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How to Carve a Ham

Created December 4, 2019
Ham is a dazzling centerpiece to any feast, especially when it comes to the table beautifully carved. (Read in between the lines for our number one piece of advice: Never carve at the table.)
Now that you know the golden rule—carve in the kitchen—here are the rest of the details you need to slice and serve your holiday ham!

What You’ll Need for Carving

To carve a ham efficiently, you don’t need anything special—just a couple of workhorse tools. Here’s what we recommend:

  • A Large cutting board. If you have one with a moat, groove around the edge to catch juices, you’ll find it handy here.
  • A chef’s knife, 8-10 inches. The one you use every day will serve you just fine—no need for a special carving knife here.

Steps for Carving a Ham

Once you’ve brought the ham out of the oven, hold on for a minute. Actually, 15 minutes is more like it—that’s how long you’ll want to let your ham rest before carving. Letting the meat rest is important for two reasons. First, it allows the juices to redistribute, so the meat doesn’t lose all its moisture (and tons of flavor) when you cut into it. Second, it helps you avoid burning yourself. Sound good? Good! Now, keep that meat warm during the resting period by covering with aluminum foil.

With your ham rested and ready, here’s what you’ll do next:

1.  Place ham on a large cutting board with fat side up and bone facing you. Cut ham in half, avoiding the bone.

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2.  Place boneless side of ham, fat side up, and cut into slices. Cut slices from bone-in portion, cutting away from bone.

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The instructions above are for a bone-in, unsliced ham. If your ham is spiral cut (i.e. pre-sliced), a little bit of knife work will make it easier to serve.

  • If your spiral-cut ham is bone-in, set ham on cutting board with bone-end up. Use your knife to cut through the seams—the lines that radiate out from the ham bone. Then, cut around the bone. With that, your ham should fall into beautiful slices.
  • If your spiral-cut ham is boneless, just cut through slices with a knife to make sure they’re loose and easy to grab with a fork.

How to Serve Your Ham

Here are our best tips for serving up a beautifully garnished platter of warm ham.

  • Warm your platter before loading it up with sliced ham. If the platter is already warm, it will keep the meat warm longer. (This tip isn’t just for ham; it’s the best way to serve any big-deal dish from turkey to pot roast.)
  • Garnish your platter with something bright and eye-catching, like sprigs of parsley, apple or orange slices. Or, gild the lily with an old-school garnish of canned pineapple and maraschino cherries—if there’s ever a time to ham it up, it’s at the holidays!
  • Serve with a sauce made from drippings and flavored with the same ingredients used in your glaze. See how easy it is to throw together a sauce like this by checking out our recipe for Instant Pot® Holiday Ham.

Congratulations, you’ve baked a ham and carved it. More than that, you’ve gathered your loved ones together for a fabulous feast. Let us leave you with one last piece of advice before we go: Don’t give in to the urge to fixate on the less-than-perfect details of the meal. No one else has noticed that one gristly piece that made it on the platter or the less-than-piping-hot potatoes. It’s more likely that they’re just wondering how to get Aunt Mary to hurry up and pass the platter before Uncle Gary takes all the best pieces. Go easy on yourself and enjoy the fruit of your labors—happy holidays!