How to Debone a Ham Shank

Updated February 22, 2018

A whole ham is a formidably large cut of meat for a modern family, so they are generally sold in halves. The upper portion, containing the hip bones, is called the butt half. The lower portion is called the shank half. Either may be cooked with the bone in or the bone removed, as the cook prefers. Shank halves have a less complicated bone structure, and make a better starting point for the novice learning to debone cuts of meat.

Put on your kitchen gloves, if you will be using them. Set the ham on your cutting board, and roll it gently. On one side you will see the edge of a large muscle, with a small seam where it joins to the next.

Slide your knife down this seam, opening it up to a depth of about a half inch. Slide your fingertips into the seam and pull the large muscle away from the one underneath. It will pull away, exposing the layer of connective tissue holding the leg together.

Cut through the connective tissue with the tip of our knife, continuing to pull the large muscle away, until your knife reaches the bone. Spread the cut sides of the ham, laying the bone as open as possible.

Make shallow cuts down each side of the bone, freeing the meat. At each end, cut around the bone and undercut it slightly, loosening the bone at each end. Grip the bone in your non-dominant hand, and twist it firmly counterclockwise.

Run the knife under the exposed side of the bone, cutting it away from the flesh underneath. Rock the bone clockwise, and repeat on the other side. The bone should now be free from the ham. If it is not, reach underneath with the tip of your knife and cut any remaining tissue.

Portion the ham as desired, or roll it and tie it with kitchen twine for roasting.


Boning knives have narrow, rigid blades ranging from six to 10 inches in length. If you do not have a boning knife, a slender utility knife is an excellent substitute.


Clean and sanitise any surfaces that have been in contact with uncooked ham.

Things You'll Need

  • Kitchen gloves (optional)
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife, preferably a boning knife
  • Kitchen twine (optional)
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About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.