Looking to meal prep for a large family, or just want to switch up your meal routine (and have enough leftovers for a week’s worth of lunches and dinners? Well, cooking a ham might be right up your culinary alley then! Not only does it provide a delicious centerpiece to holiday meals, but cooking a ham during these times might help bring some of that holiday cheer (whichever holiday’s cheer you want) to what might be an otherwise dark time for some.
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 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 (if you’re using a pre-cooked ham, you simply need to get it to a good temperature to warm the meat, which would be around 140 degrees Fahrenheit).
How to Cook Ham in the Oven
If you’re going to cook a ham, chances are you’re going to go the classic route of doing it in the oven. Luckily for you, outside of making a glaze, this is about as easy as it comes. Below, check out the ingredients, instructions, and video for how to cook a whole ham. For the video, we used a whole Kurobuta bone-in ham from Snake River Farms.
- Whole bone in-ham
For the Glaze:
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3 oz maraschino cherry juice
- 6 oz pineapple juice
- 6 oz orange juice
- 2 tsp cloves
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4 oz water
- With a sharp knife score the fat cap in a 1-inch wide, .25-inch deep diamond pattern. Place the ham, fat cap up, in a large roasting pan. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Set the roasting pan in the lower third of the oven and roast 2.5 hours.
- Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients and cook over medium-high heat until reduced and syrupy.
- After the ham has baked for 2.5 hours brush it with some glaze. Continue roasting and brushing with the glaze every 15 minutes until the ham is glossy and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the ham (without touching the bone) registers 140 degrees F, about 1-1.5 hours longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 20-30 minutes before slicing.
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.
- 2 liters of root beer
- Put ham in slow cooker and set to low.
- Pour in just enough root beer to cover the ham.
- Cook for 4 to 6 hours.
- 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.
- .5 cup pineapple juice
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- .5 medium onion, diced
- Build up a decent campfire. Let it burn down low.
- Meanwhile, lay out two three-foot-long strips of tinfoil side by side, with plenty of overlap, and place the ham in the middle.
- Partially wrap the ham in foil, then spread on the mustard.
- Pour in the juice, then sprinkle onions all around.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Best Hams to Cook for Your Easter Feast
- How to Make the Perfect Gumbo Recipe With Chef Isaac Toups
- Why You Should Be Using a Meat Thermometer
- The 6 Best Butcher Shops in America
- How to Smoke Meat: Everything You Need to Know