Ham It Up! 5 Steps To The PERFECT Holiday Ham

Ham It Up! 5 Steps To The PERFECT Holiday Ham

Skip the store-bought, pre-sliced ham this Christmas to impress your family with the juiciest, most delicious baked ham. It all starts with the pig, the right cut and of course proper care and preparation. Don’t be intimidated; here are some straightforward tips and guidelines to buying, cooking and serving a ham your family will talk about until next Christmas.

Choosing the Right Producer

Pictured: Cherry and Port Glazed Ham

Seek out a local butcher, or store that carries pork products from near-by farms. Ask for more information. Where did this ham come from? What is the name of the farm? Local ham is fresh and flavorful, and the butcher knows if the animals were raised humanely and what they’re fed. Steer clear of hams that come pre-wrapped in plastic; these hams often contain added “flavor” ingredients, nitrites, are soaked with salt and contain very high levels of sodium.

Choosing the Right Cut

Pictured: Coke Ham

For the task of baking a Christmas ham for the whole family, you want a large cut that works with the bone-in. Ask for a whole, fresh ham, preferably shank-end, with the bone intact; estimate about 3/4 pound per person. If you have a smaller party, you can ask for a half-ham. What you’re asking for in layman’s terms is the hind leg of the hog. Calling the butcher in advance is the best way to ensure the cut you want is available, especially around the holidays.

Choosing the Right Recipe

Pictured: Cider Mill Ham

There are numerous glaze recipes to choose from out there, so just keep in mind the crowd you’re serving. You can’t go wrong with a traditional brown sugar or honey and mustard glaze, sure to appeal to both children and adults. Find a recipe that works for you, and follow along with the preparation, cooking and basting guidelines.

Cooking it Safely


Pictured: Alice's Ham Loaf

Once you’ve found a recipe to follow, keep in mind the internal cooking temperature should be tested. As recommended by government food safety standards, a fresh, whole bone-in cut should be cooked 22 to 26 minutes per pound, and a half-ham, bone-in 35 to 40 minutes per pound. While the minimum internal cooking temperate is 145 F, which means it must reach this to considered safe to eat, many recipes recommend you let it reach 170 F with the thermometer touching the bone in several places.

Carving it Well


Pictured: Kahlua Baked Ham

Once you’ve executed your recipe and the ham has had time to rest, it’s time to slice and serve. First, to keep the ham steady while you carve, cut two or three thin slices from the round side (or side that sticks out) to make a flat base. Stand the ham on the flat side, and slice straight down in 1/4-inch intervals until you feel your knife hit the bone. Then simply run the knife, horizontally, along the bone. Place the slices on a serving platter and garnish.

Tip: Do NOT throw out that bone! Think of the soup possibilities…

Have a merry Christmas everyone!

Source: Foodsafety.gov

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