How to Make the Perfect Ham
Prepping a precooked ham couldn’t be easier, and a juicy ham makes a show-stopping centerpiece for any celebratory meal. Its salty goodness, complemented with a sweet, flavorful glaze, can be the shining star on your table.
Depending on how many people you’ll be serving, choose either a whole or a half ham (you’ll want some leftovers, too!) Whole hams generally weigh 18 to 20 pounds and can feed around 20 people. Divide those numbers by two for a half ham. You’ll also be choosing either a boneless or bone-in ham. As with most meats, the bone-in option typically yields better flavor than the boneless. One more decision to make: do you want a spiral-cut (these always have the bone intact and are essentially “pre-carved”) or a bone-in or boneless ham that you carve after cooking? Go with whatever works best for you.
Since oven-ready hams are already cooked, there’s not much more to it than simply heating it up. It’s key to not leave it in the oven too long and dry out the meat. Heat at 350° F for 10 minutes per pound for warm, juicy slices. You can certainly heat your ham unadorned, but for a truly festive and extra delicious ham, try one of the following gorgeous glazes.
- Brown sugar and bourbon glaze: Mix together 1/3 cup bourbon, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons dry mustard. Brush or spoon on ham during the last 45 minutes of cooking.
- Honey, sriracha, brown sugar and garlic glaze: Stir together 1/2 cup honey, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sriracha and 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped. Brush or spoon over ham during the last 45 minutes of cooking.
- Maple syrup, grainy mustard and rosemary glaze: Whisk together 1/2 cup real maple syrup, 2 tablespoons grainy mustard, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary. Brush or spoon on ham during last 45 minutes of cooking.
- Root beer, brown sugar and barbecue sauce glaze: Whisk together 3/4 cup root beer, ½ cup barbecue sauce and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Brush or spoon over ham during the last 45 minutes of cooking.
- Tangy balsamic and mustard glaze: Mix 2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Brush or spoon on ham during the last 45 minutes of cooking.
- Spicy, no-sugar glaze: Whisk together 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons black pepper and 1 teaspoon dried mustard. Brush or spoon on ham during the last 45 minutes of cooking.
You want the glaze to get a little crunchy – but watch carefully, as syrupy glazes can burn easily. Some cooks like to baste their ham every 10–15 minutes or so with the glaze during cooking. Before serving your ham, let it rest for 10 minutes (cover with foil to keep it hot). Serve extra glaze on the side.
Slicing a boneless ham is simple; just slice vertically to desired thickness. For a bone-in ham, carve vertically along the bone to remove a boneless section, cut that section into slices, then slice horizontally down to the bone. Slice this section vertically to release the individual slices. For a spiral-cut ham, cut along the pre-sliced seams.
One of the best things about ham is its fabulous leftover potential. You can add leftover ham to scrambled eggs or omelets, make sandwiches and salads with your favorite cheese and other toppings, add a slice to a grilled-cheese sandwich, make a comforting ham and scalloped potato casserole, or use the bone to add deep, smoky flavor to split-pea soup. Store leftover ham tightly wrapped in the fridge for 3–5 days. You can freeze leftover ham, too, but it’s best used within six months.
Now you’re ready to ham it up and impress your friends and family. Expect applause!