Cooking the Perfect Ham: You Can Do It Right Now

Cooking the Perfect Ham: You Can Do It Right Now Holiday table setting with delicious whole baked sliced ham, fresh strawberries, figs, vegetable salad and glasses of red wine.

Is there anything that says ‘American holidays’ more than a perfectly roasted, juicy ham? If turkey is a favorite for winter holidays, we think that serving a perfect ham all-year round is a recipe for success.

I have to admit something to the world right now. A lot of kitchen tasks intimidate me. They seem like a lot of work and sometimes I would rather not fail than try. Which is what some psychologists might call a fixed mindset: believing that if you don’t do something perfectly on the first try, you can’t do it at all. But once I saw this, I began to realize that real success always comes with work, experience, and above all else, perseverance.

So this is my challenge to you: try! Try something that scares you and then try again. This time, I really think you should give cooking the perfect ham a shot. And if it doesn’t work out perfectly, then give it another shot.

The ham is an investment: of time, of effort, of money. But you know what an investment like this can do? Pay dividends. Whatever you don’t have for your holiday meal, you can repackage and reuse for the following week.

Cooking the Perfect Ham: You Can Do It Right Now

A raw ham is more complicated to roast to perfection than a pre-cooked one.

Perfect ham – the basics

So anything you should know about ham, you might ask? A ham is a cut of meat that comes from the back legs or even the shoulder of a pig. When you’re making a ham recipe, you have to know what type of ham you have on your hands. Is it wet-cured? That means that it’s been brined by being injected with a curing solution aka a liquid before cooking. Where there’s brine, there’s salt. So be careful if you’re on a low-sodium diet. Now the dry-cured ham is pretty similar. There’s also plenty of salt involved, but the ham is just rubbed with it and other ingredients. If your ham is raw, then you’ll have to do the brining yourself.

Most store-bought hams, or city hams, can be eaten cold right out of the package. While country hams are dry-cured, then smoked and aged.

If you buy a raw ham, you will have to brine it for multiple days, so take that into consideration. But if you’ve decided on buying a cooked ham, you will have to glaze it, then bake it. Let’s get on with it!

Cooking the Perfect Ham: You Can Do It Right Now

Glazed and bake ham is a traditional holiday dish in the United States.

Glazing the ham 101

When you want to glaze the ham, there are a few things you should do. Remove all of the skin. Then remove most of the fat, but keep a thin layer, about 1/4 of an inch, because it will help keep the moisture in. Score the meat after that, by cutting all the way through the fat layer in a crosshatch pattern. This will keep the heat circulating.

There are so many options for glazing the ham. You can use honey and apricots, go for maple glaze, or try some mustard, cranberry or jalapeno. Whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you weigh the ham first. Don’t forget some pineapple, since it helps tenderize meat.

Cooking the Perfect Ham: You Can Do It Right Now

You can make the glaze for the ham with so many ingredients!

First, you will prepare the glaze in a pan on the stovetop, according to your recipe. If you’re working with a cooked city ham, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Place the ham cut-side down in a baking sheet, add about two cups of water to it, add herbs and spices, and cover it with foil. This will keep all of the moisture in. And moisture makes the ham, does it not?

Cook it for 10 minutes for every pound the ham has. If it’s just partially cooked, then you’ll need 20 minutes per pound. Now, about every 20 minutes, brush the ham with the glaze you’ve made and baste it with the liquid in the pan. You will probably glaze it about three times.

Use a meat thermometer to check out the temperature of the ham. It should reach about 140 degrees F/60 degrees C. Your other clue is that the glaze should be caramelized.

Important tip: let this perfect ham rest for about 15-20 minutes before you cut into it. That way, the juices have time to redistribute. Now cut into it and enjoy it! Happy holidays!

I’m a pop culture nerd who thinks too much about fried bacon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and life, the Universe and everything. I love food and sometimes you can see that on my hips, but I don't care that much about that.
What I do care more about is trying to eat healthier, even though I admit that I like to indulge in my food fantasies. I’m addicted to puns, so forgive me for that when you read my articles. I now know too much about nutrition to be fun to hang out with. So long and thanks for all the fish-based omega-3 fatty acids.

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