How to Bake Ham Perfectly

A perfectly baked ham is simpler than you might think—here’s everything you need to know to make it like a pro!

A perfectly baked ham is simpler than you might think—here’s everything you need to know to make it like a pro!

One of the great things about making a ham is that they come already fully cooked. That means that you aren’t worrying about whether it’s cooked enough to be safe to eat as much as you are worrying about whether it’s heated through. That’s pretty easy, right? It totally takes the pressure off.

(How do you make sure that your ham is one of the 99% that’s already cooked? The label will tell you.)

Then what’s with all the recipes for ham, you ask? They’re just ways to dress up, or add flavor to your ham as you heat it.

Did you know that? I sure didn’t when I started cooking ham. But it’s kind of a relief, isn’t it? I mean, it’s absolutely not hard to heat something up!

So, what is the best kind of ham to buy?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s fill in a few basics. According to The National Pork Board, “ham” typically refers to meat from a hind leg that’s been cured and often smoked. A ham can be wet- or dry-cured.

Wet-cured is by far the most common. Dry-cured ham is also known as old-fashioned, country-style, or Southern-style ham and is extremely salty. Because of that very strong and salty flavor, you serve dry-cured ham in small portions—so not what you want for a ham dinner.

Bone-in or Boneless Ham?

Besides coming wet- or dry-cured, ham also comes bone-in or boneless. A boneless ham is sort of football-shaped—for your convenience, it’s sometimes cut into a portion of a football—and is super easy to cut into nice, even slices.

But I prefer bone-in because it has more flavor and a little more fat, which means it tends to be juicier. Bone-in can be harder to carve though, so that’s why I prefer a spiral-sliced one. It means I can get great ham flavor and also a little help in the slicing department.

So if we’re talking about making ham for dinner, we’re typically talking about a fully cooked, wet-cured ham that’s either boneless or bone-in, and if it’s bone-in, ideally it’s spiral-sliced.

The recipe below can be used for a boneless or bone-in ham. However, I have more specific boneless ham cooking instructions over here if you want more details on that.

How do you heat Ham?

You can heat your ham any number of ways—in the oven, on the grill, using a slow cooker, you name it. I like to do a variation of my How to Roast Pork Perfectly method using something like the reverse sear technique—warm it relatively low and slow, then finish it with a blast of heat to get those delicious, crispy, caramelized edges. (And there are lots of them on a spiral-sliced ham. Yay!)

How to Flavor Ham?

Now for the dressing up part. I flavor my ham with a relatively classic orange marmalade glaze modernized with a little fresh thyme. If you have a glaze, sauce, basting mixture, or seasoning that you like, you can absolutely use my cooking method for that, too.

Anything with a decent amount of sweetness is also conducive to crispy edges. And here again, there’s an advantage to spiral-sliced—more nooks and crannies for the flavoring to seep into. (Yay again!)

And that’s all you need to know to cook ham like a pro.

Christine :)

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How to Bake Ham Perfectly


  • Author: Allie McDonald
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12-16 servings

Description

A perfectly baked ham is simpler than you might think—here’s everything you need to know to make it like a pro!


Ingredients

  • 1 7- to 8-lb. ham (see note)
  • 3/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Line a large shallow roasting pan with foil. Put the ham flat side down in the pan and trim any fat to a thin layer. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the marmalade, butter, thyme, coriander, and cinnamon, stirring occasionally until the marmalade and butter melt together and the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Set aside 1/2 cup of the marmalade mixture and leave the rest in the saucepan.
  4. Baste the ham with the glaze mixture in the saucepan. Continue to bake, loosely covered with foil and basting with the saucepan mixture or pan juices every 15 or 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 130°F, 15 to 18 minutes per pound total cooking time.
  5. Remove the ham from the oven, cover tightly with foil, and set aside for 30 minutes (the temperature will increase to about 140°F).
  6. Meanwhile, increase the oven to 475°F.
  7. Pour off any liquid in the baking pan and brush the ham with the reserved 1/2 cup of glaze. Roast until the glaze gets nicely caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Carve and serve immediately.

Notes

  •  I prefer bone-in and spiral-sliced, but this recipe will work for boneless or bone-in and for spiral-sliced or not.

This post originally appeared March, 2019 and was revised and republished in April, 2021.

How to Bake Ham Perfectly

17 responses to “How to Bake Ham Perfectly”

  1. Martha says:

    This turned out really great! I had a bone-in spiral cut ham and the edges got crispy like you said. The marmalade was perfect and I think that’s what my grandmother probably used to use because it tasted just like hers. Thank you so much!

  2. Rebekah Kalinowski says:

    Saving for Easter! This is one of the few I’ve seen without pineapple.

  3. I’m not a big fan of glaze, but low and slow is good

  4. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for teaching me how to bake a perfect ham.

  5. Deborah Waddell says:

    Interesting. Will try this.

  6. Jennifer Phillips says:

    Marmalade, that is the ingredient I could not remember that my mom used, thank you!!

  7. Calvin says:

    Nice and simple guide, I like ham.

  8. Debbie Yoder says:

    Ive never added the orange marmalade or cinnamon before,going to do that next time, ham is my Grandpas favorite!

  9. Andrea Hatfield says:

    Thank you for the great tips! I have a ham in the fridge now so this will come in handy later this week. :)

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