How to Cook a Ham
Whether you’re cooking a spiral-cut ham or just pan-frying a weeknight ham steak, follow these steps for ham that is cooked to perfection.
How to Cook a Ham
Ham is delicious main course for everything from weeknight meals to holiday dinners and brunches. We’ve got everything you need to know, from how to pick the right ham, to the tools you’ll need to make it and glazes to take it from ordinary to extraordinary.
What You’ll Need
The most common way to prepare a ham is by roasting it. If you choose to roast your ham, we recommend using a roasting pan. The size pan you’ll need depends on how big your ham is, but it should be able to fit comfortably without touching the sides. The depth or side height is also important; one that is too shallow increases the likelihood of hot splashes. For this reason, the side height should be about 3-4 inches for a standard-sized ham. In general, we recommend a roasting pan that’s 9 x 3 x 13.
If you don’t own a roasting pan, you can use a broiler pan or large casserole dish—even a baking sheet can work, although there may be hot pan drippings on the sheet, so use with caution. Of course, there are several advantages to using a roasting pan, namely that they’re big enough to house large hams and turkeys, meaning your meat will have ample room to cook evenly.
We also recommend using a meat thermometer. Most hams come pre-cooked, so you wouldn’t think you’d need a meat thermometer. However, with large hams it’s hard to tell when the meat is warm enough, and that’s when a meat thermometer will come in handy! Also, if you use a non-cooked ham, you’ll of course want to use a meat thermometer for food safety reasons.
How to Pick the Perfect Ham
There are two main types of hams: country and city hams. Country hams are typically sold uncooked, while city hams come pre-cooked and spiral-sliced. City hams make up the majority of what you’ll find in your grocery store. Each ham also comes either bone-in or boneless. Boneless hams will be a bit easier to serve, while bone-in hams are believed to impart added flavor. In this how to, we’ll be referring to a boneless city ham.
Before you can get to working cooking your ham, you need to select one. But how do you know how much ham to buy for your guests? It’s easy: can count on ¾ pound per person for a bone-in ham and ½ pound per person for a boneless ham. So if you have 20 guests, you’d need a 10-pound boneless ham.
How to Glaze a Ham
Glazing your ham is a quick and easy way to impart extra flavor. You can either glaze your ham near the end of its cook time (usually the last 30 minutes or so) or throughout, similar to how you’d baste a turkey. It’s also helpful to cut a criss-cross diamond pattern into the top of your ham before glazing; this ensures that the glaze soaks all the way through, making the meat extra tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
We have everything from a Blueberry Chipotle Glaze to a Honey-Sriracha Glaze, and it would be impossible to pick a favorite. Check out our 10 Ridiculously Easy Ham Glaze Recipes for more delicious inspiration.
Preparation and Cook Times
Generally, roasting ham in the oven is the easiest way to prepare it. Your roasting time will depend on the weight of the ham, use our timetable for roasting ham to determine the appropriate amount of time if your recipe does not specify.
Different Ways to Cook a Ham
There are several ways to cook a ham: roasting it in the oven, broiling it, or pan-broiling. We recommend roasting whole hams in the oven, and using broiling or pan-broiling for thick slices of ham you’d like to prepare.
How to Make Ham with Brown Sugar Glaze
What you’ll need:
1. Heat oven to 325°F.
2. Place ham, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
3. Cover loosely with foil and roast ham as directed until the thermometer reads 135°F.
4. About 20 minutes before ham is done, remove from oven. Cut uniform diamond shapes on fat surface of ham.
5. Stir together brown sugar, vinegar and mustard
6. Pat or brush on ham.
7. Bake uncovered 20 minutes longer.
8. Let stand for 10 minutes or until thermometer reads 140°.
How to Broil Ham
For quick, easy preparation of cooked ham slices, broil them in the oven instead of roasting.
How to Pan Broil & Fry Ham
- Set oven to broil. For easy cleanup, line broiler pan with aluminum foil.
- Place ham slices on a wire rack over a broiler pan. Position the pan so the top of the ham is 4 to 5 inches from the heat.
- Slices are done when the meat is heated in the middle and edges are slightly browned; roughly 5 minutes per side for ¼ to ½ inch slices.
Pan broiling or frying is another technique that can be used with cooked ham slices, and only takes a few minutes on your stovetop.
- Heat a nonstick skillet or regular skillet containing a small amount of vegetable oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Don’t add water.
- Place ham slices in skillet. Cook ham uncovered until hot, turning occasionally. Ham is done when the fat is a transparent color and both slides are slightly browned.
Slow-Cooker Ham Recipes
You can also prepare your ham in the slow cooker by adding the ingredients your recipe calls for and letting the meat simmer for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the directions. Here are some of our favorite slow-cooker ham recipes:
How to Carve a Ham
Now that your ham is cooked to perfection, it’s time to carve it! You’ll need a quality carving set and carving board to properly slice ham in two easy steps. Be sure to let your ham rest for about 15 minutes before carving.
1. Place ham on carving board or platter with fat side up, bone facing you. Cut in half next to bone.
2. Place boneless side of ham fat side up; cut slices. Cut slices from bone-in portion, cutting away from bone.
What to Serve with Ham
There are endless possibilities for what to serve with ham. Here are some of our favorite side dishes to pair with ham:
What to Do with Leftover Ham
You can store leftover ham in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months. If you need to use up that extra meat, why not put it to good use in one of these yummy ham recipes?
What’s your family secret for cooking a ham? Let us know in the comments section below!
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