How to Cook a Ham Perfectly Every Time
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Our Test Kitchen experts share their best tips and tricks for how to cook a ham. You've got this!
Looking to make a picture-perfect glazed ham for your Easter supper? Good idea! Ham is less stressful to prepare than many other roasted meats because most are sold already cooked (and they’re usually smoked, which adds succulent flavor).
All you need to do is reheat and finish it off with a tasty glaze. Our Test Kitchen pros show you how it’s done, with their best tips and a recipe, to boot.
How to Cook a Bone-in Ham
This recipe makes enough for a party or a family dinner with plenty left over—about 10 to 14 servings.
What you’ll need:
- 1 fully cooked bone-in ham, from 5 to 7 pounds
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
- 1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- A roasting pan with a rack
Step 1: Bake the Ham Alone
Preheat the oven to 325°. Place the bone-in ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the surface of the ham with 1/4-in. deep cuts in a diamond pattern. Cover with a piece of foil and bake for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until a thermometer reads 130°.
Editor’s Tip: Why score the ham? Scoring opens up the fatty outer layer of the ham, allowing the glaze to soak into the meat.
Step 2: Glaze and Heat Again
While the ham bakes, prep your glaze. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and just enough vinegar to make a thick paste.
When the ham is up to temperature, take it out of the oven. Using a heatproof spatula, spread the glaze over the ham. Bake again, uncovered this time, for 15-30 minutes longer, or until a thermometer reads 140°.
Editor’s Tip: Baking the ham uncovered exposes the glaze to more heat, letting it caramelize (which is a good thing!).
More Tips for Making the Best Ham
Buy the best meat you can afford.
We like to order from a local butcher shop rather than grabbing a mass-produced grocery store ham. The flavor and texture tend to be more robust and meatier. Here’s how to get the best deal at the butcher.
Cook a bone-in ham.
We look for semi-boneless. The bone prevents the ham from drying out and adds flavor. Don’t toss your leftover bone! Add it to pea soups, throw it into broth or add to a pot of beans. This secret ingredient makes a huge difference in soups, too.
Don’t overcook it.
Remember, it’s already cooked. You want to gently reheat it in the oven, so keep the temperature on the low side. Your ham may come with specific instructions for re-heating.
Make your own glaze to add the perfect finish.
Our recipe below uses sweet brown sugar and tangy mustard and vinegar to make a balanced glaze. You can add spices to taste. Cloves or ground black pepper are simple additions. Or think beyond your spice rack with this surprising ham glaze.