Choosing and Making the Best Holiday Ham

When it comes to choosing the star of your holiday meal, a handful of entrees promise an unforgettable dining experience. A gorgeously glazed ham is at the top of that list. Ham can be a tricky dish to prepare, and even choosing which kind to get can be difficult, but that’s where we come in. Here are some of our best tips for ensuring your holiday ham turns out perfectly.

First, choose the type of ham you’d like. Fresh hams are just a raw pork leg, while country hams are hung to dry, and are occasionally smoked and resemble prosciutto. Wet-cured hams or city hams (which are brined and also occasionally smoked) are the ones usually found at supermarkets and what most of us think of when we think of ham.

Boneless hams have had the bone removed, usually along with some of the fat, and are easier to carve. But if you don’t mind taking the time to cut around the bone, we suggest you buy your ham bone-in. Bone-in hams tend to be more flavorful than boneless hams, and they look better as a centerpiece. Ham with natural juices has the least amount of added water and is the best for special occasions.

The rule of thumb is to purchase a boneless ham that’s big enough to serve ½ pound per person or a bone-in ham that can serve ¾ pound per person. This usually leaves some room for leftovers. Before cooking, use a sharp knife to score the surface with 1/4-inch-deep cuts in a diamond pattern.

Unless you buy a fresh, uncooked ham from the butcher shop, marinating your ham is unnecessary. Most hams bought in the supermarket have been marinated already. Also, marinating it again can ruin the taste and make your ham too salty.

When it’s time to cook, preheat oven to 350°F. Place ham on a rack set inside a roasting pan. Add 1 cup water to the pan, and cover tightly with foil. Bake in the preheated oven until internal temperature reaches 140°F, usually 2 hours to 2 hours and a half. Uncover and brush liberally with a glaze of your choice. Roast, uncovered, brushing occasionally with glaze until glaze has thickened and looks lacquered. Make sure to wait to add it until the last 30 to 45 minutes of baking.

The holidays can be stressful because of how much we want to enjoy our time with our loved ones. Rest assured if you take the information from this blog, you are on your way to a wonderful holiday ham.

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