How to Make a Christmas Ham
This year, go ham for the holidays with the only recipe you'll ever need.
Salty, smoky and glistening with glaze, nothing in the world beats ham for the holidays. But how do you choose the right size ham for your guest list? Should it be bone-in or boneless? And, most importantly, exactly what Christmas ham recipe should you use?
Here’s all you need to know to bake up your best holiday ham recipe yet.
How to Choose a Christmas Ham
How much ham do you need?
For bone-in ham, allow about 1/2 pound per person. Going with boneless? Buy 1/3 pound of ham per person. So, for a party of 12, you’d need a 6-pound bone-in ham or 4 pounds of boneless.
Should you get boneless or bone-in ham?
We prefer bone-in. The ham bone contributes moisture and flavor as the meat bakes, but it does make the ham a bit tricky to carve. (We’ll show you how to master this technique later, so keep reading.) Find out more differences between the main types of ham: bone-in, boneless and spiral ham.
What are the different cuts of ham?
Bone-in full hams are the largest, consisting of the butt (upper portion) and shank (leg) halves. Shank half hams are smaller than butt half hams, and they give you a meaty, flavorful bone ideal for making bean soup. Coming from a larger cut, butt half hams weigh more and yield large slices. Center-cut ham steaks and packaged ham slices sold in the store come from the butt half. The different cuts taste similar, so choose based on your preferred size and brand.
How much does Christmas ham cost?
One year, my parents splurged on a magnificent spiral-sliced bone-in ham from Nueske’s (one of our favorite ham brands), which was a joy for me to carve and an absolute delight for the family to eat. You can find very good hams for an eighth of this price, and everything in-between, during the holiday season.
Our Christmas Ham Recipe
Taste of Home
- 1 fully cooked bone-in ham (7 to 9 pounds)
- 1/2 cup grapefruit juice
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
Step 1: Prep the ham
Preheat oven to 325°F. Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score surface of ham with 1/4-in.-deep cuts in a diamond pattern. This helps the yummy glaze soak into and infuse the ham with flavor.
Step 2: Bake it
Cover and bake until a thermometer reads 130°, 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 hours.
Test Kitchen Tip: Whole bone-in fully cooked hams need about 15 to 18 minutes per pound. If you’re using a boneless fully cooked ham, plan on baking for 18 to 20 minutes per pound. (Partially cooked and uncooked hams, which are less common, should bake to 145°, so allow a bit of extra time for these.)
Step 3: Prep the glaze
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine grapefruit and orange juices. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.
Step 4: Brush on the glaze
When a thermometer reads 130°, remove ham from oven. Brush with 1/3 cup of glaze. Bake, uncovered, basting occasionally with the remaining glaze, until a thermometer reads 140°, 15 to 20 minutes longer.
Step 5: Carve your Christmas ham
With a carving knife, cut off one boneless section of ham at a time. Then slice each section. Carve and slice the bone-in section last. For specifics, check out or step-by-step tutorial on carving a ham.
Christmas Ham FAQs
Should I use cloves on my Christmas ham?
Cloves are optional, but they add a lovely aroma as the ham bakes, as well as an old-fashioned appearance. If you like the idea, insert a whole clove into each diamond point of the ham before baking. The cloves also make handy hooks for adorning the meat with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries (if you’re looking for a retro holiday ham recipe).
What other ham glazes could I use?
We think you’ll love the citrus-molasses glaze in this Christmas ham recipe, but there’s lots of room for flavor experimentation here. Make your ham glaze of choice, then brush it on as directed above.
- Sugar Glaze: Combine 1 cup packed brown sugar, 2 teaspoons prepared mustard and 1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar.
- Bourbon Glaze: Stir up 2/3 cup bourbon, 2 cups packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon ground mustard, 1 tablespoon orange marmalade and 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander.
- Cranberry Glaze: In a pot, simmer 1 can (14 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup cider vinegar and 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons ground mustard.
How long does leftover Christmas ham last?
Sliced ham lasts three to four days in the fridge, while a hunk of ham will last up to five. If you don’t think you’ll use it up in time, follow our guide on how to freeze ham, on or off the bone.
What can I do with leftover ham?
We love leftover ham layered on grilled cheese, scrambled with eggs, stirred into mac and cheese—even doused with sriracha for a bedtime snack (don’t judge). For more inspiration, try these fabulous leftover ham recipes.