With the details below, you can avoid indecision or worse, buying a ham that’s not well-suited to your recipe and meal.
City Ham versus Country Ham
The quick answer is that city hams are wet cured and typically come precooked and even presliced, while country hams are dry cured and might need to be soaked for a day or more before cooking. Translation: Buy a city ham, i.e. one that’s labeled as precooked, especially if this is your first time cooking ham. Most likely, this is all that’s available at your grocery store anyway. P.S. Spiral-cut hams are a type of city ham.
City ham: This is the type of ham most widely available, and the one you’re most likely familiar with—unless you live in the South. Preparation is easy, since it’s mostly a matter of reheating and adding flavor. City ham is mildly flavored and very moist due to the curing process. Typically, this type of ham is injected with a cure of salt, water, sugar and spices. Sometimes, the ham is smoked after. It’s typically sold precooked and presliced. It’s generally available bone-in or boneless. Spiral-cut ham is a popular type of city ham that’s been sliced into even pieces around the bone.
Country ham: Differing from city, country ham is preserved by dry curing, or rubbing with a mixture of salt, sugar and spices before being smoked and aged for a period ranging from several weeks up to one year. This type of ham is typically very salty, so much so that it often require soaking (to remove some of that salt) prior to cooking. This method of preservation was popular throughout the South prior to refrigeration and is still a part of the culinary tradition today. This results in strongly flavored, salty meat with a toothsome texture. It is sold both uncooked and cooked and typically bone-in.
Boneless versus Bone-In Ham
The main benefit of a boneless ham is that it’s easier to carve, while the main benefit of a bone-in ham is the flavor is better and meat is juicier. Another benefit of bone-in ham is that your leftover ham bone is the key to delicious soups, collard greens and more. Whichever choice you make, you can’t go wrong—we’re here to show you how to turn out a perfect ham.
How Much Ham Should I Buy?
This part is easy. When cooking a bone-in ham, you’ll want ¾ pound of ham per person. With a boneless ham, you’ll want ½ pound ham per person. So for 20 guests, you’d want to purchase a 10-pound boneless ham or a 15-pound bone-in ham.
What’s with the Hatching?
The classic holiday ham has a diamond pattern etched into its surface. Why do people do this? Good question! Scoring the rind of the ham in this way catches the glaze and better flavors the ham. It’s quite easy to do and makes for a stunning presentation. See how it’s done in the recipe below.