A whole ham can be the centerpiece of a range of special feasts, from Easter to Christmas, or just for a special Sunday meal. But while a well-prepared ham can be juicy and flavorful, a ham that isn’t reheated correctly can be dry and dull.
The secret to great ham? Read the label carefully and heat your ham in a way that brings out the best flavors without drying everything out.
Read the Label
Your first-grade teacher was right: Before you start anything, read the directions carefully. Your ham should have a label on it that tells you what kind of ham it is as well as how to cook or reheat it. The most important information you’re looking for? Does it say that your ham is “fully cooked,” or does it read: “cook before eating”?
Most hams come fully cooked: They’ve been soaked in brine and then either cured or boiled. This means that you can safely eat them right out of the package – though most people prefer to score, glaze and heat them before digging in.
Reheating Hams in the Oven
If you would like to cook your entire ham at once, place it in a roasting pan and add about a cup of liquid to the bottom, such as water, ginger ale, cola or stock. Set the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and heat the ham until its internal temperature is 140 degrees F according to a food thermometer. This process takes approximately 10‒15 minutes per pound of ham, but checking your ham often with a food thermometer is the best course of action.
Just like other types of pork, resting your ham for 10_‒_15 minutes under a piece of aluminum foil will help redistribute its juices and improve the flavor before serving.
Reheating Frozen Smoked Hams
If your ham is frozen, you’ll need to thaw it completely before reheating it. Thawing a ham in the refrigerator takes approximately five hours per pound of ham. Smaller hams will thaw in a day or two, while large, whole hams may take three days to thaw in the fridge. You can also thaw your ham more quickly on the countertop.
Reheating Spiral-Sliced Hams
Again, any type of smoked ham is already fully cooked and can be eaten cold right out of the packaging. If it’s a spiral-sliced ham, you can simply remove the amount you’d like to eat and heat it separately, either wrapped in aluminum foil in the oven or toaster oven, in the microwave, or in a skillet.
If you’d like to heat the entire spiral-sliced ham, do so carefully since it can dry out quickly – the spiraling makes the meat much easier to carve, but more difficult to reheat. Wrapping the ham in foil or placing it in an oven bag can help keep the meat moist, as can baking the ham upside-down.
Reheating Ham in Your Slow Cooker
If you have a large slow cooker or crock pot, you can reheat your smoked ham in it over the course of a day or overnight. Simply put about an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan (anything from water to broth to ginger ale), place the ham inside, and set the slow cooker on high for 6‒8 hours.
Slow cookers take longer than the oven option, but they’re ideal for overnight preparation or a feast for which you need the oven to cook other dishes.
Scoring and Glazing a Smoked Ham
Scoring and glazing a ham can make it even more flavorful and delicious. Some hams come pre-glazed, while others need to be glazed and scored – the process of making shallow cuts into the ham so the glaze that seep into the meat.
To score your ham, simply take a sharp chef’s knife and cut parallel lines down the ham, about 1/3 inch deep and 1/3 inch apart. Then, turn the ham 90 degrees and score the ham in the opposite direction to create a criss-cross pattern.
To glaze your ham, first choose a glaze recipe and prepare it – popular ham glazes often include ingredients like honey, maple, brown sugar, mustard and pineapple. Then brush the glaze onto the surface of the ham before cooking it. You can also decorate your ham with garnishes like pineapples, cherries and whole cloves for added visual appeal and flavor.
Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer living in Montana.