How to Cook Ham in the Oven, Crock-Pot, and On the Fire

So, you want to know how to cook ham? Well, you’re not alone. For some reason, cooking this most savory, succulent of meats proves daunting to many otherwise-competent cooks. I’m here to assure you that cooking ham can be easy and even enjoyable — you just have to take your time with it.

Before we get into it, I want to clear up a common conundrum: Do you actually know the difference between pork and ham? Pork simply refers to meat from a pig. Just like hamburger, chuck, and ribeye are all beef, bacon, short ribs, and a side of ham are all pork. Ham refers specifically to pork carved from the rump or rear legs of the pig. (That bone in your bone-in ham is a thighbone.)

For the record, most ham you buy from the supermarket is already cooked and is ready to be heated and served or even sliced and enjoyed cold. But we’re not here to talk about slicing and serving, we’re here to talk about starting with a ham and ending with a culinary masterpiece — a pig de résistance, to quote The Simpsons. For our purposes, we’re going to assume you are cooking with a ham that weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. If it’s much smaller, you’ll need to shorten cooking times; if larger, then add time. When you’re using a raw ham, don’t mess around with interior cooking temperatures —  get it 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Cook Ham in the Oven

Oh, this is sublimely simple stuff, folks. Just a few ingredients, and just a few minutes of prep. Aside from a 10-pound, fresh raw ham, you will need …

honey glazed ham recipe
Photo by Brent Hofacker

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp salt

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Drizzle soy sauce all over the ham, then wait a few minutes.
  3. Spread syrup over the exterior of the ham.
  4. Blend spices, then toss them liberally over the now-sticky ham.
  5. Bake about 20 minutes per pound, or about 3 hours and 20 minutes for a 10-pounder. Make sure the ham reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit but doesn’t go much past that. Let it cool for a bit before digging in.

How to Cook Ham in a Crock-Pot

If you’ve got the time, Crock-Pot ham is worth the wait (it’s also going to be the name of my future jug band). Aside from all the hours invested in the process, it couldn’t be much easier. Feel free to try your own recipes (brown sugar rubs working particularly well for Crock-Pot ham), but this recipe I’m laying out is the easiest and one of the tastiest I’ve ever had. For this, get a precooked ham with as few spices listed as possible — ideally with none. There will be salt aplenty thanks to the curing, of course.

crock pot ham
Crock-Pot Slow Cooker/Facebook

Ingredients:

  • 2 liters of root beer

Method:

  1. Put ham in slow cooker and set to low.
  2. Pour in just enough root beer to cover the ham.
  3. Cook for 4 to 6 hours.
  4. Enjoy oh so much.

Here’s a fun idea: Don’t immediately tell your diners how you flavored the ham. Instead, sit back and chortle as they rattle off various spices and herbs while trying to sound all gourmet and whatnot, then show ’em that empty two-liter.

How to Cook Ham on a Fire

Campfire cooking is fun as long as you bring along all the stuff you need (or the campfire you’re using happens to be in your backyard). You can cook a raw ham using this method, but let’s play it safe and use a precooked ham. No need for it to be smoked — you’re doing that yourself.

how to cook ham fire foil
Fiorella Macor/EyeEm/Getty Images

Ingredients:

  • .5 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • .5 medium onion, diced

Method:

  1. Build up a decent campfire. Let it burn down low.
  2. Meanwhile, lay out two three-foot-long strips of tinfoil side by side, with plenty of overlap, and place the ham in the middle.
  3. Partially wrap the ham in foil, then spread on the mustard.
  4. Pour in the juice, then sprinkle onions all around.
  5. Tightly wrap the ham in foil, then move aside the coals. If possible, use a shovel to dig down about four inches into the soil, but this is not necessary.
  6. Place wrapped ham in the coal bed, then move the coals back atop and build the fire back up to a smaller two or three-log size. Keep a modest fire burning for about one hour.

Then tuck into that wild-made, wildly-good ham. If you want, you can also cook potatoes, carrots, and other fine eats in there at the same time. Try other juices too. Or soda.

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