If you’re planning to cook ham for your next family gathering or holiday celebration, you want to make sure you do it right. Cooking ham can be challenging, especially if you’re new to the kitchen. But with a few simple tips and tricks, you can create a delicious and juicy ham that your guests will love. In this article, we’ll share some expert advice on how to cook ham perfectly every time.
Choosing the Perfect Ham
Ham is always a crowd-favorite dish at any event or meal, but with so many different types of ham available in the market, it can be tough to pick the right one that fits your recipe and taste. Here are the most popular types of ham and everything you need to know about choosing the perfect one:
Fresh ham, also known as uncured ham, is straight from the pig leg, without curing, smoking, or any other type of preservation. It has a natural pink color and is usually sold bone-in.
- If you’re looking for a traditional ham flavor, fresh ham is not for you. It tastes more like a pork loin or tenderloin.
- Fresh ham takes longer to cook than cured ham since it is not precooked.
- Season with salt and pepper or your favorite dry rub and roast in the oven for exceptional flavor and texture.
A spiral ham is a cured ham with the bone-in and is a popular choice for holidays and special occasions.
- This ham type is pre-cooked and already sliced, making it easy to carve and serve.
- The spiral-cut makes it easy to glaze and cook, ideal for those who want to save time in the kitchen.
- Spiral ham is usually sold smoked or honey-baked and requires no additional seasoning or flavoring.
Country ham is known for its salty and intense flavor and is usually served in thin slices.
- Country ham is cured with salt, sugar, and spices, and then aged for a couple of months to develop its signature taste.
- It is usually bone-in and has a deep brown color when cooked.
- Country ham can be served on its own or used as a flavor enhancer in soups, sandwiches, and stews.
City ham is the most common type of ham found in supermarkets, mass-produced, and sold precooked.
- City ham is usually sold boneless or bone-in and comes in different flavors such as smoked, honey-glazed, or maple-cured.
- This ham type is great for those who want a fast and easy meal without worrying about cooking time or seasoning.
- City ham is versatile and can be used in sandwiches, casseroles, salads, and many more.
Preparing the Ham
Before cooking ham, it’s essential to take the time to prepare it properly. Proper preparation will ensure that the ham is cooked perfectly, is juicy and tender, and is full of flavor. Here are some tips to help you prepare your ham:
Thawing the Ham
If your ham is frozen, you need to thaw it properly before cooking. Thawing the ham in the refrigerator is the best and safest way to do it. To do this, place the ham on a plate or in a container, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of ham. For example, a 15-pound ham will need 72 hours to thaw completely. Don’t skip this step, or your ham will cook unevenly.
Trimming the Ham
Before cooking, trim the ham to remove excess fat and skin. Leaving too much fat on the ham will make it greasy and difficult to eat. Start by scoring the skin in a diamond pattern, then carefully remove the skin, leaving about 1/4 inch of fat. Trim any excess fat from the edges and bottom of the ham. Once you’ve prepared the ham, you’re ready to cook it!
Ham Cooking Methods
Ham is a traditional dish for many holidays and special occasions. Knowing the right cooking method to utilize can help in creating a successful dish. There are various cooking methods that can be used for ham to give it a unique taste and texture. The three main techniques are baking, roasting, and grilling.
Baking is the most popular method used in cooking ham. It is a simple process that involves little effort and is effective in creating a tasty dish. The baking process is conducted in an oven, which makes it an ideal cooking option for those who do not have access to a grill. For perfect baked ham, it is important to follow step-by-step instructions. These are as follows:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2: Place the ham in a baking dish with the fat side up. For a more tender and flavorful meat, score the ham diagonally creating a diamond pattern.
Step 3: Cover the ham with foil and bake in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes per pound. To ensure a fully cooked ham, use a meat thermometer and check to ensure that the internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 4: Let the ham sit for 10 to 15 minutes before carving and serving. This allows the juices to permeate the meat for a juicier and more flavorful ham.
Roasting involves cooking pork in an oven on an open pan, allowing the heat to circulate well and giving the ham crispy skin. This technique is preferred for those looking for an easy solution and an even baked ham. The following steps are to be followed when roasting ham:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2: Place the ham in a roasting pan, fat side up. If using a spiral ham, make sure the cut side is facing down.
Step 3: Add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan to prevent the ham from drying out.
Step 4: Cover the ham with a piece of foil to prevent it from browning too quickly and bake in the oven. Use a meat thermometer and ensure the internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the ham is baked, remove the foil and broil the top of the ham for about five minutes to give it a crispy finish.
Grilling ham is another method of creating a savory and succulent dish. It is an ideal choice for outdoor gatherings, where it can be cooked over an open flame to achieve a smoky flavor. It’s important to follow these steps to ensure grilled ham is perfect:
Step 1: Preheat the grill to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2: Brush the grill grates with olive oil to prevent the ham from sticking and then add the ham. Grill the ham for about 10 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 3: Once the ham is fully cooked, remove it from the grill and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. This resting period enables the juices to circulate, producing a more succulent and tender ham.
Enhancing Flavor with Glazes
One of the best ways to add flavor and moisture to your ham is by using a glaze. There are many different glaze options available to home cooks, and each one can give your ham a unique flavor profile. Here are some traditional and unique glaze options to try.
Traditional glazes are a classic go-to for many ham lovers. They add sweetness and depth of flavor to the meat, and there are many recipes that utilize common pantry ingredients to create a delicious glaze. Here are three popular traditional glaze recipes.
- Brown sugar and mustard glaze: Mix 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar until smooth. Spread over the ham before baking and baste every 20 minutes.
- Honey and pineapple glaze: Combine 1 cup honey, 1/4 cup pineapple juice, and 1/4 cup brown sugar until smooth. Brush over ham before baking and baste every 20 minutes.
- Maple syrup glaze: Mix 1 cup maple syrup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard until smooth. Spread over ham before baking and baste every 20 minutes.
If you’re looking to switch things up a bit, there are plenty of unique glaze options out there that can add a burst of flavor to your ham. Here are three unique glaze recipes to try.
- Root beer glaze: In a small pot, mix together 1 cup root beer, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then simmer for 15 minutes until the glaze thickens.
- Cherry cola glaze: Combine 1 cup cherry cola, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes until the glaze thickens.
- Bourbon and orange glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup bourbon, 1/2 cup orange marmalade, 2 tablespoons mustard, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper until well combined.
Sides to Complement Your Ham
When it comes to serving ham, itâ€™s important to have sides that can complement its savory flavor. From classic mashed potatoes to unique vegetable dishes, here are some ideas for the perfect ham accompaniments:
1. Classic Mashed Potatoes
Who doesnâ€™t love a good serving of classic mashed potatoes? Not only are they super easy to make, but theyâ€™re also a great way to balance the savory taste of your ham. To make a delicious batch, all you need to do is boil some potatoes, blend them with butter and cream, and season them with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Sweet Potato Casserole
If you want to add a touch of sweetness to your meal, a sweet potato casserole is definitely the way to go. Whether you like it with a crunchy pecan topping or with some gooey marshmallows on top, a sweet potato casserole is a great way to add some color and flavor to your plate.
3. Glazed Carrots
Glazed carrots are a classic side dish that can bring some brightness to your meal. Whether you choose to glaze them with honey, maple, or brown sugar, these little gems are sure to please. Plus, theyâ€™re super easy to make â€“ just cook some carrots and toss them with your favorite glaze.
4. SautÃ©ed Green Beans
If youâ€™re looking for a side thatâ€™s both healthy and delicious, look no further than sautÃ©ed green beans. These vibrant veggies are packed with nutrients and can bring a fresh and savory flavor to your meal. For an extra pop of flavor, try sautÃ©ing them with some garlic and lemon.
5. Baked Mac and Cheese
For the ultimate comfort food side, you canâ€™t go wrong with a baked mac and cheese. This cheesy and gooey dish is perfect for a cold winter night, and is sure to make both kids and adults happy. To make a truly amazing batch, try using a mix of different cheeses and topping it off with some breadcrumbs.
No matter what sides you choose, the important thing is to find the perfect balance of flavors and textures that can complement your ham. Experiment with different ingredients and seasonings, and find the perfect combination that works best for you and your family.
Leftover Ham Ideas
One of the best things about cooking a ham is having delicious leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. Here are some creative ways to use up leftover ham:
1. Breakfast Dishes
Ham makes a great addition to breakfast dishes. Try adding chopped ham to scrambled eggs, frittatas, or omelets. You can also make a breakfast sandwich with ham, egg, and cheese, or add diced ham to your favorite breakfast hash.
Another great way to use up leftover ham is by making soup. Add diced ham to split pea, lentil, or bean soup for a protein boost. You can also make a classic ham and potato soup or try a creamy corn and ham chowder.
Make a delicious sandwich with leftover ham by adding it to a classic club or BLT. You can also make a grilled ham and cheese or a ham and cucumber sandwich. For a unique twist, try making a Hawaiian-style sandwich with ham, pineapple, and teriyaki sauce.
Use leftover ham to add some protein to your lunchtime salad. Ham pairs well with fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and hard-boiled eggs. Try making a classic chef salad or a Cobb salad with chunks of ham.
Ham is a great ingredient for casseroles. Try making a breakfast casserole with ham, eggs, and cheese, or a cheesy ham and potato casserole. You can also make a pasta casserole with ham, broccoli, and Alfredo sauce.
6. Pizza Toppers
If you’re looking to switch up your pizza toppings, try adding some diced ham. Ham pairs particularly well with pineapple, bacon, and mushrooms. For an extra cheesy pizza, add some feta cheese and spinach to your ham and pineapple pizza.
Thanks for Cooking Along with Us!
We hope these tips and tricks help you achieve a perfectly cooked ham every time. Remember to always follow food safety guidelines and trust your senses when cooking. With a little practice, you’ll be hosting memorable holiday dinners in no time. Don’t forget to check back for more delicious recipes and cooking advice!
Cooking Ham: Tips and Tricks for a Success Every Time
- 1 10-pound fully cooked ham
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup honey
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 325°F and remove any packaging or netting from the ham. Place the ham in a roasting pan and score the surface with a sharp knife in a crisscross pattern.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and ground cinnamon. Whisk until smooth and set aside.
- Baste the ham with the glaze, making sure to get in between the score marks. Cover the ham with foil and bake for 2 hours.
- Remove the foil from the ham and baste again. Return the ham to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F.
- Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving and serving.
- Serve the ham warm with your favorite sides and enjoy!