How to Cook a Ham for the Holidays

From slow cooker to oven, everything you should know.

Before You Begin: What Ham Should You Buy?

We recommend buying a ham that has already been cooked. This may seem counterintuitive to "cooking a ham" for yourself, but you will still have your work cut out for you, we promise. By purchasing a ham that is already cooked, you ensure that the meat will be food safe and you can focus on imparting delicious flavor.

How to Slow Cook at Ham

This method is our go-to for preparing a ham when we don't have time to stick around the kitchen. Rather than roasting the ham in the oven and coating it several times with a glaze to develop a lacquered exterior, the slow cooker collapses the entire process into one quick preparation.

  1. Simply place the ham cut-side down in the slow cooker.
  2. Score the outside layer of fat about 1/4-inch deep with a knife in a diagonal crisscross pattern.
  3. Rub the exterior with a sprinkling of kosher salt and then a hefty coating of brown sugar.
  4. Drizzle the ham with honey and add a can of pineapple juice to the slow cooker along with a few whole cloves.
  5. Turn the temperature to "LOW" and allow the ham to cook for about 4 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 145°F.

The acidity of the pineapple juice and the spice of the cloves will penetrate the ham, and the insulated environment of the slow cooker will keep the ham moist.

How to Cook a Ham in the Oven

Roasting a ham in the oven is our preferred method of cooking—it allows you to achieve a golden glazed exterior befitting a holiday table.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and score the fat on the outside of the ham about 1/4-inch deep with a knife in a diagonal crisscross pattern. The ham will need to roast for 15 minutes per pound, so knowing the weight is crucial.
  2. Place the ham on a wire rack in a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of water (the water should not touch the ham). Cover the entire ham and roasting pan in several layers of aluminum foil to insulate the ham while it cooks. This prevents steam from escaping, keeping the meat delicious and moist.
  3. Once the internal temperature reaches 135°F, increase the oven temperature to 415°F, carefully remove the aluminum foil (be cautious of the steam), and continue roasting the ham for another hour, glazing the exterior every 15 minutes. Allow the ham to cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

WATCH: Try Our Honey-Bourbon Glazed Ham This Holiday Season

How to Make a Ham Glaze

A glaze should be sugary and acidic. These two essential components of a glaze contrast the fatty richness of ham and make for a mouthful of complementary flavor. With that as your guide, your options are limitless. Using juice from citrus (such as orange or lemon) or tropical fruits (like pineapple), you can mix it with any kind of sweetener to make a glaze. Brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup are classic sugar sources in a glaze. Add spices like nutmeg and clove or ingredients like garlic and sage to impart the flavors you want.

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