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Ham

NOTHING ELSE FEEDS A BIG CROWD AND REQUIRES SO LITTLE WORK

Aspiral-sliced bone-in half ham easily feeds a dozen people with plenty of leftovers. If you put a lot of sides on the table and aren’t concerned about sandwiches the next day, then that one ham can feed 20 people. That’s a lot of food from something that requires so little effort.

A ham seems much easier to prepare than other holiday centerpieces like turkey or prime rib. You just throw the ham in the oven, slather on some glaze, and wait. However, this simple method fails many cooks. The ham is dried-out and leathery—think salty jerky. The mistake? Spiral-sliced hams are cured and fully cooked, so they don’t need to be cooked a second time. A reheat is sufficient.

So what’s the secret to ham that’s moist and flavorful? Gently warm the ham, taking care at every stage to minimize moisture loss. As you might imagine, slow and low is the way to go. And don’t overcook the ham. Heating the ham causes moisture loss. Once the ham is warm, it’s done.

Now how are you supposed to caramelize the sticky glaze in a slow and low oven? Wait to apply the glaze until the ham has almost reached the desired serving temperature, then paint on the glaze and 10 minutes is enough. And, please, don’t use the glaze packet that comes with many hams. It’s way too sweet and full of preservatives (and tastes like it, too). Make your own glaze from pantry staples. It takes just 5 minutes and given how little effort it takes to cook a ham, it seems like the least you could do.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

Choose the Right Ham

Bone-in hams with natural juices are the least processed of all the options at the supermarket and offer the best flavor. While “water added” ham might sound juicier, these hams taste awful and shed all that extra water in the oven. Bone-in half hams are available in two distinct cuts. If the labeling is unclear, it is easy to identify them by their shape: A shank ham has a tapered, more pointed end opposite the flat cut side of the ham, whereas the sirloin (or butt) end is rounded. We prefer the shank ham because there are fewer bones to work around. Whether you buy a shank or sirloin ham, make sure it’s spiral-sliced to facilitate carving.

A Warm Bath

A big ham, cold from the refrigerator, can take hours to heat through in the oven, by which time the meat becomes very dry. This drying is especially noticeable around the outer edges of the ham. Soaking the packaged ham in warm water for 90 minutes raises its internal temperature to 60 degrees and cuts the total roasting time by over an hour.

Bake in a Bag

Roasting the ham in a plastic oven bag traps heat and reduces cooking time. Less cooking time means less loss of juices so the finished ham is especially moist.

Warm Is Good

While fresh ham should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, a cured ham only needs to reach an internal temperature of 110 to 120 degrees. You’re reheating rather than cooking the ham.

Know When to Glaze

It’s best to apply the glaze toward the end of cooking and quickly caramelize it so the ham won’t dry out. Then glaze again once the ham comes out of the oven and rests. As a bonus, you can make a serving sauce with the remaining glaze and the drippings in the oven bag.

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A bath gently warms the ham while an oven bag reduces the cooking time.

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Glazed Spiral-Sliced Ham

SERVES 12 TO 14, WITH LEFTOVERS

RECIPE DETAILS

Timeline

  • 1½ hours to soak ham
  • 1 to 1½ hours (about 10 minutes per pound) to bake ham
  • 15 minutes to glaze and brown ham
  • 30 minutes to rest and carve ham

Essential Tools

  • Large container for soaking ham
  • Large plastic oven bag
  • Large roasting pan
  • Brush for basting ham

Substitutions & Variations

  • Instead of using the plastic oven bag, the ham may be placed cut side down in the roasting pan and covered tightly with aluminum foil, but you will need to add 3 to 4 minutes per pound to the heating time.
  • You can bypass the 1½-hour soaking time, but the heating time will increase to 18 to 20 minutes per pound for a cold ham. If you skip the soaking step, the ham will be a bit less juicy.

We prefer a tapered shank ham but a rounded sirloin ham will work in this recipe. If there is a tear or hole in the ham’s inner covering, wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap before soaking it in hot water. Cut slits in the oven bag so it does not burst.

  • 1 (7- to 10-pound) spiral-sliced bone-in half ham
  • 1 large plastic oven bag
  • 1 recipe glaze (recipes follow)
  1. Leaving ham’s inner plastic or foil covering intact, place ham in large container and cover with hot tap water; set aside for 45 minutes. Drain and cover again with hot tap water; set aside for another 45 minutes.
  2. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Unwrap ham; discard plastic disk covering bone. Place ham in oven bag. Gather top of bag tightly so bag fits snugly around ham, tie bag, and trim excess plastic. Set ham cut side down in large roasting pan and cut 4 slits in top of bag with paring knife.
  3. Bake ham until center registers 100 degrees, 1 to 1½ hours (about 10 minutes per pound).
  4. Remove ham from oven and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cut open oven bag and roll back sides to expose ham. Brush ham with one-third of glaze and return to oven until glaze becomes sticky, about 10 minutes (if glaze is too thick to brush, return to heat to loosen).
  5. Remove ham from oven, transfer to carving board, and brush entire ham with one-third of glaze. Tent ham loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. While ham rests, add 4 to 6 tablespoons ham juices to remaining one-third of glaze and cook over medium heat until thick but fluid sauce forms. Carve and serve ham, passing sauce separately.

MAPLE-ORANGE GLAZE MAKES 1 CUP

  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1½ cups, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

APPLE-GINGER GLAZE MAKES 1½ CUPS

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup apple jelly
  • 3 tablespoons apple butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger pinch ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

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