Our Guide to Glazing a Ham for Everyday Entertaining

Wow your guests with an expertly-glazed ham at your next holiday dinner or other gathering.

Hams aren't only for the holidays. If you're looking for an easy and affordable way to feed a crowd—whether it's a special occasion or a Saturday night gathering where you need an entrée—hams are an often-overlooked but very delicious option. Because most hams sold at grocery stores are smoked and fully cooked, they only require heating before eating. However, glazing a ham adds that special final touch if you want to wow your crowd with extra flavor and texture.

Learn how to score and when to glaze a ham, and what ingredients to combine for a salty-sweet flavor, honey-glazed, or mustard-covered ham. Keep this guide on hand for the holiday season and beyond (and don't forget it makes great leftovers!).

Holiday Ham
Jason Donnelly

Which Hams Can I Glaze?

In short, any of them! Spiral-cut hams are popular since they come sliced and are easy to serve. Although your pre-cut pork may include a glaze packet, consider whipping up a simple glaze (see below for recipe ideas) to customize it. Regardless of your choice, glazing a ham will add flavor, color, and sheen you'll be proud to serve.

How to Score a Ham

Although we're confident your guests will give your ham a "10," this is a different kind of scoring: Prepping this way means making shallow cuts in the ham's surface. The point is to create grooves for glazing a ham, allowing it to penetrate the thick skin for flavor all the way through. Scoring also creates extra texture on the exterior of your ham, which equals more surface area for the tasty glaze to coat. You can skip this step with spiral-cut hams.

Now let's start scoring: Using a chef's knife, cut shallow slits, about ¼-inch deep, through the skin of the ham every inch or so. You can do this in a diamond pattern for visual appeal. Many people also like to insert whole cloves where the cuts intersect for flavor and as a decorative accent. Before you do this, make sure the taste of cloves—subtly sweet yet pungent—is compatible with the ingredients in your glaze.

Make the Ham Glaze

There are endless recipes for glazing a ham, but most are made with fruits, preserves, or chutneys that include oranges, cherries, cranberries, apricots, or mango. The sweetness of these fruits pairs deliciously with the saltiness of ham; added sugar or sugar-containing ingredients, such as barbecue sauce or marmalade, heighten this sweet-and-salty contrast. As a glaze heats up, the sugar caramelizes, forming a rich, glossy coating over the outside of your ham.

If you want to add kick when you're glazing a ham, a couple of chopped (and drained) chipotle chile peppers will do the trick. Or complement the smokiness of the meat with the tangy zing of mustard. Regardless of the flavor you choose, most glazes take only minutes to create using just a few ingredients.

Try some of our favorite glazed ham recipes, such as:

Techniques for Glazing a Ham

Start glazing a ham in the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking. If you start brushing it on sooner, the sugar could cause the glaze (and the ham's skin) to burn. Prepare at least one cup of glaze per five to 10 pounds of ham.

To glaze the ham, pull the roasting pan out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack; make sure to close the oven door so heat doesn't escape. Using a basting brush or spoon, coat the ham with the glaze, then return it to the oven. Continue baking until the ham reaches the desired internal temperature (we suggest 140°F). Serve it with additional glaze for extra flavor. (Note: You can follow the same glaze instructions for pre-sliced spiral-cut hams).

See how easy it is? Buy a pre-cooked ham, score the skin, prepare and brush on a quick glaze, and voila, you have a delicious meal for holidays, special occasions—or any time the mood strikes.

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