Cooking a ham well starts with knowing whether the ham you have, or will buy, is a fully cooked ham or if it is uncooked. Even then the basics of cooking a ham are pretty much the same, but there are slight differences.
Cooking A Ham – The Basics
Basically for cooking a ham that is either fully cooked or uncooked you will start off the same. (Also, to clarify, if your ham is labeled “partially cooked” then treat it as uncooked for the sake of directions).
- Choose a roasting pan that is large enough to fit the ham, without it touching the sides.
- For a moister ham, place ½ to 1 inch of water in the bottom of the roasting pan.
- If you like, trim off the skin of the ham or excess fat (leaving between ¼ and ½ inch for moisture).
- You may also slightly score the ham in a criss-cross pattern for looks and to allow for flavoring from glazes or sauces.
You can choose to cover the ham or leave it open to the air. If you cover the ham with foil or with a roasting pan cover it will retain more moisture. Cooking a ham in a roasting bag, such as those used for chicken and turkey, is another option that will retain much moisture and often will cut down your cooking time as well.
Even if you leave the ham covered, if you desire a crispier exterior you can remove the covering for about the last half hour of roasting time.
Cooking a Ham – Timing
Cook your ham at a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches the recommended safe internal temperature:
- Uncooked and partially cooked hams should cook to 160 deg. F
- Fully cooked hams should be cooked to 140 F (longer if you prefer it warmer)
Generally for timing’s sake, to reach this temperature plan on around 18 minutes per pound of meat, a bit less (12 to 15 minutes per pound) for cooked hams.
Cooking a Ham – Glazing and Finishing
If you would like to glaze your ham, cook it fully first to the desired temperature. If the ham has a tough skin or heavy layer of fat, trim that down to about ¼ inch of fat remaining. Then pour or brush your glaze over the entire exposed surface and return to the oven for five to 10 minutes, depending on your glaze and desired doneness.
There are many options for glazes for hams and many available recipes, but even something as simple as sprinkling the ham with some brown sugar, maple syrup, or a mixture of brown sugar and pineapple makes a delicious glaze and a nice final touch. There really are many great flavors, though, so do explore some of the options for glazes and finishes for cooking your ham.
This gives you the basics for turning out a delicious baked ham, without or without the glaze. There are other options for cooking a ham that you might like to explore, too, such as slow cooker and boiling alternatives.