The holidays are almost upon us and many of you have taken on the rather daunting task of hosting a big family dinner this year. This is where How to Cook a Ham 101 will come in so handy.
While some people choose to serve different proteins, like roast beef, chicken or turkey over a variety of different holidays, ham is a delicious holiday meal staple for many families. Not only is ham perfect for the upcoming holiday dinners, but it’s also a fantastic main for any time of the year.
When it comes time to cook up a whole ham, you may be wondering how to choose the right one, how to prepare and cook it, and what to do with the leftovers.
There are many questions associated when it comes to how to cook a ham, but the answers aren’t as daunting as you may think.
Choosing the Right Ham
Shank or Butt
While the shank looks pretty as a picture and shaped a little like a funnel it retains its portion of the femur, plus a shank bone which makes it more difficult to carve. It’s very flavorful but it does tend to be a little tougher than the butt half.
The butt end (the upper portion of the leg) is leaner and offers a little extra meat. It is relatively easier to carve with only having the one femur bone.
Boneless or Bone-in
The bone in a bone-in ham gives the meat a more pronounced flavour and texture, and as an added bonus the leftover ham bone is perfect for making stews and soups. A boneless ham is far more convenient when it comes to presentation. With this kind of ham the bone is removed and the ham is pressed into an oval shape. This makes it the easiest cut of ham to carve.
Spiral Cut Ham
A spiral cut ham takes all the fuss out of the bone-in vs boneless debate as it still got the bone inside to add to the flavour profile, but it is also pre-cut into thin slices that just need to be carved away from the bone. This is perfect for ham sandwich leftovers the next day, as the thick slices pull away from the bone rather easily.
How Much Ham to Buy
When purchasing a ham, the size you need greatly depends on the number of servings you require.
For Boneless Ham:
When serving a boneless ham, figure in ¼ to 1/3 of a pound for each person in attendance. For 4 people you will require approximately 1.3 pounds, while for 12 you would need at least 4 pounds.
For Bone-in Ham:
When serving a bone-in ham you will want to add the weight of the bone into your calculations. For example, for 4 people you will probably need a 2-pound bone-in ham and for 12 you would need approximately 6 pounds of ham.
How to Cook a Ham
How to Cook a Spiral Ham
Preheat your oven to 275 Degrees Fahrenheit and remove all packaging materials from the ham. Using a baking dish or roasting pan, place your ham face down and cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for approximately 12-15 minutes per pound of ham. If glazing, apply glaze when there is 30 minutes left of cooking time and continue to cook uncovered.
How do I Cook a Precooked Ham?
If you are starting with a fully cooked ham, preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove any excess fat and skin.
Then score your ham in diamond shapes. This allows the glaze to penetrate the meat more.
Once scored add in a clove to each diamond. Fill the pan with apple juice and water. You will want to keep an eye on this and replenish as needs be.
Inserts a ChefAlarm thermometer (affiliate link) into the ham in the middle. This will allow you to cook the ham to the perfect temperature so that it is not dried out. Then cover it in foil and place it into the oven, this will keep the ham juicy and moist. Remember to keep adding in the liquid, this also helps.
Cook the ham for approximately 15 minutes per pound of meat until it reaches 120F. Turn the oven up to 425F. Start at this point to glaze and do so every 15 minutes.
My recipe for the glaze is truly amazing. You may want to double it and serve it as a sauce. Those crispy bits on the outside were like little pieces of heaven!!
Ham makes a delicious centerpiece to any holiday meal leaving you with yummy leftovers. We have a great roundup here with other ham recipes and ones for leftovers too or try our easy Ham and Pea Pasta!
Just make sure you are choosing the ham that best suits your needs when it comes to cut and size.
A succulent moist ham is waiting for you this holiday season. Just follow our easy recipe for the best results.
How to Cook a Ham 101
How to Cook a Ham 101 will help you have a great ham everytime! The maple syrup mustard glaze will be something that you will want to double and serve as a sauce it is so good!
- 1 large ham
- Whole cloves
- Apple juice
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. cloves
- Preheat oven to 325F. Trim up the ham by removing any skin or excess fat.
- Score in diamond shapes going down about 1/2" deep.
- Insert a whole clove into each diamond. Pour a cup of water and a cup of apple juice into pan. Replenish as needed.
- Place the ham in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes per pound or until the thermometer reaches 120F.
- While the ham bakes make the glaze. Add all the ingredients to a medium pan and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar.
- Keep warm or reheat to glaze the ham. Once the ham has reached 120F, remove from oven and increase to 425F.
- Glaze the ham every 15 min. until it reaches 150F. Let it rest for a few minutes before carving.
Comments & Reviews
robin rue says
I completely ruined a ham once and vowed never to make one again LOL. With your tips I think I am ready to try again!
Reesa Lewandowski says
I love making hams. It’s my go to for Christmas and Easter!
Ham is so tricky. It seems like you could just put it in the oven and let it go, bu you can’t. Great tips!
I do put it in the oven and let it cook, turns out yummy. My family prefers it without the glazes. 😉 easiest meat to prepare in my opinion.
Jeni Hawkins says
Ok. Seriously. I needed this so badly! I have a ham in my freezer and I have been putting it off because I’m scared to cook it! now I know how! Plus, I want that cool thermometer!
I love ham so much! I was just thinking I should probably make a ham and turkey this year!
Cyn Gagen says
This is super helpful! I feel like I’m kind of hit or miss at making ham. I’m definitely trying your glaze!
I love how helpful this is. It can be hard to cook a ham if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m still not the greatest at cooking them either.
Ham is so good when it’s done right! I love a good tasty ham during the holidays. The Best!! Your recipe sounds good.
This looks amazing! I have always been so intimidated to make a ham. This makes it look like something I can do!
Claudia Krusch says
Ham looks so easy but hard at the same time to get it right! It seems like you could just put it in the oven and that’s it, but there’s so much more to it!
Liz Cleland says
I love this time of year! We are not big turkey fans so this will come in handy!!
Jenn Mitchell says
This ham looks like it would be so good. I really need to make one for the holiday season again!
I pretty sure you have reversed the ham types. The butt has one bone.. and the shank has 2 bones or a split bone . The sauce you mentioned sounds amazing!
Tara Noland says
I believe I did and thank you for bringing that to my attention. I have rewritten in now with more clarity.
Myan Onymity says
I made this ham as instructed — it was AWESOME! Best I ever had! That glaze mixture is so delicious!
Tara Noland says
We have loved doing a ham like this, so glad you did too!!
In the detailed instructions at the bottom, #4, you didn’t add that the ham should be covered in foil before placing in the oven, although you did mention that earlier in the piece. I have two questions:
1) Should the foil be tightly crimped (as it is when braising tough cuts of meat) or loosely covered? Will the lid of a black enameled roasting pan be sufficient to retain the moisture rather than foil?
2) When going to the second stage with higher heat for basting, is the ham covered again between basting sessions when back in the oven?
Thanks in advancd!
P.S. Replying to myself because I don’t know how to edit. I am doing an 8 pound but portion, bone in, lightly smoked and fully cooked.
Tara Noland says
Thanks for asking for more details. 1) The foil should be crimped and covering the ham well, if you have a lid that will work too. You want to keep the moisture in while heating.
2) For basting you want the ham to brown so don’t cover it.
Happy Easter! Feel free to always ask questions.
Hi there. This sounds delicious. My question is… do you need to insert the meet thermometer for the duration of cooking time or just at the end when you are checking to see if its ready
Tara Noland says
It really depends if you have an instant-read thermometer where you can insert it quickly and check the temperature or one that is oven safe where you want to watch the temperature rise and see how far you are off. You can always check at the end with one of the other thermometers as opposed to an instant-read but you will have to wait for it to register the correct temperature.
Can you also put pineapple rings on this
Tara Noland says
You can but with the basting sauce it may turn them brown.
Judy Tassie says
Due to the high salt content of ham, is boiling a ham a good idea? Most hams are packaged in Brine and that salt penitrates the meat. How can you tell if you should or should not boil a ham first?
Tara Noland says
This is something that I have never done but I would search out recipes and information on it with people that have used this method before.
Danny Hatten says
Is the ham fresh or precooked and smoked… if the ham is fresh how do you smoke the ham… Just wanted to know… Thanks
Tara Noland says
This recipe is for smoked or pre-cooked ham. Here is our recipe on how to smoke a ham. https://bbqingwiththenolands.com/smoked-bone-in-leg-of-ham/