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The Best Ham for a French Ham Sandwich

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One of the most popular sandwiches in France is the French Ham Sandwich, also known as the Jambon-Beurre.

Every day millions of these sandwiches are sold in France and their popularity is starting to travel overseas thanks to their simplicity and deliciousness. 

Sandwiches are a staple lunch item in the world and the simplicity of this sandwich makes it a perfect choice to add to your lunch rotation. Typically, this sandwich only requires 3 ingredients, which makes it a breeze to pull together. 

But if you want to make an authentic French Ham Sandwich? What is the best ham to use? Your best bet to replicate the flavor of this classic sandwich is to use a French Ham (also known as Paris Ham or Jambon de Paris). 

But if you can’t find it at your store you can also use Niman Ranch Jambon Royale Euro-Style Ham or Applegate Organic Uncured Slow Cooked Ham.

Read on to discover what makes French Ham so special, what to look for in a substitute, and how to make the perfect French Ham Sandwich. 

What Is a French Ham Sandwich?

A recent study showed that there were over 1.2 billion French Ham sandwiches sold in France in a single year, which makes up about 62% of the sandwich market in that country.

The only sandwich to outsell the Jambon-Beurre in France is a hamburger

These sandwiches are so basic that you may wonder what all the fuss is about.

A traditional French Ham Sandwich, also called a Jambon-Beurre, which translates to ham-butter, is just ham, butter, and bread. How can this be one of the most popular sandwiches in France? 

The secret lies in the quality of the ingredients used to make this sandwich. Your ordinary white bread, margarine, and Black Forest Ham aren’t going to cut it when it comes to making a delicious Jambon-Beurre. 

To make this sandwich you want to use a ficelle, which is a thinner, sweeter type of baguette, as your bread.

french ham sandwich

If you can’t find a ficelle, mini baguettes will work like a charm. The texture of the baguette, with its soft center and crunchy crust are crucial components of this sandwich. 

You also don’t want to use a margarine or butter substitute. Go for the best quality butter that you can afford. Most grocery stores will sell European-style creamery butter and this is the one you should buy if it is available

Most recipes suggest buying an unsalted variety and then salting it to your taste preferences. If you want to save a bit of time and energy, then buying a salted European-style butter is one shortcut that you can take. 

The final crucial ingredient in this sandwich is French Ham.

This ham is also called Paris Ham or Jambon de Paris, and unlike some other types of ham products, it is wet-cured, unsmoked, but fully cooked. It is moist and not nearly as salty as most other types of deli ham

As you will see below, it is cooked in a variety of spices to give it a subtle complexity of flavor. It is considered a high-quality charcuterie ham as opposed to a deli counter ham. 

What Is French Ham? 

French Ham, also known as Paris Ham or Jambon de Paris, is a Parisian-style, wet-cured ham. Like most other ham products, it is made from the fresh rear leg of a pig.

The meat should never be frozen before curing so that it doesn’t impact the quality of the final product

To make a French Ham, the leg bone is removed, but the skin and fat remain on the outside. This fat cap helps give the French Ham its luscious texture and rich flavor.

Even though the fat is left on the outside, the actual meat is lean and it has a mild flavor, pale pink color, and is fully cooked.

The process of making this product is a labor of love. Each French Ham is wet-cured (that means it is cured in a water and salt solution) for 10-30 days.

The brine typically contains salt, water, sugar, and various spices. Some recipes will vary, but generally include thyme, bay leaf, and parsley.

You may occasionally see a recipe that also includes basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory spice and tarragon.

Some recipes may even call for vegetables like carrot, celery, celeriac, leek, onion and parsley root to add extra flavor. 

After the curing process, the ham is removed from the brine and slowly cooked over several hours in a flavored broth, which sometimes includes the above-mentioned spices and vegetables.

Letting the ham cool completely in its cooking liquid keeps the meat moist and tender. 

Once cooked, the ham is tied into its rectangular shape and thinly sliced without removing the fat or skin.

The final product is a slightly salty, mildly sweet, and subtly flavored ham that is unlike most products you will get at the grocery store in America

This ham is used for classic French sandwiches such as the Jambon-Beurre (French Ham Sandwich) and the Croque Monsieur.

If you want to get really authentic with your French Ham Sandwich, then this is definitely a product you will want to invest in. 

Best Substitutes for French Ham

Since French Ham has such a delicate flavor and is less salty than dry-cured hams, to get a similar flavor in your French Ham Sandwich you will want to try to mimic that flavor profile.

Look for wet-cured or slow-cooked hams that don’t have any smoke flavor added

If you can find a ham that is cooked or cured with a spice blend, that can help bring the flavor closer to a traditional French Ham.

Let’s take a quick look at some hams that don’t make the best substitution before digging into the best ones to use on your French Ham Sandwich. 

Black Forest ham is wet cured, like French Ham, but it has a strong, smokey flavor so it won’t replicate well the taste you are looking for.

In general, you will want to avoid any hams that have been smoked since the flavor will be too intense for this sandwich.

Dry-cured hams such as prosciutto or serrano ham are going to be incredibly salty. While they are delicious in their own right, they are not the best choices to use if you’re trying to replicate a Jambon-Beurre. 

Since American country hams are generally dry-cured and can sometimes be smoked as well, they aren’t going to have the same kind of texture.

The dry-curing process means that country hams won’t have that moist, succulent texture that you’re looking for in a French Ham Sandwich. 

If you’re looking for that traditional taste, you will also not want to use a honey ham for your Jambon-Beurre, since the sweetness isn’t typical of a Paris ham. 

With all of this being said, if you want to get creative with your French Ham Sandwich, you can switch it up with any of the above types of hams.

Just remember that it won’t replicate that distinctive flavor of a Jambon-Beurre, though it will no doubt still be delicious!

1. Applegate Organic Uncured Slow-Cooked Ham

While this ham doesn’t go through the same curing process as French Ham, it does use spices in the cooking process, such as bay, cinnamon, cloves, and pimento to give it a delicate, spiced flavor.

Applegate Organic Uncured Slow-Cooked Ham

It also has the moist texture you’re looking for in a ham to use in a Jambon-Beurre

While the flavor won’t exactly replicate that of a Paris ham, it will be close. And you can generally find it in smaller packages as opposed to purchasing an entire French Ham. 

2. Niman Ranch Jambon Royale Euro-Style Ham

This choice also doesn’t go through a curing process, but it is slow-cooked to give it a less salty, but subtly complex flavor. It doesn’t have a smokey taste, which is perfect for balancing the buttery flavor in a French Ham Sandwich. 

Niman Ranch Jambon Royale Euro-Style Ham

Since it is slow-cooked in liquid, it has that soft, moist texture you want for the perfect Jambon-Beurre. It also conveniently comes pre-sliced, which makes building your perfect sandwich a breeze. 

Though it is not exactly the same as Paris ham, since it doesn’t have that blend of spices, it has that soft texture and mild saltiness that makes it a great choice for your sandwich needs.

Honorable Mentions

There are a couple of other brands and styles of ham that you can use to substitute French Ham in this delicious sandwich.

As with any substitute, the taste may not be exactly the same, but it will be close enough that only the most discerning palates will be able to tell. 

Fra’ Mani Rosemary Ham makes a great choice since it has the tender, juicy flavor that you want in a French Ham Sandwich. It also has a subtle rosemary flavor, which adds an extra layer to the sandwich, without overpowering your tastebuds. 

Another option is the Berkshire Pork Bistro Ham from D’Artagnan. It may be a little difficult to find at the grocery store, but you can order it through their website.

It has the same fat and skin cap as a French Ham, with that juicy and tender texture. It isn’t smoked, so it doesn’t have a strong taste. 

How to Make a French Ham Sandwich or a Jambon-Beurre

The beauty of all sandwiches is that they are relatively simple to make, filling, and packed with flavor. The French Ham Sandwich, or Jambon-Beurre is no exception. 

Traditionally it contains only three ingredients: bread, butter, and ham, though some people do like to add some Gruyere cheese for an extra kick of flavor. 

This sandwich is made with a bread called ficelle, which is a thinner, sweeter bread similar to a baguette.

They are typically about 1.5-2 inches wide, while baguettes are closer to 2.5 inches. If you can’t find ficelle, just a mini baguette instead. 

French Ham Sandwich Ingredients

  • 1 ficelle baguette or 1 mini baguette 
  • 1/4 cup of room-temperature, creamery butter (unsalted)
  • About 12 slices of very thinly sliced Paris Ham or alternative 
  • Optional: 6 slices of thinly sliced Gruyere cheese 

French Ham Sandwich Directions

  1. Cut your ficelle or mini baguette in half, lengthwise. 
  2. In a small bowl, salt your butter to your taste by stirring it into the butter until fully incorporated. You can also use your favorite salted creamery butter and skip this step. 
  3. Use half the butter to slather the top of the bread and the other half to fully coat the bottom piece of bread. More is better when it comes to butter on a French Ham Sandwich!
  4. If you want to use the cheese, layer it on the bottom slice of bread from end to end. 
  5. Then layer the ham on the bottom slice of bread, covering it from end to end. 
  6. Place the other piece of bread on top of the sandwich and gently press it down. 
  7. Cut the sandwich in half and enjoy! 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, this simple sandwich packs quite the punch. It is deceptively simple, but the quality of the ingredients makes the flavors and textures in this sandwich sing.

I mean, who doesn’t love bread and butter? Add some perfectly seasoned ham to the mix and you have a winning combo.

Remember, you don’t want to use an overly salty, dry, or smoked ham since this will fundamentally change the flavor of the sandwich.

Look for wet-cured or slow-cooked hams that are low in salt and may include some subtle spices and seasonings

Don’t skimp on the quality of your butter either. Margarine or butter substitutes won’t give you the rich, creamy flavor that is crucial for the perfect French ham sandwich. You will want to use European or creamery-style butter

You can buy unsalted and season it to your liking or if you have a salted variety that you really love, it will work as a substitution in this case. 

Finally, make sure you don’t use your average white bread to make this sandwich. The key is a crusty loaf of ficelle or mini-baguette.

Without this bread, you will be missing out on the soft center and crusty, crunchy outside that makes this sandwich such a pleasure to eat. 

Since this sandwich is only three ingredients, don’t skimp on the quality and you will have the perfect simple and utterly delicious lunch to make all your friends and coworkers jealous. 

french ham sandwich

French Ham Sandwich

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

This French Ham Sandwich combines three simple ingredients (four if you like cheese) into a mouthwatering, unbeatable lunchtime dish!

Ingredients

  • 1 ficelle baguette or 1 mini baguette
  • 1/4 cup of room temperature, creamery butter (unsalted)
  • About 12 slices of very thinly sliced Paris Ham or alternative
  • Optional: 6 slices of thinly sliced Gruyere cheese

Instructions

  1. Cut your ficelle or mini baguette in half, lengthwise.
  2. In a small bowl, salt your butter to your taste by stirring it into the butter until fully incorporated. You can also use your favorite salted creamery butter and skip this step.
  3. Use half the butter to slather the top of the bread and the other half to fully coat the bottom piece of bread. More is better when it comes to butter on a French Ham Sandwich!
  4. If you want to use the cheese, layer it on the bottom slice of bread from end to end.
  5. Then layer the ham on the bottom slice of bread, covering it from end to end.
  6. Place the other piece of bread on top of the sandwich and gently press it down.
  7. Cut the sandwich in half and enjoy!

Notes

You can wrap your sandwich in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for a day.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 2613Total Fat: 204gSaturated Fat: 124gTrans Fat: 7gUnsaturated Fat: 63gCholesterol: 562mgCarbohydrates: 149gFiber: 6gSugar: 14gProtein: 56g

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