Cooking ham is one of the best dishes to things to do during the holidays when someone asks you what dishes you would like to do to contribute. Not only does it take a lot less time than most festive culinary delights, it is basically fool proof. Plus, in most cases, it costs a lot less than say a prime rib or even a turkey.
Start by selecting the right ham for what you are doing. Remember, when cooking ham (or anything else) you what to start with the end in mind.
How do I know how much to get?
First think of who are you feeding. Is it a group of big eaters, like construction workers, athletes, or maybe just a group of hungry people who have been out skiing, sledding or building snow caves? If it is then you are probably going to want to expect to get a little bigger cooking ham than maybe you normally would. But, what if you’re cooking ham in conjunction with a turkey, or a lot of different side dishes? Well then you probably won’t need as much.
Here is a quick guide on how much to get:
If you’re cooking ham (or most any protein) as a main dish with just a few side dishes, plan about 6 oz per person.
If you’re cooking ham as a main dish with a lot of side dishes, plan about 4 oz per person.
Lastly, if you’re cooking ham as just one of your main dishes along with other proteins like turkey and/or prime rib then you would only want to do about 2 oz per person.
Raw or precooked?
Decide if you want a raw or a smoked precooked ham. It may be hard to find a raw ham, since most grocery stores weren’t selling a lot of them, so they may have made that decision for you by not carrying raw ham any longer. I would suggest the flavor and the ease of cooking ham that comes with a smoked ham anyway . . .
Bone-In, spiral sliced or boneless?
This one really comes down to personal choice. If you want to get as much meat as possible and not have to pay for a bone that you will probably just throw away any how go for the boneless. If you want that nice flavor that comes from cooking ham on the bone, go for the bone-in or bone-in spiral slice. The difference between these two are the convenience that comes from just cutting the slices off the bone of the spiral slice, you will pay a higher price for this though.
How should it look?
First, make sure that the package it is in does not have any tears or signs of the seal being broken (no air pockets). Second, make sure that when you’re choosing your cooking ham that you look for a nice bright color in the meat. If it is pink looking, then make sure it’s a bright pink color all the way through with no dark spots or discoloration.
What’s the best way of cooking ham?
How do you want it to look?
Do you want your ham to be dark on the outside with a little bit of a crispy skin texture to it? If so, then use a flavoring that is high in sugar, when sugar cooks it caramelizes and turns a darker color, and also hardens a little bit at higher temperatures, which gives you that crispness.
Maybe you want your ham to be more of a savory taste than a sweet one and with a softer texture. Less sugar in your seasoning will help you accomplish this.
How do you want it to taste?
Do you want it more of a savory, or more of a sweet taste? Here are some of my favorite savory and sweet seasonings when cooking ham:
(Makes enough for a 5 to 8 pound cooking ham)
1 cup Dijon Mustard
¼ cup Honey
½ cup Pineapple Juice
¼ cup Orange Juice
1 tblsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
2 cups Brown Sugar
½ cup Maple Syrup (the real stuff)
1 tblsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
How long am I cooking ham for?
The short answer, until its done. The detailed answer, in a pan (uncovered for sweet ham, or covered for a savory ham) at 300 degrees for about an hour and a half. Times will vary depending on your oven and the size of the ham, but look for an internal temperature of 165 degrees. You can cook it at a higher temperature, but it will dry out the ham a little bit.
So there you have it, The First Timer’s guide to Cooking Ham. If you come up with your own recipe for seasoning your ham, let us know, we all benefit from experimentation. I look forward to hearing how your holiday feast turned out with this easy guide to cooking ham.
Want to know more about cooking ham? Check our online cooking program here!
Get the First Timer’s Cookbook, DVD or both right here!