Baking a delicious ham can be intimidating, whether it's your first time or tenth time. So, I've put together an easy recipe to help walk you through the process and yield the best ham for the holidays!Jump to Recipe
Who Doesn't Love a Good Ham?
No matter the holiday, baked ham is one of the dishes that I always look forward to. Whether it's Christmas or Easter, the first thing on my plate are two juicy slices of ham! Ham is one of those main dishes that just pairs beautifully with any side. That's just one of the many reasons why it's so versatile and great for the holiday season. The second reason being the endless possibilities when it comes to leftover ham! All in all, you just can't go wrong with a good ham.
While we love to dine on baked ham, how many of us can say we feel confident executing this dish? I am here to help those who are new to cooking ham, and here for those who are looking to take their holiday ham to the next level! This recipe is easy follow and includes clear directions for how to cook a specific cut ham that will make your life easier when serving. Let's be honest, serving up a ham can be just as intimidating at cooking one! So I've got all the tips and tricks you will ever need to cooking this beautiful main course.
What Ham Is Best?
Like many cuts of meat, there are different types of ham. Furthermore, the type of ham you use makes a huge difference! Not only when it comes to cooking time, but also flavor profile. It can be a little confusing during your first go around, so let's chat first about the different hams. The most common types are boneless, bone in, and spiral ham! It's important to note that the spiral ham is probably the most popular of the three. However, it is very beneficial to learn about the others.
To start, boneless ham is well... boneless. It is tightly sealed in salt water to maintain its integrity. The bone is removed from the ham before processing and the salt water it is sealed in allows the ham to still cook like ham. While it's more affordable and easier to cook, there are a few downsides to boneless ham. First, the ham is highly processed. Second, it can lack flavor and tend to be more on the drier side. The bone itself adds so much flavor and helps keep the ham itself moist. So, without the bone, the ham is less juicy.
A bone in ham is the opposite! Given the bone is still intact, it allows the ham to stay moist and juicy while cooking. It also is packed with rich flavor that just can't be replicated without the bone. The only downside is that the bone in ham is hard to cut. This is thanks to the same element that keeps the ham juicy and flavorful: the bone. This is the only part that makes this ham difficult to work with, but there are plenty of tips and tricks to getting beautiful slices from a bone in ham!
The Best of Both Worlds!
If a bone in ham has better flavor but is harder to cut and a boneless ham is less flavorful but easier to cut, which do you choose? Luckily, there is a third option! As mentioned above, the most popular type of ham is the spiral ham. Essentially, a spiral ham is a bone in ham that is easier to cut. To obtain its signature shape, the butcher cuts a spiral around the ham. This allows for a much easier and smoother cut when serving the ham.
Like the bone in ham, the spiral ham is much more flavorful. Although, it can dry out a little more easily than the bone in ham. But don't worry, you can avoid a dry ham with a good glaze! The glaze adds so much depth to the flavor profile of the ham. Plus, it gives it that beautiful crisp on the outside. This ham definitely wins points for presentation as the spiral cut gives it a visually pleasing form!
Setting Up For A Perfect Ham
I wanted to highlight a few tips and tricks before we begin preparing the meat. First thing is first, what type of spiral ham should you use? I recommend this ham. This half ham spiral ham is easy to cook and easily serves six to eight people with leftovers, too! If you opt for a different ham, ensure it is unglazed or skip the glaze if it does come in the packaging. Also note that most bone-in spiral hams come precooked. So, you only need to cook them until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.
The general rule to cooking the ham for 15 minutes per pound for a bone-in ham. If the ham is boneless, then dial down to 12 minutes per pound. Typically, you'll cook a spiral ham for one to two hours between 325-375 degrees. Once the thickest part of the ham reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it's done! Make sure you have a good meat thermometer handy before you start cooking. Here is the thermometer that I like to use. As well, you will need a nice wire rack to perfectly bake your meat without much mess. Here is a link to my favorite wire rack on which I cook my hams on!
Finally, the best way to cook a ham is to wrap it in foil before placing it on a wire rack. Foil is a key part of baking the perfect holiday ham. For starters, it helps to keep the ham nice and moist. As well, it helps us avoid drying out or overcooking the ham. Third, it's actually very easy to wrap your ham in foil and makes the cooking process much easier. So, now that we've covered the basics of how to cook a spiral ham, we can proceed with the recipe steps!
Let's Cook This Ham!
Start by removing the packaging from the meat, including the packaged glaze. Allow the ham to come to room temperature. Then, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease the roasting rack before laying a sheet of aluminum foil on top. Slice one orange and place on the bottom of the foil with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. This is going to infuse that earthy and citrusy flavor into your meat! Then, place the ham on top and make sure it's placed with the flat side facing down.
Season the ham with salt and pepper before wrapping the ham in foil so that all of it is covered. Next, pour a cup of water into the bottom of the roasting pan. This will help cook the ham, while keeping it moist and juicy! Then, place the ham in the oven. You're going to cook the ham for 15 minutes per pound. So, if you have an eight pound ham you'll cook it for about an hour and a half for this first step. Or if you have a ten pound ham, cook it for a little under two hours. After the allotted time, remove the ham from the oven and increase the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note that the ham should NOT be 140 degrees Fahrenheit when removed from the oven. This is only the first step in the cooking process. In the next step, we will make the glaze that will coat the ham. After removing the foil from the ham, we'll brush the glaze over the ham and place back in the preheated oven. During this step, the glaze will infuse the ham with rich flavor and become crispy on the outside. Then, the glazed ham will cook until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Making Your Glaze
This might just be my favorite step of this whole recipe. Here, we'll create a beautiful glaze that will coat the ham and add another layer of flavor to our dish. Start by adding the maple syrup and brown sugar to a medium saucepan and whisk together over medium heat. I love using maple syrup as a part of this glaze becomes of the beautiful consistency and flavor profiles that compliments the other ingredients. Brown sugar is typically used in glaze recipes as it pairs beautifully with ham. It also allows the glaze to get nice and crispy when baked.
Once the brown sugar and maple syrup are combined, stir in the dijon mustard. This component of the glaze will help balance the sweetness from the maple syrup and brown sugar. It also gives it a nice kick! Next up is the seasonings! We'll be using a blend of nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt. I love the combination of the four because they create a depth of flavor that brings out that warm, cozy taste. Add the seasonings in a small bowl and sprinkle into the pan before whisking together. Bring to a boil, then reduce and allow to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the glaze from burning.
After the allotted time, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Reserve roughly three to four tablespoons of the glaze for later. Then, remove the foil from the meat and brush the glaze over. Make sure to brush down the sides and in between the slices. This step will really help season the ham with those delicious flavors! Once the ham is thoroughly coated in the glaze, place the ham back in the oven, uncovered, and cook for another 20-30 minutes. Be sure to check the internal temperature as you go. After this time, the edges should be golden and caramelized. Remove the ham and brush with the remaining glaze. Rest for 15 more minutes before serving and enjoy!
How to Slice a Spiral Ham
As mentioned, one of the many perks of using a spiral ham is how easy it is to slice it! Thanks to the way the butcher cuts the ham, it makes it very easy to follow the lines to create beautiful cuts of meat to serve. First, turn the ham on its bottom. Then, using a sharp chef's knife, cut all the way around the bone to loosen the meat. Some of the top pieces may naturally start to fall away from the bone. As you go, you'll see clear lines or natural breaks in the meat. Simply follow these lines for smooth carving!
What Do I Do With The Bone?
Now that you've carved your ham, what should you do with the bone? You might be tempted to just throw it away and be done with it but you are missing out on some delicious recipes if you do! There are countless delicious recipes that can be made with that same ham bone. Also, getting more use out of the ham bone is a more sustainable option to simply discarding the bone. That bone not only serves as a flavor booster to the ham itself, but also many other tasty dishes! I usually like to use my ham bones in my split pea soup recipe as it adds so much depth to the flavor of the soup. But you can get the same results with any other soup recipes or using the bone in a stock. Saving your bone will do wonders for other dishes you may want to cook!
What To Do With Leftovers
One of the best parts about making a holiday ham is the leftovers that follow! If you're looking for some creative ways to use your leftovers instead of eating cold ham out of the fridge for the next week, I've got some great ideas for you! Listed below are a few of my favorite recipes that feature ham!
- Croque Monsieur Breakfast Bake: This is a great breakfast recipe that includes ham and is a filling dish that will last you a few meals! This easy bake is quick to heat up and will definitely last you through the week! Your family will enjoy this bake as it is flavorful, cheesy, hearty, and all around just so delicious.
- Ham and Cheese Pinwheels: These pinwheels are a unique way to utilize the leftover ham! In this recipe, the ham is layered with cheese, dijon mustard, and caramelized onions. The filling is then spread across a gluten-free crescent roll dough and baked to perfection. With its fun structure, this dish is a great add on for all ages. I guarantee you this one is a crowd pleaser!
- Walnut and Pea Pesto Pasta Salad: If you have leftover ham after Easter and are looking for a great spring recipe, this pasta salad is for you! This gluten-free pasta salad with pea pesto is a breeze to assemble with an even better taste. Light yet filling, this dish highlights savory flavors that will satisfy everyone!
- Gluten-Free Ham Carbonara Pasta: This is a great dish to whip up for a quick dinner! This easy to-make, gluten-free ham carbonara dish is the perfect dinner recipe. It yields an amazing flavor with minimal effort in no time! Who doesn't love a restaurant-quality pasta dish from the comfort of your home?
I also love to use leftover ham in simple, everyday recipes. Whether I'm making an omelette in the morning or a quick salad for lunch, a few slices of ham can add so much flavor to any dish!
What To Serve With Your Ham
Well, we've gotten past the initial "okay, I've got to make a ham for the holidays", but what should you serve it with? I've got some great dishes that will compliment your holiday ham beautifully! There is a little something for everyone, whether you want to put in maximum or minimal effort on a side dish, I've got you covered. Here are some of my side options to pair with your ham for each holiday!
Thanksgiving Pairing Options
- Green Bean Casserole: Say goodbye to your boring, soggy green bean casserole dish you often overlook at a holiday feast. This recipe allows the green beans to shine through but still have that rich flavor. This recipe features fresh mushrooms and crispy bacon for a delicious result!
- Stuffing: This is usually the crowd favorite! This stuffing is made with homemade cornbread, flavorful bacon, and rich sausage. This traditional yet unique stuffing recipe will have everyone wanting a second serving! Plus, the pork from the stuffing pairs well with the juicy ham!
- Autumn Kale and Pecan Salad: A delicious, fresh option to balance out the heavier Thanksgiving dishes. This recipe features figs, squash, apples, and a homemade maple-thyme vinaigrette to tie it all together. A sweet and filling salad is the perfect pair with a savory ham!
Christmas Pairing Options
- Risotto: Is there anything better than creamy risotto with lemony asparagus, fresh leeks, and slivered garlic almonds? Risotto can be rich, creamy, and oh so decadent. But it's also a very versatile dish. This makes for a great side dish to accompany this main course!
- Crescent rolls: Every meal needs a side dish of bread, so why not spice it up with crescent rolls? These gluten-free garlic crescent rolls stuffed with creamy cheese are a must! They're packed with flavor and make for the perfect side with your holiday ham.
- Kale Cesar Salad: This Tuscan kale salad with vegan caesar dressing and crunchy, turmeric-roasted chickpeas is so easy to make and tastes even better than it sounds! It's tangy, creamy vegan caesar dressing is so easy to make. Add vegan parmesan, crunchy chickpeas, and roasted lemon slices for tasty toppings.
Easter pairing options:
- Mac n' Cheese: Say hello to one of my favorites, my French Onion Mac and Cheese recipe. This creamy, gluten-free pasta with caramelized onions takes Mac and Cheese to the next level. Elevate your holiday ham with this recipe! I can guarantee everyone will be asking for seconds of this dish.
- Beet Salad: Get ready to fall in love beets! This Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad with peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese & avocados makes for the side dish to your ham. Together, beets and oranges are an unstoppable combination that is not to be underestimated!
- Carrot and Parsnip Soup: Take advantage of spring produce with this one-pot soup recipe! This vegetable forward soup is the perfect cozy, but light side to pair with your ham. While the recipe itself is vegan, you can top it with crispy ham bites to bring the flavors together!
No matter the holiday or side dish you choose to serve alongside this ham, I can guarantee you that you will be receiving compliments on this recipe. You might even surprise yourself with your creation! After lots of chatting about preparing and baking your ham, it is time to close out this post and wish you all the luck with your holiday dinner. Until the next recipe!
How To Bake The Best Holiday HamCourse: MainDifficulty: Easy
Impress your guests this holiday season with the most delcious and flavorful baked ham!
- Ingredients for the Ham
8-12 pound bone in, spiral ham (unglazed)
1 cup water
1 orange, sliced
5-7 rosemary sprigs
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
- Ingredients for the Glaze
½ cup maple glaze
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon salt
- Instructions for the Ham
- Remove all the packaging from the ham. Allow to come to room temperature.
- Then, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and cover a large roasting pan and rack with foil.
- Pour the water into the bottom of the rack. Slice the orange and place on the bottom of the foil with the rosemary. Then, place the ham on top. Make sure it is placed with the flat side facing down.
- Wrap in the foil to cover and place in the oven. You're going to cook the ham for 15 minutes per pound. So, if you have an eight pound ham you'll cook it for about an hour and a half for this first step. Or if you have a ten pound ham, cook it for a little under two hours. Note that the ham should NOT be 140 degrees Fahrenheit when removed from the oven as it will continue to cook after we add the glaze.
- Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Instructions for the Glaze
- Add the maple syrup and brown sugar to a medium saucepan and whisk together over medium heat.
- Stir in the dijon mustard. Then, combine the seasonings in a small bowl and sprinkle into the pan before whisking together.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce and allow to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the glaze from burning.
- Remove the foil from the ham and brush the glaze over the ham. Make sure to brush down the sides and in between the slices. Reserve some glaze for later.
- Place the ham back in the oven, uncovered, and cook for another 30 minutes. After this time, the edges should be golden and caramelized.
- Remove the ham and brush with the remaining glaze.
- Rest for 15 more minutes before serving. Then enjoy!
- Cover and store in an air tight container up to one week or freeze up to four months.