How to Cook a Ham the Easy Way (Recipe Included!) | Taste of Home
Do you want to make a perfect glazed ham for your Easter dinner? Good idea! Ham is less stressful to prepare than many other roasted meats because most are sold already cooked (and usually also smoked, which adds a succulent flavor).
All you need to do is reheat and finish with a tasty frosting. Our Test Kitchen professionals show you how it’s done, with their best tips and a recipe to boot.
How to choose a ham Before you set foot in the
kitchen or start looking for the best ham recipes, you should choose the right ham for your celebration
. There are several types of
available at the grocery store or butcher shop. For the best flavor, you’ll want to opt for a bone-in ham. The bone inside will keep the ham moist and bring extra flavor.
If you’re new to cooking and carving, our test kitchen recommends cutting ham because it’s easier to carve. The other option, the stock, is a little more tender, but it is more difficult to navigate with a carving knife. Check out our guide on how to choose the best ham for you before making any decisions.
And when all else fails, ask your butcher for advice! They are there to help you find the right cut of meat to meet your needs. Our list of butcher counter tips will help you with your first visit to the butcher shop.
These are the best Christmas hams you can order, according to our test kitchen.
How to choose the
right size ham
Knowing what size ham to buy is as easy as doing some quick calculations. For a bone-in ham, you should plan 1/2 pound per person, and for a boneless ham, 1/3 pound per person. So, if you’re cooking for 8, choose a 4-pound bone-in ham or a 3-pound boneless ham. If you want leftovers, get a larger size.
How to cook
a ham with bone
This ham recipe
is enough for a party or family dinner with plenty to spare, about 10 to 14 servings.
- 1 fully cooked bone-in ham, 5 to 7 pounds
- cup packaged brown sugar
- teaspoons prepared mustard
- 1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
to Recipe Test Thermometer of
for cooking: Yes, your ham is
- already cooked, but using a quick-read thermometer will help you gauge when the ham is hot inside and ready to serve.
- Roasting pan: This dishwasher-safe grilling tray from Cuisinart is one of our test kitchen picks for the best grilling pans. It’s easy to clean and spacious enough for a great ham or turkey (depending on the holiday).
- Carving set: A ham is a large cut of meat to cut. Make sure you have a knife and fork to carve that can help you get the job done properly.
Step 1: Rate
The first step to cooking ham perfectly for your Christmas celebration is to rate it. Use a sharp knife to cut 1/4-inch deep cuts into a diamond pattern through the ham.
The punctuation opens the outer layer of the ham, allowing its glaze (which comes later) to actually absorb into the meat and give more flavor to the ham.
Step 2: Bake
Next, place the ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 325ºF for 90 minutes or so, until the thermometer reads 130º.
Step 3: Glaze and finish
While the ham is baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, mustard, and enough vinegar to make a thick paste.
When the ham reaches 130º inside, take it out of the oven. Using a heat-resistant spatula, spread the frosting over the ham. Be generous! Then finish baking, uncovered this time, for 15 to 30 more minutes. You want the ham to reach 140º inside.
Editor’s tip: You might be wondering why ham is glazed mid-process. That’s to prevent the sugar in the frosting from burning and ruining the taste of your ham. These last 15 to 30 minutes in the oven let the flavor permeate the meat and form a pleasant crust on top without overcooking.
How long to cook a
The amount of time a ham should spend in the oven depends on its size. Although it may seem confusing, the general rule is that the larger the ham, the less time it needs in the oven. Taste of Home deputy culinary editor James Schend compares it to riding a bike:
“At first, you have to pedal hard to get going, but once you start moving forward, then it becomes easier to pedal and the faster you go. A somewhat similar concept happens: the outer portion of ham (or other meats) takes a while to heat up, as it usually comes from a 40° refrigerator. But once the outside starts to heat up, the heat penetrates the inside, which then takes less time to heat up, so the medium takes less time to reach temperature.”
In the same vein, a smaller ham
will have less “momentum” than a larger ham, once the heating process begins.
So, if you chose a ham that
is larger than our recipe requires (5 to 7 pounds), keep the following guidelines in mind: For a whole bone-in ham weighing 7 to 10 pounds, plan for 16 to 20 minutes per pound; and for a ham that weighs 10 to 14 pounds, Plan 15 to 18 minutes per pound.
When you’re setting your timer, consider playing it safe by heating the ham for the least amount of time first. When the timer turns off, check if the internal temperature has reached 140 ° and then add more time if necessary.
If you prefer a more hands-on approach when it comes to learning how to cook ham, try the slow cooker. This recipe for slow-cooked ham with pineapple sauce will be as juicy as a roasted ham, no need to glaze halfway, or guess the amount of time it needs to be cooked. A slow-cooked ham is the perfect dish to make when you need to focus on preparing other things for your meeting.
How to cut a ham
Carving a ham may seem like a complicated affair, but with just one big bone to work with, you’ll likely find this to be a much simpler process than cutting your Thanksgiving turkey (or even that roast chicken you make for Sunday dinner). Follow our guide on how to cut a ham for best results, and then split your favorite serving tray for a perfect presentation.
More tips for making
the best ham
- Buy the best ham you can afford: For the holidays, our test kitchen recommends ordering from a local butcher shop rather than grabbing a mass-produced supermarket ham. The taste and texture tend to be more robust.
- Opt for a ham with bone: Our professionals look for semi-boneless, because the bone prevents the ham from drying out and adds flavor. Once you’ve carved the meat, don’t throw away the leftover bone! Add it to pea soups, throw it in broth, or add it to a bean pot.
- Don’t overcook the ham: Remember, it’s already cooked. You’re just gently reheating it in the oven, so keep the heat low. Your ham may come with specific instructions for reheating.
- Customize your icing: This brown sugar icing is pretty traditional (and tasty), but it’s by no means the only option out there! Try a glazed ham with brown sugar and pineapple, an apricot and ginger glazed ham, a glazed ham with apple cider or a glazed ham with honey and chipotle if you want to broaden your horizons.
- Try more ham recipes: practice makes perfect, and we have plenty of recipes for you to choose from. Among our favorite ham recipes for dinner, our best Christmas ham recipes and even smoked ham recipes, you are sure to find a favorite. You will complete your knowledge with each recipe you make.
Next: Don’t miss our 7-day meal plan with ham leftovers.