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How to Cook a Ham

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

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 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 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

When it comes to making ham in the oven, you can never go wrong with a classic honey-baked version. Not only is our recipe for Easy Honey-Baked Ham delicious, but it also preps in 10 minutes and you only need four ingredients to make it. Once you see how easy it is to DIY honey-baked ham for a crowd, you’ll never want to wait in line at the store again.

Honey-Baked Ham

In addition to the ingredients called for below, you'll need a shallow roasting pan (with a roasting rack that's big enough to hold your ham), as well as a meat thermometer.

Tip: Make sure not to skip the part of Step 2 where you cut a crosshatch pattern in the ham—the crosshatching will catch the glaze as you brush it over the ham’s surface, making every bite even more delicious:

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 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: