Preparing a ham for a family dinner is a daunting task, and it can also be a bit intimidating. If you’re unsure what to do with your ham, this ultimate guide will help you get started. Most hams sold today are pre-cooked, except for spiral cut hams, and other ham options include boneless and spiral shank half hams. If you’re going to serve a glazed ham at the table, the best thing to do is to brush the glaze onto the rim of the ham several times during the cooking process.
A fully cooked ham can be used in sandwiches and recipes without further cooking, but heating it improves the flavor and texture. If you’re not using a glaze and want to reheat the ham, the packaging should include instructions for doing so at 140 degrees F. See how to heat a fully cooked ham with these simple instructions.
Ham Nutrition Facts
What is Exactly Ham?
The hind leg of a hog, also known as fresh ham, is used to make ham. Like most other cuts of meat, it can be roasted, bone-in, or out. It can, however, be pre-cured and cooked in a variety of ways to create a prepared ham. What ends up on your plate depends on the type of hog used, the curing or cooking process, and what you do with it afterward.
If you have a large enough pan and oven, you can cook a fresh ham just like any other cut of meat (usually slowly roasted). However, ham can — and usually does — go through an initial precooking or curing process, which significantly impacts its flavor. Curing, aging, and smoking are the three main methods of ham preparation.
There are many different types of ham, and many of them are important symbols of a country’s culinary identity. Some examples are as follows:
- Prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto San Daniele, and the fabulous culatello of Italy, to name only a few.
- Hand-sliced shards of jamón Iberico of Spain are made from the black-footed pig, especially the fantastic Bellota version from select animals fed a diet of chestnuts.
- Bayonne ham from southwestern France.
- The Black Forest and Westphalian ham from Germany.
- Country ham from the southern United States.
The Best Recipes for Cooking a Ham
Here are some of the best recipes for cooking a ham:
Ham with Beer Glaze
A delicious glaze for this baked ham is made with beer and brown sugar and vinegar, and mustard. The ham bakes to perfection with beer before being glazed near the end of the cooking time. Please don’t throw out the remaining cooking liquids in the roasting pan; they’ll make a delicious sauce to drizzle over the sliced ham. Serve the ham with mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes and any other side dishes your family enjoys. This glazed ham with beer and brown sugar is a great option for a holiday meal.
Ham with Cola and Maple Glaze
This holiday-worthy baked ham has a cola and maple glaze that adds a delightful flavor. This dish is ideal as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter dinners, or simply for a winter gathering. The maple syrup, cola, mustard, and brown sugar combine to make a sweet and savory glaze, while the cinnamon and ginger add just enough heat.
Dr. Pepper Ham
Dr. Pepper ham is a sweet-and-sour holiday dish that will have you licking your fingers and wanting more. This ham is a crowd-pleasing twist on the traditional Easter or Christmas centerpiece, and it couldn’t be easier or more flavorful.
Dr. Pepper and orange juice are cooked down to make a syrup before combining brown sugar and Dijon mustard to make a glaze. The glaze is thick and contributes to the beautiful golden exterior. Drizzle any remaining drippings from the bottom of the pan over the top just before serving. The ham can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. Whether or not you’re a Dr. Pepper fan, you’ll fall in love with this sweet-and-savory ham.
Instant Pot Baked Ham
Try this Instant Pot-baked ham when you’re short on time and need to prepare a large dinner or holiday meal. The popular pressure cooker can be a lifesaver if you don’t have enough oven space. The ham requires very little prep time and only takes 20 to 30 minutes to cook. You can prepare other side dishes and casseroles while the ham is cooking. Serve ham with sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes and your family’s favorite vegetable side dishes.
Maple and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Fully cooked hams are a great choice for the holidays because they’re simple to prepare, feed many people with little effort, and make delicious leftovers. Hams are also great for busy families because they can be used as a base for various other recipes throughout the week. Cook the ham on Sunday and use it in various dishes throughout the week, from casseroles and sandwiches to soups and pasta. Our take on a maple glazed ham is simply delicious, and it’s perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter as a wonderful centerpiece dish. Furthermore, the magic happens without your involvement, so if you’re short on time and need to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously, this is the recipe.
Slow Cooker Ham Balls
Orange Glazed Ham
Use a boneless canned ham or fully cooked smoked ham in this simple recipe. A simple, lightly spiced glaze of mustard, marmalade, and spices coats the ham. A portion of the glaze mixture is combined with raisins for a flavorful sauce.
Honey Glazed Spiral Sliced Ham
Spiral sliced hams are a fantastic idea. These hams come pre-sliced and are simple to carve and serve. They usually come with their glaze packet and are perfect for Easter and Christmas dinners, but making the glaze at home greatly improves the result. Our glaze recipe perfectly complements the salty-sweet flavor of the ham. Taste is important, but foods like a spiral, pre-sliced hams are prone to drying out when reheated. On the other hand, this method will keep your ham moist and succulent.
Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze
This baked dish is a great example of how well ham and pineapple go together. Although leftover baked ham slices are required, purchased ham steaks or thick-sliced deli ham are excellent substitutes. Per person, allow 4 to 6 ounces of ham (less for children). A delicious thickened sauce for the ham is made with pineapple juice and raisins. Add a tablespoon or two brown sugar to the pineapple juice mixture if you prefer a sweeter sauce. A sweet and sour sauce alternative can be found in the notes.
Fresh Ham vs. Prepared Ham Which is Better?
When you compare a fresh and a prepared ham, you get a great idea of how versatile a pork leg can be. A fresh ham, sprinkled with herbs and seasoning and baked at a low temperature for nine or ten hours until the enticing aroma tempts you to peek, is much fatter and moister than pork loin.
When you open the oven door, you’ll see a beautiful golden brown, crisp package that serves as a sweatbox to insulate and moisten the meat inside, which you can peel off with your fingers and melt in your mouth.
These basic qualities are taken in a completely different direction by one of the preparation methods—brine, smoke, salt, and age—but the essence of the ham is still there, perhaps even more fully realized but in a completely different guise.
Where to Buy Ham?
In most grocery stores, a basic selection of ham can be found in the deli section. High-end ham will most likely be found in charcuterie and specialty gourmet food stores. You can also look for food products from specific countries on the internet and even buy country ham directly from the producer’s website.
How to Store?
Fresh ham should be cooked or tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen within a few days of purchase. Sliced ham should be consumed within three to four days of purchase. Larger baked ham pieces can be tightly wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for seven to ten days until ready to use. If you get a whole aged ham, keep it in the fridge for four to six weeks with the cut end carefully wrapped in plastic.
The majority of these dishes require a fully cooked ham. A fully cooked ham can be used in sandwiches and recipes without further cooking, but heating it improves the flavor and texture. If you’re not using a glaze and want to reheat the ham, the packaging should include instructions for doing so at 140 degrees F. See how to heat a fully cooked ham with these simple instructions.
A fresh ham must be cooked to a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If your ham was not packaged by a USDA inspected plant, it must be heated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, whether fresh or fully cooked. Cooking a ham in the oven or a crockpot is convenient. To bake your ham, pour half of the glaze over the top, cover it with foil, and bake it. Cover the ham and pour the remaining glaze over it at the end of the baking time. Serve after baking until the glaze has caramelized.