When you’re hosting, a baked ham is an easy and impressive main dish. You can make it taste even better by following these tips on how to glaze a ham.

By Kelsey Ogletree
Updated August 24, 2020
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Hams aren’t only for the holidays. If you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to feed a crowd any time of year, hams are a great option that are often overlooked in the meat department. Because most hams sold at grocery stores are already smoked and fully cooked, they only require heating before eating (see our complete guide on how to bake a ham). You can add much more flavor and texture, however, by adding a delicious ham glaze. Here’s how to glaze a ham to make it even more delicious, whether you’re going for the perfect salty-sweet combo with a honey-glazed ham or want to try other flavor options like maple or mustard. Keep this guide on hand for the holiday season and beyond (and don’t forget, leftover ham makes incredible sandwiches!).

Holiday Ham
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Which Hams to Glaze

In short, you can glaze any ham. Spiral-cut hams are popular because they come pre-sliced and are easy to serve. Even if your spiral-cut ham comes with a glaze packet, you may want to create your own simple glaze recipe, like this easy brown-sugar-glazed ham. Regardless of which ham you choose, glazing it will add flavor, color, and sheen (after all, you can’t serve a perfectly glazed ham without snapping a photo to post on social media).

Get Our Holiday Ham Recipe
scoring and preparing spiral ham with large knift
person inserting whole cloves into ham in pattern
Left: Credit: Blaine Moats
Right: Credit: Blaine Moats

How to Score a Ham Before Glazing

Scoring means to make shallow cuts in the ham’s surface. You score a ham so the glaze can get through the thicker skin to fully flavor the ham. As a bonus, the rougher texture that scoring creates means the surface of the ham will hold on to more of the delicious glaze. You can score any type of ham, although it is not necessary to do this for spiral-cut hams.

How to score a ham for glazing: Using a chef's knife ($85, Bed Bath & Beyond), cut shallow slits (¼-inch deep) through the skin of the ham about 1 inch apart. You can do this in a diamond pattern for visual appeal. Many people also like to insert whole cloves into the ham where the cuts intersect for flavor and appearance. Make sure, however, that cloves will be compatible with the flavor of your glaze.

Make the Ham Glaze

There are endless ham glaze recipes, but most are made with fruits, preserves or chutneys that include oranges, cherries, cranberries, apricots or mango. These sweet, fruity flavors pair deliciously with salty ham. All glazes contain added sugar or sugar-containing ingredients, such as barbecue sauce or marmalade. As a glaze heats in the oven, the sugar caramelizes, creating a rich, glossy coating. Many cooks like to add a little kick to their glaze with a couple of drained, chopped chipotle chile peppers. And don't forget mustard-base glaze, a classic flavor complement for ham. Regardless of the flavor you choose, most glazes take only minutes to create using just a few ingredients.

Try some of our favorite ham recipes (each with multiple glaze options) such as Glazed Ham: including Orange Glaze, Chutney Glaze, and Raspberry-Chipotle Glaze; Holiday Glazed Ham: including Five-Spice Plum Glaze, Cranberry Glaze, and Maple-Pecan Glaze; or Glazed Easter Ham: including Apricot-Cherry Glaze, Peach-Pineapple Glaze, Lemon-Mustard Glaze, and Stout Glaze.

How to Glaze a Ham

In most cases, you will want to glaze the ham during the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking. If you glaze it sooner, the sugar in the glaze could cause it to burn. You will need at least 1 cup of glaze for every 5 to 10 pounds of ham.

To glaze the ham: Take the roasting pan out of the oven and put it on a cooling rack; close the oven door so the heat does not escape. Using a basting brush ($11, Target) or spoon, cover the ham with the glaze; return it to the oven. Continue baking until the ham reaches the desired temperature (we suggest 140°F). If you like, serve additional glaze with the ham. You can follow the same glaze instructions for a spiral-cut ham if you want to use your own glaze.

It really is as easy as stirring together a few ingredients for a ham glaze and brushing on the purchased ham to create a holiday-worthy dish any night of the week or for all your special occasions.


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