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How to Cook a Ham

Easy Honey-Baked Ham
People do love the way we make ham.

Introduction

Just think: the ham sandwich that you’re eating at your desk right now could be so much better if you had cooked that ham yourself. Though a little intimidating, it’s not as hard as you think to make ham for dinner, and you can reap the rewards of ham leftovers for days to come. So whether you’re in charge of Easter ham, Christmas ham or any-day-of-the-year ham, we’ve collected everything we know about ham and put it in one place — this place. Let’s ham it up.

How to Choose a Ham

Look at you, purchasing your very first ham! There are a few things you will want to consider before you head to the store.

A ham, by definition, is a salt-cured or smoked hind leg of the pig. Most ham that you find at the grocery store is fully cooked, smoked or cured already. However, if you like to brine, smoke, cure or roast your own, you can buy a “fresh ham” at the butcher shop. We prefer to buy our ham fully cooked because it’s just so much easier.

How much ham per person?
A good rule of thumb is ½ lb. of ham per person. Some folks will eat more, some will eat less, but this will ensure that you always have enough to go around (and maybe even some leftovers — yum!). So if you are having 12 people for dinner, a 6 lb. ham will be plenty.

Boneless ham vs. bone-in ham?
Taste tests typically show that bone-in ham (as with most bone-in meat) tastes a little better, and you get to make Easy Slow-Cooker Ham Bone Soup afterwards. Boneless ham cooks faster and is a little easier to carve, but you might sacrifice some flavor for that convenience. You can use them interchangeably in most recipes as long as you pay attention to the meat thermometer.

What’s a spiral-cut ham?
Spiral-cut ham has been pre-cut, so you don’t need any carving expertise to serve one up. You just need to be a bit more careful about the way you prepare a spiral-cut ham to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

Why do hams have liquid added?
A lot of supermarket hams come with liquid added. Don’t be fooled — it’s just water weight and it makes the ham taste less ham-like. The best hams will be listed with “no added water” or “with natural juices.” Watch out for anything that says “water added” or “water product added,” because it generally means you are paying more for less meat. Plus, it’ll taste watery (or water-product-y!).

Our go-to Easy Honey-Baked Ham is made with whole, bone-in smoked ham — preferably one with no water or juices added.

How to Cook a Ham in the Oven

What you need:

  • 6 to 8 lb fully cooked smoked bone-in ham
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Shallow roasting pan with roasting rack, big enough to hold your ham
  • Meat thermometer

Step 1: Heat oven to 325°F. Place ham on rack in shallow roasting pan. Roast 12 to 16 minutes per pound or until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of ham reads 120°F.

Ham in a roasting pan

Step 2: Remove ham from oven. Pour drippings from pan. Cut fat surface of ham lightly in uniform diamond shapes.

Note: Cross-hatching the ham before applying the glaze ensures that the ham catches as much glaze as possible.

Cut fat surface of the ham lightly in uniform diamond shapes to create a cross-hatch pattern.

Step 3: In small bowl, mix honey, brown sugar and Dijon mustard. Brush glaze on ham. Roast uncovered about 20 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 135°F. Cover ham with tent of foil; let stand about 10 minutes or until thermometer reads 140°F.

Brush glaze on ham

How to Cook a Ham in the Slow Cooker

While we love an oven-baked ham, we also developed an even easier recipe that uses the magic of the slow cooker. To ensure the slow-cooked ham doesn’t dry out, we add a maple-brown sugar glaze right away so the ham cooks in its own glaze. And pro tip: If you’re planning on cooking your ham this way, make sure you buy one that will fit in your slow cooker!

Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Ham

How to Carve a Ham

Use the following instructions for bone-in ham, like our Easy Honey-Baked Ham. To “carve” boneless ham, simply slice it on a cutting board after allowing the meat to rest.

Step 1: After the ham has rested for about 10-15 minutes, place it on a carving board or platter face down. Using a sharp carving knife, cut in half next to bone.

Ham on a cutting board

Step 2: Place boneless side of ham fat side up; cut slices. Cut remaining slices from bone-in portion, cutting away from bone.

Slicing ham on a cutting board

Then serve it up!

Carving a spiral-cut ham: With a spiral-cut ham, place the ham face down and find the bone (if there is one). Then cut around the entire bone, through the whole ham. The spiral cut means the meat is already sliced into pieces for you, so you should be able to arrange them and eat without any additional cuts.

How to Make a Ham Glaze

There’s more than one way to glaze a ham. This recipe is a classic, but you can make glazes with jams, jellies, fresh or frozen fruit — even Coca-Cola! You could heat things up with something like our Sweet and Spicy Glazed Ham or have some fun with our flavorful Apricot-Bourbon Glazed Ham. Or create your own glaze and let us know your secrets!

Once you stir up your favorite glaze, you only need to baste the ham once toward the end of the cooking process when you are about 20-30 minutes from taking it out of the oven. You can baste more often if you like though.

Leftovers? (Lucky You!) Here’s What to Make:



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