How to Cook a Ham in Your Slow Cooker

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Overwhelmed by all the holiday recipes taking up your oven real estate? Here's how to heat up a precooked ham in a slow cooker for a tender, flavorful feast.

Crockpot HamLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

You’ve created the perfect holiday menu for your family’s upcoming gathering. But there’s one problem: You only have one oven and limited refrigerator space for make-ahead side dishes.

With a batch of homemade rolls, and not one but two potato recipes roasting in the oven, where will you ever find the space to cook a whole ham?

Don’t worry. Your slow cooker will save the day! Here’s how to make a slow-cooked ham.

How Long Does It Take to Cook a Precooked Ham?

It depends—but usually about 5 hours. Since most hams are precooked, regardless of the cooking method you choose, you’re really heating rather than cooking. With the slow cooker set on low, put the ham in about 5 hours before dinner. That’s for an eight to 10-pound bone-in ham.

Editor’s Tip: For a fall-apart tender ham, let it cook longer; 10-12 hours on low. This method is perfect for families who prefer a more casual dinner of shredded hot ham and roll sandwiches. It’s also the best for making any leftover ham recipes.

How to Heat a Ham in a Slow Cooker

Preparing a slow-cooked ham could not be simpler. You’ll need a ham, slow cooker and a few simple ingredients to make a moist, perfectly glazed ham. It will be a beautiful centerpiece for your holiday spread!

Ingredients

Crockpot HamLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

  • 1 (8-10 pound) bone-in half ham
  • 1 1/2 cups ginger ale

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Step 1: Put the ham in a slow cooker

Crockpot Ham Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Place your ham into your slow cooker cut side down. Pour the ginger ale over the ham, then cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours until heated through.

Step 2: Glaze

Crockpot Ham Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients (feel free to swap for a glaze mentioned in one of these Easter ham recipes). Then remove the lid from the slow cooker and evenly pour the glaze over the ham. You can use a basting brush to ensure every nook and cranny gets coated in the sticky glaze.

Cover and cook on low for an additional 30 minutes.

Step 3: Carve

Crockpot HamLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Carefully remove the ham from the slow cooker and transfer it to a large carving board. Tent with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Then, using an electric carving knife, cut the ham into even slices and arrange them on a platter. Serve warm and enjoy.

Editor’s Tip: Not sure how to carve around the ham bones? Read this guide to learn how to carve a ham.

How Do You Reheat a Ham Without Drying It Out?

On the off chance that there are leftovers (too many of these Easter snacks before dinner, perhaps?), the secret to keeping leftover ham juicy is adding back moisture while warming it to keep it moist.

Here are our favorite ways to reheat ham that won’t dry it out:

  • Your slow cooker can help you reheat the ham. Place cooked ham slices in a slow cooker on low along with some additional liquid—more ginger ale will do, but you can add broth, barbecue sauce, hoisin sauce, orange juice or apple cider. Cook until heated through.
  • Simmer leftover ham on the stovetop with a cup of water or broth for a couple of minutes until heated through.
  • In a pinch? You can also microwave leftover ham. Add some liquid (ginger ale, broth, water, etc.) to a covered, microwave-safe container and zap until steaming and heated through.

Tips for Cooking Ham in a Slow Cooker

Crockpot HamLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

For perfect results, follow these tried-and-true tips for the best ham.

Pick up a bone-in ham

While you can prepare a boneless ham in the slow cooker, we find that bone-in hams yield more tender, flavorful and moist results. This is because the bone helps the ham heat more evenly since it conducts heat. The bone also contains key proteins like albumin and collagen which enrich the ham with flavor, richness and moisture.

Spiral hams are a convenient option for those leery of carving. Just know spiral hams can dry out faster than other types of ham (even in the slow cooker).

Consider ham butt vs. ham shank

When choosing a ham, you’ll likely have a choice between either a butt or shank portion. While both can be made successfully in a slow cooker, they each have a set of pros and cons to consider:

  • Ham Butt: The ham butt is the half that will usually fit best in a slow cook due to its even rounded shape. While this portion may be the easier fit, the butt portion tends to not be as flavorful or moist since it’s leaner than the shank. It is also more difficult to carve into slices since it has two bones running through it.
  • Ham Shank: When it comes to flavor, moisture and ease of cutting, the shank portion of the ham is where it’s at. The shank comes from the upper portion of the leg just below the butt and contains more fat and marbling than the butt. The major drawback to the shank is that its shape doesn’t fit as easily into most standard-size slow cookers.

Calculate how long to cook ham based on its size

For best results, we recommend purchasing an instant-read thermometer and warming your ham, regardless of size, until it reaches an internal temperature of 140°F.

As a rule of thumb, an eight to 10-pound precooked ham will take about 4 to 6 hours on low in a slow cooker. But a smaller ham that’s four to six pounds may only need 2 to 3 hours when cooked on low.

Ultimately, Crockpot ham is a forgiving recipe as long as you’re cooking on low and keeping ham moist with enough cooking liquid in the crock.

Cook on low heat

While you may be tempted to blast your ham on high (we’re just reheating it, after all), warm your ham in a slow cooker low and slow. Warming a ham on high runs a higher risk of drying out the ham and making it tough. Using your slow cooker’s low setting will yield a ham that’s much more juicy, tender and flavorful.

Let the ham rest

While ham doesn’t look like a steak, the same rule about resting your meat applies. Cutting into a ham before it rests will cause those precious juices to run right out onto your cutting board. Before carving, let your ham rest for 15-20 minutes to allow those internal juices to settle and redistribute throughout the ham’s interior.

What Other Liquids Can Be Used for Crockpot Ham?

While we love the subtle bite the ginger ale gives a Crockpot ham, it’s far from the only liquid you can use when making ham in a slow cooker. If you’re feeling adventurous, use a slightly spicy brand of ginger beer, such as Reed’s, for a stronger ginger flavor.

If you enjoy hams with a sweet, maple-like glaze, then consider trying root beer as your cooking liquid. Its robust notes of vanilla, sarsaparilla, molasses and cinnamon pair perfectly with ham. Follow the recipe, as written above, swapping the ginger ale for root beer. For an extra sweet touch, rub the ham with 1/4 cup of brown sugar before adding it to the slow cooker. It’s an addition that’s simply divine!

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren Habermehl is a recipe developer, food photographer and creator of the blog, Frydae. She is a prolific quoter of FRIENDS, lover of weekend DIY projects and procrastinating fitness enthusiast who enjoys exploring the Milwaukee-area with her husband, daughter and ugly mutt named Tyson Doodles.