What Is The Difference Between Pork Roll and Spam

Pork roll and Spam are two types of processed pork that have been used for decades to help add meat to a simple meal, without breaking the bank.

Although they are often confused with one another, they are actually two very different products.

Pork roll, which most commonly known as Taylor ham, is made from ground pork shoulder, while Spam is made from ground pork, ham, and spices.

Both meats can be cooked and served on their own, but they can also both be used in recipes to bring a unique flavor to the dish.

Pork roll and Spam are both canned, processed pork products, yet they are not the same. Pork roll contains ground pork shoulder, sugar, and salt, while spam contains ground pork, ham, sugar, salt, and different spices. Although they have a similar mushy, sausage-like texture, pork roll is shaped like a large sausage, while Spam is vacuum sealed into a rectangular can.

Both meat products are typically served hot, although Spam can be eaten straight from the can, while pork roll cannot.

Is There a Difference in Taste and Texture?

Pork roll and Spam have very different tastes. Pork roll tastes more like bacon or Canadian bacon, and does not have a spicy flavor.

Spam, since it contains ham, tastes smoky and more like ham, and is also spicier. The two meats are often used interchangeably, especially if they are being used in a recipe.

There is no real difference in the flavor of the meats on their own. However, Spam does come in different flavors that are vastly different than pork roll.

Both products have the same texture, as they are both made from ground up pork products, and therefore have a mushy texture, similar to sausage.

Do They Look the Same?

Although the meat itself looks quite similar, the packaging and shape of pork roll and Spam are very different.

Both of the meats are light pink; however, Spam is slightly darker because of the added spices.

Pork roll is shaped into a round strip, almost like a sausage. Spam is sealed into a rectangular can, and has a rectangle shape.

Upon preparation both meats look almost identical, as they are both sliced before cooking.

Which is Healthier: Pork Roll or Spam?

Pork roll and Spam are both generally classified as unhealthy foods. They are high in calories, fat, and sodium.

However, between the two options, Spam is healthier, although pork roll has less sodium.

The pork roll is safely smoked before packaging, but there is a chance that bacteria can grow on the packaged meat, which means that it is not safe to eat pork roll straight from the package.  

Spam is made up of six different ingredients: ground pork with ham, water, salt, sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrate.

All of the ingredients are cooked, pressed into a can, and then vacuum-sealed.

Because everything is fully cooked, it is completely safe to eat Spam straight out of the container, although many people find it more satisfying to heat the meat before consuming it.

Per 2 oz ServingPork RollSpam
Total Fat22 g16 g
Cholesterol45 mg40 mg
Sodium500 mg790 mg
Carbohydrates1 g1 g
Protein7 g7 g
Sugar1 g1 g
Vitamin A4% Daily Value0% Daily Value
Vitamin C4% Daily Value0% Daily Value
Iron4% Daily Value2% Daily Value
Potassium0% Daily Value2% Daily Value

Is There A Difference In Price?

There is a very small difference in price, with pork roll being three cents an ounce cheaper than Spam. Both pork roll and Spam have traditionally been considered affordable forms of protein.

Pork roll can come in much larger quantities than Spam, with a 6-pound roll selling online for $47.99, plus $15 for shipping. However, smaller quantities are available in grocery stores.

 Per ContainerPer Ounce
Pork roll16 ounces – $4.00$0.25
Spam12 ounces – $3.38$0.28

Different Varieties of Pork Roll and Spam

The most common and most famous form of Pork roll is called Taylor ham. It was developed in the early 19th century by a man named John Taylor, and has been sold ever since.

There are two different varieties – mild and tangy, with the tangy version having a smokier flavor. There are also generic versions of Pork roll that have the same ingredients as Taylor ham.

Spam comes in several different flavors, such as jalapeno, spicy, or teriyaki. There are also low-fat, low-sodium, and turkey versions available.

There are also generic versions of Spam. They are packaged in the same-style rectangular can, and are typically labeled as “luncheon meat.”

How to Cook Pork Roll

Although pork roll is already fully cooked, it is best to heat the product before eating it to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. It can be microwaved or fried.   

To microwave pork roll, decide how much you want to cook. You can cook the entire roll, or you can cut off slices.

  1. Place the pork roll on a plate, on top of a paper towel.
  2. Heat the pork roll in the microwave until it reaches the desired temperature. Thinner slices will in about 30 seconds, while the entire roll could take between 7 and 9 minutes.
  3. Check the temperature, and continue to heat as necessary.

To fry the pork roll, cut slices to desired thickness.

  1. Heat a frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Place the slice of pork roll into the frying pan.
  3. Brown both sides of the slices. This can take anywhere from two to four minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the slices.

To prevent the slices from curling up, cut a small slit in each side of the slice. This will help it lay flat in the pan.

Pork roll is most often served as part of a sandwich, with a fried egg and cheese.

Pork Roll vs Spam

How to Cook Spam

Spam is fully cooked, and it is possible to eat it cold, straight out of the container. Some choose this method; however, most people prefer to heat the Spam up.

Spam can be cooked in the microwave or fried. This is done the same way as microwaving or frying the pork roll. Spam can also be cooked in an air fryer.

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place slices of Spam in the basket of the air fryer.
  3. Cook at 400 degrees for 2 minutes.
  4. Shake the basket.
  5. Cook for another two minutes.

Although Spam is often served on its own, Spam can also be used as part of a recipe such as with Spam kebobs, Spam pizza, or Spam fajitas.

  • To make Spam kebobs, first cut Spam, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion, and pineapple into evenly-sized chunks. Place the ingredients onto a wooden skewer, and grill over a barbeque.
  • To make Spam pizza, simply use chunks of diced Spam alongside other pizza toppings such as pineapple, bacon, or mushrooms.
  • To make Spam fajitas, slice the Spam into strips and cook it alongside sliced peppers and onions. Mix in fajita seasoning, and serve with tortillas.

What to Serve Alongside Pork Roll

Pork roll is traditionally served alongside breakfast foods such as scrambled eggs or pancakes.

Scrambled eggs are good plain, but can also be enhanced with shredded cheese, mushrooms, peppers, or other vegetables.

  1. Crack two eggs into a bowl.
  2. Add two tablespoons of milk and whisk together.
  3. Heat a frying pan over medium heat.
  4. Melt two tablespoons of butter into the pan.
  5. Add the eggs.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Slowly stir the eggs as they cook, until they are cooked through.

Although there are several simple pancakes mixes available, it is quite simple to make pancakes from scratch.

  1. In a large bowl, combine one cup flour, two tablespoons sugar, two teaspoons baking powder, and one teaspoon salt.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine one beaten egg, one cup milk, and two tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  3. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture, and combine well.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  5. Pour batter onto the skilled. Cook until the bottom side is cooked, and the top side is full of holes.
  6. Flip the pancake over and cook through.

What to Serve Alongside Spam

Spam is a very popular meat in Hawaii. It is believed that American soldiers brought Spam to the Islands during the second World War, and its popularity has not waned.

In honor of this fact, it is fun to serve Spam alongside Hawaiian-themed dishes such as musubi or grilled pineapple.

To make musubi, first cook three cups of rice according to directions.

  1. Take ½ cup of rice and shape it into an oval, the same size as a slice of Spam.
  2. Cut one slice of Spam and fry it.
  3. Place the Spam on top of the rice.
  4. Wrap a strip of seaweed around the rice and Spam.

Grilled pineapple is coated with a glaze, and then grilled on a barbeque.

  1. Cut a pineapple into long slices and set into a baking dish.
  2. In a saucepan, melt together ½ cup butter and ½ cup brown sugar.
  3. Add one teaspoon of cinnamon.
  4. Pour the glaze over the top of the pineapple.
  5. Place the pineapple on a grill and cook for seven minutes, or until the pineapple is cooked through.

Final Considerations

Rolled pork and Spam are both simple easy ways to cook and serve pork, and have been served for generations. 

Although they are both highly processed and are not considered a healthy food, they are both quite tasty and are a fun occasional treat.

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