Before you order, make sure you’re getting the right type of ham. Dry-cured country hams are the South’s version of Italy’s prosciutto di Parma or Spain’s jamon iberico.
These cured and smoked beauties can take about a year to air-dry and age to their full potential. When sliced thinly, country ham makes a terrific addition to a charcuterie board or an unforgettable biscuit sandwich.
Cooked ham, often referred to as city ham, is sold ready-to-eat and is most likely the type you’ll purchase for holiday meals. Though the ham needs no additional cooking, you can heat it and add a glaze or sauce for more flavor. Opt for the shank end of the ham (instead of the sirloin end), which has one straight bone for easier slicing. Check the label to see if water or “natural juices” have been added—this adds to the ham’s overall weight but dilutes the flavor of the meat and can give it a spongy texture.
Best Spiral-Cut: Kentucky-based Father’s Country Hams delivers big flavor (and ease of slicing) with its hickory smoked, brown sugar glazed spiral cut ham. $55 for a bone-in half ham (about six pounds), fatherscountryhams.com
Best Honey-Glazed: The hickory-smoked spiral-cut ham from Edwards Virginia Smokehouse comes with an aromatic honey, brown sugar, and orange glaze. $96 for a bone-in half ham (about seven to eight pounds), edwardsvaham.com
Best Country Ham: You don’t get called the “king of country ham” for nothing. Tennessee’s Allan Benton has a well-deserved following for his distinctively salty and smokey aged hams. $71 for a whole aged country ham (14 to 16 pounds), bentonscountryham.com
Best Smoky Flavor: If you like big smoky flavor, look no further than Kentucky-based Newsom’s Country Hams. Newsome’s Smoky Gourmet BBQ Ham (nicknamed “Preacher Ham” for its Sunday-best quality) arrives fully cooked, using the same recipe the Newsom family perfected more than 60 years ago. $129.99 for a whole (15 to 17 pounds) bone-in ham, newsomscountryham.com