How to Cook Ham

Learn how to cook a ham that will dazzle. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, we've got step-by-step instructions for cooking a ham in the oven, plus information about the different types of ham. Get ready to make this year's holiday meal the best ever. Cooking ham has never been easier!

A juicy baked ham turns any gathering into a special occasion, and though a baked-ham entree looks elegant, it'€™s a snap to prepare. See our easy method to bake ham for a full-of-flavor meal the whole family will love.

There are many ways to cook a ham, you can bake ham, grill it, even cook it in a slow cooker! We'll tell you how to cook ham all those ways, plus offer tips on carving ham and how to choose a ham when you're at the grocery store.

Cooking a Ham in the Oven

When it comes to how to bake ham there are really just a few steps. 

Step 1: Preheating the oven and preparing your ham
Preheat the oven to 325°F. You do not need to wash a ham before baking. This versatile meat requires no embellishment; however, scoring a diamond pattern in the skinlike outer layer and brushing on a glaze during baking makes the ham a showy centerpiece and adds flavor. Use a chef's knife to make diagonal cuts about 1 inch apart on the ham. Cut through the surface of the ham so the glaze penetrates the ham. If desired, insert whole cloves into the ham for decoration and flavor. It is easier to poke them in where the cuts intersect (remove the cloves before eating the ham).

Learn more about scoring and glazing ham here.

Step 2: Baking a ham
Place the ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the center of the ham. (It should not touch the bone of a bone-in ham.) Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven until ham registers desired temperature (140°F for cooked ham). Because cooking times vary based on the size and type of ham, use the timings below as a guide.

How Long Does it Take to Bake a Ham?

The answer depends on the weight of your ham. Use these guidelines for how long to bake ham:

Boneless cooked ham

  • 1½ to 3 pounds bake ¾ to 1¼ hours until 140°F
  • 3 to 5 pounds bake 1 to 1¾ hours until 140°F
  • 6 to 8 pounds bake 1¾ to 2½ hours until 140°F
  • 8 to 10 pounds* bake 2¼ to 2¾ hours until 140°F

Bone-in cooked ham

  • 6 to 8 pounds bake 1½ to 3 hours until 140°F
  • 14 to 16 pounds* bake 2¾ to 3¾ hours until 140°F

Bone-in ham (cook before eating)

  • 3 to 5 pounds bake 1¾ to 3 hours until 150°F
  • 7 to 8 pounds bake 2½ to 3¼ hours until 150°F
  • 14 to 16 pounds* bake 4 to 5½ hours until 150°F

*Hams weighing more than 8 pounds should be loosely covered with foil halfway through roasting.

Step 3: Glaze the ham
If using a glaze, the best time to add it to the ham is during the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking time. If you glaze the ham sooner, the sugar in the glaze may cause it to burn. Pull the oven rack out, and use a basting brush or spoon to cover the ham with glaze. Continue baking. Reserve any remaining glaze to serve with the ham.

Holiday Ham Recipe

As you learned above, cooking ham for the holidays is pretty darn easy. If you're looking for a recipe, this basic holiday ham is a great place to start. This recipe teaches you how to glaze a ham and includes three different glazes to choose from.

You'll need:

  • 1 6-pound cooked ham, rump half
  • 1 recipe Apricot-Mustard Glaze, Pomegranate BBQ Glaze, or Cranberry-Orange Glaze (click the recipe link for the glaze recipes)

Step One: Preheat oven to 325°F. Score ham by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at 1-inch intervals. Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert an oven-going thermometer into center of ham. (Thermometer should not touch the bone.) Cover with foil.

Step Two: Bake 1¼ hours. Uncover; bake for 20 to 60 minutes more or until thermometer registers 140°F. Meanwhile, prepare desired glaze. Brush ham with some of the glaze during the last 20 minutes of baking. Serve with remaining glaze.

Get the recipe for Holiday Ham and three different glazes!

How to Carve a Bone-In Ham

Place the ham on its flattest side. If there isn't a flat side, use a carving knife to slice off a small piece of ham from the bottom so the ham will sit flat. Cut slices down to the bone then cut along the bone to release the slices.

Looking for how to carve a ham that doesn't have a bone? Simply slice it. There's not a thing to worry about here except maybe making sure you have a carving knife and fork to hold everything still.

How to Cook Ham in a Slow Cooker

Yes, you can make slow cooker ham! For a 5-1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker, choose a boneless ham that is about 5 pounds, brush it with a glaze, and slow cook it, covered, for 8 to 9 hours on low-heat setting. Get step-by-step directions for our Cherry Cola Ham recipe in the slow cooker.

Related: Reheat ham in a slow cooker!

 

How to Grill Bone-In Ham

Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of a cooked ham shank. For a charcoal grill, cook indirectly by arranging medium coals around a drip pan. Test for medium-low heat above the pan. Place the ham on the grill rack over the pan, cover, and grill until ham reaches 140°F, brushing ham with desired glaze once or twice during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes before carving (the temperature will rise 5 degrees F during this time).

How long to grill ham? Plan about 10 minutes per pound for your ham to reach the proper temperature.

 

Cooking a Ham Steak

Lightly coat a heavy skillet with nonstick cooking spray or use a nonstick skillet. Preheat over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a ham steak, cut 1/2 inch thick, and reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, for 9 to 11 minutes or until heated through (140 degrees F). Ham steaks are ideal for grilling and broiling, too.

Types of Ham

Ham is a cut of pork from the hind leg. While most hams at the grocery store are fully cooked, you do have choices when selecting a ham.

Bone-in: At least part of the leg or hip bone is still in place, which adds flavor during cooking. You can purchase a fully cooked whole ham, but the rump half (round, meatier end) or the shank portion (tapered and easier to carve) is plentiful enough for most occasions (a 5- to 6-pound ham makes 16 to 20 servings).

Boneless: All of the bones have been removed. The shape of the fully cooked ham is reformed, and the ham is wrapped or canned to hold the meat together. Some canned hams are formed from pieces of ham held together with a gelatin. Boneless hams are simple to slice.

Spiral-cut: Fully cooked bone-in or boneless ham presliced for easier serving. These often come with a glaze packet.

Water or brine added: Fully cooked ham injected with brine or with water added. The label on the ham will say if the ham has water or brine added.

Dry-cured: Surface of the ham is salted, and the ham is stored to let the salt penetrate it.

Ham steak: A slice from the center of a bone-in ham. This cut is ideal for when you want a smaller portion of ham and for cutting up and using in recipes.

Fresh ham: Unprocessed, uncooked ham. Most hams go through a curing process and are then called cured ham.

Country ham: Uncooked but cured, dried, and smoked, or unsmoked ham, such as the famous Smithfield ham from Virginia.

Buying and Storing Ham

When purchasing a cooked, cured ham, choose one that is firm and plump with rosy-pink meat. For a bone-in ham, such as a rump half or shank portion, figure about three entree servings per pound. For a boneless ham, plan on four to five servings per pound. Unless the label says otherwise, assume your ham needs to be refrigerated. A boneless, noncanned ham can be refrigerated for up to one week; shank and rump portions can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Tip: You may want to purchase extra ham so you will have leftovers for sandwiches, egg dishes, soups, salads, and casseroles.

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