The Best Ham to Order for Your Holiday Dinner
Easter is coming (and before you know it Thanksgiving and Christmas). Find out what the best ham options are to serve up on your table, according to a blind taste test.
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Finding the Best Holiday Ham
When done right, ham is an entree everyone will take second helpings of. So how do you make sure that your special occasion meal is one everyone will rave about? You have to get the best ham, of course!
But before you go to the grocery store and grab any ol’ ham out of the case, learn how to choose the best ham and check out our Test Kitchen’s list of the best hams for your next get-together.
Taste of Home
How Our Pros Sampled Ham
With Easter on the horizon, our Test Kitchen experts were excited to put the most popular ham brands head to head in a test. All of the hams we tried are available nationwide either in stores or online. Yep, you can get your holiday ham shipped right to your door and save yourself a trip to the butcher.
Each ham was prepared according to the package directions by one of our pros. After cooking, each ham was sampled blindly and judged in each of these categories:
- Texture: For the best ham, our team was looking for slices of ham with a good bite. Anything stringy or tough wouldn’t make the cut with our team.
- Slices: Our team sampled spiral-cut and unsliced hams in this test. For the ones that came presliced, our team wanted easy to carve slices that satisfied. Too thin and the ham can seem dry; too thick and the portions are too large.
- Flavor: All hams come from the rear leg of swine and are salted and smoked. Despite the consistent preparation, hams can vary widely in flavor. A good ham should have the right balance of salt, smoke, sweetness and spice—the latter two often coming from glazes.
Our crew got their fill of ham (at least until the next holiday) and found some great options to call Test Kitchen-Preferred.
Best Thick Cut Ham
Hormel Cure 81 Bone-In Half Ham
Many spiral-cut hams have super thin slices that are great for piling high on sandwiches. For a holiday entree, though, you may want a more substantial slice like with a Hormel Cure 81 Bone-In Ham.
According to Catherine Ward in our Test Kitchen, “these slices are perfect for a dinner portion.” The thicker slices have a hearty feel. Also thicker cuts mean that this spiral-sliced ham won’t dry out as quickly as a finer slice. But you can make sure that any ham is moist and tender when you learn how to cook ham the right way.
As for the flavor, you’ll get hints of brown sugar and maple thanks to the glaze. Don’t think this ham is too sweet, though! Paired with salty, savory pork, you’ll have just the right balance. And don’t forget to serve this up with plenty of tasty sides, says Catherine.
Hickory Farms HoneyGold Spiral Sliced Ham
Creating a satisfying glaze or crust for your ham can take some experimenting. For your next special occasion, take away any guesswork and try Hickory Farms HoneyGold Spiral Sliced Ham.
With a name like HoneyGold, this ham must look tempting, right? According to our Test Kitchen, this Hickory Farms ham lives up to its name. The glaze on this ham gives it a chestnut-colored finish.
The entire Test Kitchen team agreed on this ham’s top-notch glaze. “It’s mapley without being overly sweet—it’s well balanced,” says Sarah Fischer. This was echoed by other testers noting the slight spice of cinnamon and clove.
But don’t think this ham is all glaze and no substance. Slices of this ham had a tender, toothsome texture—exactly what you want from this holiday main.
Best Smoky Ham
Nueske’s Spiral Sliced Bone-In Ham with Honey Glaze
Searching for an old-fashioned tasting ham that’ll take you back (in the best way, of course)? You’ll definitely want to order Nueske’s Spiral Sliced Bone-In Ham.
This thinly sliced ham has a deep, rich smoky flavor to it that “tastes like a local butcher smoked it fresh,” according to Catherine Ward. But this ham offers much more complexity than just plain smoke. “There’s a sweetness here—applewood—that doesn’t taste like added sugar but the sweetness of wood,” she explains. And she’s got a great palette—Catherine pegged the wood used to smoke this ham blindly!
While our team enjoyed this ham hot out of the oven, Catherine also suggests that it would be a tasty addition to sandwiches at your next picnic. Don’t be afraid to buy the whole ham at Neuske’s—you’ll find plenty of uses for leftovers.
Best Spiced Ham
Harry & David Spiral-Sliced Ham
How you season a ham is entirely up to you. Some people prefer a sweeter glaze and pineapple rings on top while others like ham with a bit of a kick. If your taste buds fall in the spicy camp, try Harry & David Spiral-Sliced Ham.
Slices of this ham, which can be delivered right to your door, have a great savory flavor and tender texture (with a slight chew) that everyone wants from their ham dinner. This Harry & David ham had a bit of a smoky flavor that really paired well with the spicy glaze brushed on the exterior.
Outside of giving the ham a bit of a kick, Catherine explains that the flavorful glaze gives the exterior “a lovely mahogany edge” that looks tempting to slice into.
Best Unsliced Ham
Smithfield Hardwood Smoked Ham
This ham had a great savory pork flavor with a touch of salt that’s not overwhelmed by smoke or sweet glazes.
What really sets this Smithfield ham apart, though, is the texture. According to Ellen Crowley in the Test Kitchen, this ham “can be shredded very easily.” That means not only is this ham tender and delicious to eat alongside homemade rolls during the holidays but a great option for making pulled ham or using ham leftovers in dishes like scalloped potatoes or eggs.
Though with the just-right texture and balanced flavor, we’re not sure you’ll have many leftovers left!
Taste of Home
Check Out More Test Kitchen-Preferred Products
Our Test Kitchen is constantly testing kitchen gadgets, cleaning gear and food looking for brands that deserve the right to be called Test-Kitchen Preferred.
If you’re looking to fill your kitchen with the best products, check out these tests:
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