How To Cook A Ham

With top-rated recipes and some smart cooking tips, you’ll bake the best ham yet!

Glazed Holiday Ham Studded with Cloves

Glazed Holiday Ham Studded with Cloves | Photo by Meredith

Ham is a cut of meat taken from the back legs or shoulders of a pig. It can be salt-cured, smoked, or aged. The best cooking technique will depend on which type of ham you buy.

Most store-bought hams are already fully cooked. They’ve been soaked in brine (wet cured) and then either smoked or boiled. They’re moist and tender with a flavor that ranges from mild and salty to rich and smoky, depending on how they were cooked. You can serve fully cooked ham as is, but to make it more tender and delicious, glaze and roast your ham to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.

Country-cured hams are dry-cured by packing them in salt, then smoked over fragrant hardwoods and aged. They’re made from pigs that have been fed fruits and nuts to produce more flavorful meat. Some are aged seven years. Country-cured hams have a more intense flavor, but they’re drier than brined hams.

Fresh hams are uncured, raw, and so must be fully cooked before eating. They will take longer to cook than canned ones, of course.

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The Benefit of Bone-In Ham

Hams with the bone left in tend to be more flavorful than boneless hams. Bone-in hams are also more decorative, and make for a more ceremonious presentation on special occasions. Also, you get the ham hock for soups and stews!

Many bone-in hams are spiral-cut, which means they’ve been sliced in a continuous spiral all the way around the bone, producing thin slices that easily pull away.

How Much Ham Should I Buy? A bone-in ham will have less meat per pound than a boneless one. So estimate about 3/4 pound of bone-in ham per person, or 1/4 pound of boneless ham.

Amaze with the Glaze

A baked ham is perfectly delicious all by itself, but you can make it extra-special by adding a glaze. The most popular glaze recipes often combine fruit juice, wine or whiskey, honey, mustard, brown sugar, fruit preserves, and spices. Before baking, brush some of the glaze over the surface of the ham.

Orange glaze for roasted ham

Apricot and Honey Ham Glaze | Photo by Meredith

How to Bake a Ham

If you’re starting with a fully cooked ham, bake it in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes per pound. If your ham is only partially cooked, bake it for 20 minutes per pound.

To help keep your ham moist and juicy, place the ham cut-side down in a baking pan and tent it with foil.

Every 20 minutes or so, brush the ham with glaze and baste it with the pan juices.

To finish, remove the foil tent, brush the ham with glaze and pan juices one more time, and turn the oven to broil. Broil for about about 3-to-5 minutes until the outside glaze is deliciously caramelized — but watch it closely so it doesn’t get too dark.

Before carving your baked ham, let it rest 15 minutes to redistribute juices and firm up the meat.

How to Cook Your Ham in a Slow Cooker

Slow cooking a whole ham creates a super-moist, wonderfully tender ham. It’s also a great method when you’re feeding a huge holiday crowd: pop a turkey in the oven and a ham in the slow cooker, and you’re set. This 5-star recipe for Slow Cooker Ham calls for a respectable 8-pound bone-in picnic ham. Other cooks have had success with a 9-pound spiral cut honey-cured ham. Here’s another Easy Slow Cooker Ham recipe, which calls for a 6-pound country ham.

How to Cure Your Own Ham

Here’s one for the DIY’ers in the crowd. There are many reasons to cure your own holiday ham. But as Chef John explains, beyond bragging rights, “you can flavor your ham any way you want and you can control the salt content.” Check out the recipe for Home-Cured Holiday Ham, and follow along with the video.

Home-Cured Holiday Ham

Home-Cured Holiday Ham | Photo by Chef John

Leftover Ham: Second Time’s a Charm

Baked ham is the holiday main dish that keeps on giving. In the days that follow, your leftover ham will perform heroically in so many additional recipes. Ham sandwiches, soups, casseroles, hash, omelets, scrambles, salads, pizza, and pastas are just some of the top contenders for leftover ham.

Try your leftover ham in these diverse dishes, too:

Keep leftover ham in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to a week.

Related: Your Holiday Ham, It’s Even Better As Leftovers

And don’t forget the ham bone! Hold on to that ham hock, and use it to add mad flavor to soups, stews, and greens.

Ham hock ready for action

Ham hock for the pot! | Photo by Meredith

Discover many more top-rated Ham Recipes.

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