Ranking Boar's Head Deli Meat From Worst To Best

For deli meat aficionados, the Boar's Head symbol hanging over a deli counter is a symbol of quality. The company has a history that dates back more than a century, and it was founded by a man who wanted to make better ham than he could buy from other sources. Boar's Head began in the New York City area, a part of the country that has earned its reputation as a source of some of the finest deli meat in the U.S. The brand claims its products are different from the competition because it uses old-world artisanal techniques and high-quality ingredients.

Since its inception as a ham manufacturer, Boar's Head has branched out into selling just about anything that can be cut thin on a deli slicer and sold by the pound. We weren't able to sample everything from the company's expansive lineup, but we selected a good representation of the breadth of Boar's Head's offerings. Many were great, but some were underwhelming and even a little bit weird. Here's our definitive ranking of Boar's Head deli meats.

20. Bold Aloha Sunshine Pineapple Turkey Breast

We all know that mixing pineapple with savory foods can be controversial. The arguments about whether pineapple belongs on pizza never end (for the record, we're pro-Hawaiian pizza). Pineapple's bracing acidity and tropical warmth can be used to great effect in some meat dishes, but only if they're applied correctly. Suffice it to say that Boar's Head Bold Aloha Sunshine Pineapple Turkey Breast does not integrate pineapple well into its mix of flavors.

We like to see Boar's Head getting experimental. It's nice to not have to eat the same old sandwich meats every day. Stiil, we can't imagine anyone wanting to eat this for lunch. Imagine opening a giant can of Dole pineapple juice and dumping a whole roasted turkey breast into it, then letting that concoction sit for a few days. That will give you a good idea of what this misbegotten deli meat tastes like. It's so sweet that it almost seems like it has Splenda or aspartame in it. There's no acidity whatsoever coming from the pineapple. The description on the Boar's Head site says there's hibiscus in this turkey as well, but we couldn't tell it was there. This turkey tasted wrong, and our brains struggled to make sense of the mismatched flavors. Save the pineapple for the top of your Christmas ham.

19. Strassburger Liverwurst

Before liverwurst fans (if they exist) start barking at us, we're not ranking Boar's Head Strassburger Liverwurst so low because liver grosses us out. Liver is a delicious, underappreciated cut of meat, and we've had liverwursts in the past that we've enjoyed. Other liverwursts we've sampled have usually been spreadable, pate-like mixtures that had a pretty strong liver taste. Obviously, if you hate offal, that sounds like a nightmare, but for people who like variety meats, this type of liverwurst can be quite tasty on a cracker or a piece of toast.

Boar's Head's liverwurst is not that. Instead, it's a slightly firmer, sliceable log of sausage that's halfway between liverwurst and bologna. Its texture is in the uncanny valley between a soft spread and sliced deli meat. It's like bologna that had something terrible happen to it. It also smells like livery bologna, which is, well, not good. On the tongue, it tastes like bologna at first, but then develops a livery character in the aftertaste that intensifies over time.

We could imagine somebody enjoying this if they were used to its wet tissue paper-like texture, but even most people who enjoy the flavor of liver would probably not care for this product.

18. Olive Terrine Loaf

Boar's Head Olive Terrine Loaf sounds like some kind of fancy French appetizer, but it's really just a big square brick of beef and pork bologna with a bunch of pimento-stuffed green olives molded into it. It smells ... not great, but bologna rarely does, so we won't hold that against it.

Boar's Head makes good bologna, and the meat portion of this olive loaf is no exception. It's well-seasoned and has a nice firm texture. However, for us, the olives ruin the experience of eating this. It's not because they're bad olives — quite the contrary, in fact. The Manzanilla olives are briny and bright, and they're shockingly crisp and fresh-tasting given that they have been cooked inside a giant loaf of emulsified meat. However, in context, their crispness is actually a problem. The olives are much harder than the meat surrounding them, and the overall texture of the olive loaf is similar to meat studded with hunks of crunchy gristle. Although the taste was nice, we couldn't get past the texture.

17. Bold Ichiban Teriyaki Style Chicken Breast

This is another one of Boar's Head's more contemporary, experimental deli meats. While we weren't completely sold on the Ichiban Teriyaki Style Chicken Breast, it was much more successful than the pineapple turkey. For one, it was not heinously sweet. It had some sugar in it, as you would expect from teriyaki sauce, but the sweetness didn't totally overwhelm the savory, salty flavor of the chicken itself. The sweet glaze on the outside was also tempered by the taste of soy sauce. The teriyaki flavor was confined to the exterior of the chicken; if you ripped off the glaze, the meat just tasted like normal deli chicken.

While we appreciated that the teriyaki flavor in this was somewhat mild, we still don't understand why this exists. Most people like to make sandwiches with deli meat, and for us, teriyaki doesn't mix very well with classic sandwich toppings. Maybe that's an unpopular opinion, since people seem to enjoy the teriyaki chicken at Subway, but for us, it's a strange combo. Also, the chicken products from Boar's Head have a noticeably softer, spongier texture than the turkey. If you're buying poultry from the company, we'd recommend choosing turkey (without pineapple, of course) for that reason.

16. Lebanon Bologna

If you're wondering what Lebanon bologna is, that's probably because it's a regional delicacy — not from the nation of Lebanon, but from Lebanon, Pennsylvania. This Pennsylvania Dutch staple has a history going back to the 1700s. It's a type of smoked beef bologna that's characterized by having chunks of visible fat and a distinct seasoning mix containing spices like cloves, ginger, and allspice. It's also usually a little bit tangy, as it's a fermented sausage. Weirdly, Boar's Head Lebanon Bologna doesn't seem to be listed on the company's website, though it's widely available at grocery store chains like Publix.

With such a cool backstory, we were looking forward to trying this product, but we found it a little underwhelming. It reminded us of a hybrid between bologna and salami. The flavor was very beefy, smoky, and sweet from the spices. It was less finely ground and uniform than standard bologna. However, we had a beef with the texture, so to speak. It was very firm, to the point of being rubbery. Each slice had an extra hard skin on the outside that we didn't much enjoy biting through. It was interesting to taste for the first time, and it wasn't bad, but we'd pick other Boar's Head bolognas over this one.

15. Mortadella

Speaking of other bolognas, now's the time to talk about mortadella. It's a large-format emulsified sausage that's a specialty of Bologna, Italy. You could think of bologna as a cheap knockoff of mortadella. You can tell the difference between mortadella and bologna visually because mortadella always has large chunks of cured fat mixed in with the emulsified meat paste. Mortadella is also 100% pork, while bologna often contains beef.

The distinguishing flavor of Boar's Head Mortadella is garlic. You smell garlic when you open the package and its sharp flavor is noticeable in every bite as well. There are also noticeable pieces of whole black peppercorns in some slices. It tastes like a hybrid between American bologna and some kind of Italian ham. The texture is snappy but yielding, a combination of soft and toothsome that would be perfect in a sandwich. Even though we think of mortadella as the fancy bologna, it actually ranks lower on this list than another Boar's Head bologna variation. Since it's made with pork, there's something about its flavor that reminds us of Oscar Mayer Bologna, which has pork in it. That said, it was still pretty tasty.

14. Hard Salami

Boar's Head Hard Salami lives up to its name: It has the nice, firm, chewy texture you want from deli salami. Its name doesn't give you many clues as to what it's made with, but according to the Boar's Head site, it's a combination of beef and pork flavored with spices and smoke.

This salami has a distinct acidic tang that we find quite enjoyable. It needs that sour bite because it's quite fatty. When eating slices of this, your tongue gets coated in animal fat. While a certain amount of fat is good in deli meat, too much makes it hard to taste the other flavor nuances. That's the case with this hard salami. We couldn't detect anything besides salt and acidity over the fat. We would enjoy this product more if it was either seasoned more aggressively or if it was slightly less fatty. It wasn't bad, but it tasted a little bland.

13. Chorizo Serrano

Boar's Head Chorizo Serrano is a riff on Spanish-style chorizo. Spanish chorizo is made more like Italian salami than Mexican chorizo, at least in terms of texture. It's a type of hard-cured sausage that you can slice and serve on a charcuterie plate (via The Pioneer Woman).

This product is a pale imitation of its inspiration. Authentic Spanish chorizo tastes intensely of paprika and garlic. It's not exactly spicy, but it is piquant. In comparison, the Boar's Head version tastes a little flat. It's tangy and a teeny bit sweet, which suggests to us that it's fermented, which is a good thing. However, despite its bright red appearance, it doesn't taste strongly of paprika. We also didn't pick up much garlic or black pepper, which would have woken up the flavor of the meat. It just tasted like high-quality, but fairly average, deli-sliced salami. On the bright side, the texture was nice and firm. Honestly, this is a tasty product, and we would probably rate it higher if it weren't claiming to be Spanish chorizo, but it falls victim to our high expectations.

12. Beef Bologna

Now we come to the Boar's Head Beef Bologna, which is shockingly good for what it is. Bologna has a not-entirely-unfair reputation as a nasty, cheap mystery meat, but Boar's Head's all-beef variety is a cut above standard supermarket bologna.

First of all, it's well seasoned. It's salty, savory, and loaded with garlic and paprika. Also, the all-beef recipe elevates this bologna. The beef gives this product a deep, meaty richness that pork bolognas just don't have. Bologna is often too soft, but Boar's Head Beef Bologna is on the firmer side (though not to the point of being rubbery like the Lebanon bologna).

This is truly excellent bologna, but in the end, it's still bologna. For us, there's a hard upper limit on how delicious any bologna product can be. Also, it smells like raw hot dogs, which isn't great. Even so, we would buy this again, which we can't say for any other type of bologna.

11. Sandwich Style Pepperoni

No product becomes America's favorite pizza topping (per YouGov) without being seriously delicious. Pepperoni blends the primal tastiness of fatty pork with a heaping helping of salt and a touch of spiciness to create something truly special. We don't think there's such a thing as bad pepperoni, and Boar's Head's version of the product is predictably yummy, though unspectacular.

Boar's Head Sandwich Style Pepperoni is a lot better than the artificial pre-sliced stuff you can get in bags. It tastes like real food. Beyond that, it delivers everything you expect from pepperoni. It's mildly spicy, has a little tang, and delivers a black pepper kick. The sharpness of this is what we wanted from the Chorizo Serrano. The one aspect of this product that we didn't love was that when it was cold, the fat had a waxy texture. We imagine that if you served it hot on a pizza or a panini, this would not be a problem.

10. Bold Chipotle Chicken Breast

The description on Boar's Head's website says the Bold Chipotle Chicken Breast is based on the cuisine of Baja, Mexico, which feels like a bit of a stretch. Per Salt & Wind, the food in Baja relies on a lot of seafood, fresh vegetables, and vibrant flavors. We're not exactly sure how chipotle-rubbed chicken deli meat has anything to do with that, though we will grant it might have a little more connection to Baja than Mountain Dew Baja Blast does.

In any case, the chipotle chicken breast is much tastier than the teriyaki chicken breast. The meat is a little bit firmer and more natural-seeming than the teriyaki chicken, and it's very salty and well-seasoned. The spicy chipotle is confined to the coating and doesn't penetrate the meat, but it actually does have a little kick. Per Boar's Head, the coating is spiked with a little bit of habanero powder, which might be responsible for the heat. It's still not going to blow anyone's head off, but it's more spice than we were expecting from Boar's Head.

9. Rosemary & Sundried Tomato Ham

Boar's Head's tour around the world continues with its allegedly Tuscan-inspired Rosemary & Sundried Tomato Ham. Honestly, we were expecting to hate this. Cheap sundried tomatoes are usually too sweet and have a weird flavor, and we didn't think that they would combine well at all with deli-sliced ham. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the tomato and herb coating on the outside of the ham wasn't sweet at all.

This was the best of the weirder flavors we sampled for this taste test. The ground-up tomatoes mixed with rosemary and other seasonings tasted like a savory pasta sauce. The coating actually reminded us of Italian flavors, and it complemented the ham shockingly well. The ham itself was meaty and salty, with very little sweetness. We enjoyed this quite a bit, but still preferred other ham products from the brand a little more. Every product in the top half of this list tasted good to great, so this rosemary ham was up against some stiff competition.

8. Hot Uncured Capocollo

Capocollo (also known as capicola or, if you're a "Sopranos" fan, gabagool) is an Italian type of cured pork. Capocollo is different from prosciutto because it comes from another part of the animal and is cured with a mix of spices, while prosciutto is cured with pure salt.

Boar's Head Hot Uncured Capocollo is a faithful interpretation of this Italian classic. While this type of meat can often be on the lean, dry side, Boar's Head's version has a nice ribbon of fat running through it to give it moisture. It's a little bit chewy, which is typical for this type of meat, and can be remedied by slicing it thinner than we did. It has a nice tangy flavor that's complemented by a kind of sweet nuttiness. It tastes pretty similar to prosciutto. In fact, if we have one complaint about this, it's that it tastes too much like prosciutto. Capocollo, especially one marketed as "hot," should taste like the spice mix it's cured with. This product didn't have much spice character. However, prosciutto is delicious, and so was this capocollo.

7. Pastrami Round

Pastrami is beef that has been cured in a salty brine and then rubbed with spices and smoked. It's basically corned beef with extra flavors added to it (via Food & Wine). When we're eating at a good Jewish deli that makes its own meat, we'll choose pastrami over corned beef every time because it has a more complex flavor profile. However, we found that Boar's Head Pastrami Round was less than the sum of its parts, though it was still delicious.

The Boar's Head pastrami smells great. You really get the aroma of all the spices, and there's a thick layer of spice "bark" coating the meat. The beef is super tender and has a decent amount of fat marbling that keeps it moist. The spices come through in the flavor, but we didn't pick up much smoke, which was a little disappointing.

In fact, we actually thought that the pastrami spice mix was a little too assertive. It dominated the taste of the beef and made it taste a little bit like pickles. This was still a solid take on pastrami, which is one of the best deli meats in general, so we didn't take away too many points for the overbearing spices.

6. Cracked Pepper Mill Smoked Turkey Breast

Turkey breast is a solid sandwich filler, but we can all agree that it needs some help in the flavor department. It's a blank canvas for whatever seasonings you put on it, which makes it a great meat for strong seasoning mixes (again, not pineapple). Boar's Head Cracked Pepper Mill Smoked Turkey Breast is just about the tastiest turkey deli meat we can imagine.

Boar's Head turkey breast has a great texture. It feels like real meat and strikes a good compromise between firm and juicy. The smoke flavor in this product goes all the way through the meat, giving the boring turkey a much more interesting taste. The meat is also a little bit tangy, and the hint of acidity balances all the other flavors well. The pepper is applied as a crust on the outside, and there's a lot of it. There's so much black pepper that it's kind of spicy. The smoke combined with the pepper reminds us of salt and pepper-rubbed Texas barbecue. It's great turkey, but at the end of the day, it's still just turkey. If this same seasoning mix was applied to beef or pork, we'd like it even more.

5. SmokeMaster Beechwood Smoked Black Forest Ham

Now we come to the mysterious Black Forest ham. This type of deli meat originated in the Black Forest region of Germany (via Bar S). Traditional Black Forest ham is a dry-cured and smoked pork product. Judging by its soft texture, we'd guess that the Boar's Head version is a wet-cured ham more like classic American-style deli hams, but in this case, we won't hold its lack of historical accuracy against it. SmokeMaster Beechwood Smoked Black Forest Ham may not be real German-style ham, but it's awesome in its own special way.

If there's one thing the name of this product emphasizes, it's that it's smoked, and that's for good reason — this is a seriously smoky ham. There's no better flavor combination than woodsmoke and pork, and this ham delivers that in spades. It leans towards the saltier side of the ham spectrum and isn't covered with a sweet glaze. The texture is wonderful too, almost like a fresh spiral-cut ham. If you ordered this in thick slices and heated it up, it would make for a perfectly serviceable holiday ham roast, which is more than you can say for most ham from the deli counter.

4. Uncured Peppered Salame

You know this is fancy salami because it's written with an "e" at the end. Boar's Head says the Uncured Peppered Salame pulls from the flavors of America's West Coast, but it tastes pretty Italian to us, and that's not a bad thing.

This salami has a good blend of meat and big chunks of fat. It's a little tangy, which could be from fermentation or from the wine that Boar's Head says is in the recipe. The texture is very hard and chewy, which we like in salami. The pepper is caked thick on the outside of each slice of meat.

This product has the intensity of flavor we were looking for from the other salamis and salami-like meats. You get the richness from the fat, but it's cut with the sharp spiciness of the pepper. This would make a great sandwich filling, but it's classy and distinctive enough to go on a fancy charcuterie board as well.

3. London Broil Top Round Roast Beef

Boar's Head knows what it's doing with its beef products. Every type of beef we sampled for this article was tender, moist, and ribboned with the perfect amount of fat. The London Broil Top Round Roast Beef melts in your mouth, and even more impressively, it's actually pink in the middle. If you like your beef well done, this is not for you. It's a rosy medium/medium rare, which for us is the perfect way to eat roast beef. Instead of tasting like cured deli meat, it actually has the flavor of fresh homemade roast beef. You could reheat these slices in au jus to make a perfectly serviceable Italian Beef or French Dip sandwich.

The only reason we're docking any points from this meat's rating is that it isn't quite salty enough for us. However, the understated seasoning profile lets the natural taste of the beef shine through. If you want pure beefy flavor, this product is hard to beat.

2. Prosciutto di Parma

Now we come to the crown jewel of hams, prosciutto. Boar's Head Prosciutto di Parma tastes shockingly legit for something sold by an American meat company. That's because it is legit — it's real prosciutto made the traditional way in Parma, Italy. While it's expensive compared to some of Boar's Head's other offerings, it's much less expensive than the other imported prosciutto from Italian brands sold in our supermarket. Word to the wise: If you want a good bargain on real Italian prosciutto, grab this stuff from the deli counter.

This prosciutto is very soft, with layers of fat that melt the moment they hit your tongue. Its flavor is quite complex from the aging process, with notes of sweetness, nuttiness, and butter. We also noticed a little bit of a cheesy flavor that reminded us of real Parmigiano-Reggiano. We would guess that this is on the younger side for prosciutto, meaning it hasn't been aged for a super long time, but that gives it a slightly moister texture that can be desirable for applications like sandwiches.

1. Corned Beef Top Round

While the prosciutto was undeniably impressive, we have to award the top spot to a classic American-style deli meat: Boar's Head Corned Beef Top Round. As we mentioned before, corned beef is like a simpler version of pastrami — it's brined and cooked, but not coated in spices and smoked (per Food & Wine). While the pastrami didn't quite live up to the freshly-made kind, the corned beef tasted exactly like what we order piled high on rye bread from our favorite Jewish deli.

This corned beef is tender, but not overly so, and still has a satisfying bite. It's well-marbled with fat and is evenly salty all the way through. We could taste some of the pickling spices from the brine, but mostly it just tasted like beef and salt. We loved that we could detect the deep umami of the beef and that it wasn't drowned out by the seasonings. This won out over the roast beef because it was the perfect level of salty. This is the corned beef we'd use to make our dream Reuben sandwich at home.