big Christmas ham. Maybe it’s just more salt?

My guess is that the application of heat causes much of the ham’s internal juices to get forced out. Since the ham is cured (as opposed to a steak or a piece of raw chicken), the juices have a lot of salt content, and they subsequently evaporate, leaving the salt on the exterior of the ham, where it comes into more direct/immediate contact with the tongue when chewing, even though the overall salt content was the same as before.

Yeah, that could be it. I think something similar happens to bacon, although it doesn’t get as salty as ham does.

Prosciutto is pretty thin, so there’s more surface to area. I bet if you cut that Christmas ham as thin it would taste saltier.

This seems to make sense - another food that I’ve noticed gets extremely salty through frying is halloumi cheese. Halloumi likewise “leaks” a lot of brine when fried. It’s also possible that the juices coming out while cooking result in an even greater reduction in moisture content vs. cooking other types of foods, resulting in a noticeable increase in the salt concentration. It seems to me the concentration of salt has more to do with how salty something tastes than the absolute amount of salt being consumed (it amazes me how much salt is contained in bread, for example, and other foods that I don’t really think of as salty).

There’s probably also a nonlinear response to salt, in the taste buds, such that there’s some threshold below which something tastes “not salty”, and above which it tastes “salty”.

In the past, I’ve made ‘pastrami,’ which starts with a commercial corned beef brisket in cryovac. I soak it in water for x time, with y changes of water. X might be 2-5, Y the same. On cook day, I rub it down with yellow mustard, then tons of black pepper and coriander powder prior to hours on the smoker. It’s some of the best BBQ I’ve ever made. It’s also some of the most inedible BBQ I’ve made due to not enough salt being drawn out. It is really hard to know the sodium content of a brined/cured meat product like this before a cook.