Knowing how to cook a ham properly is a great culinary technique to have up your sleeve. Even though baking a ham is a simple process, this step by step guide for the dos and don'ts will ensure it's a stress free process.
Take ham out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour prior to cooking. Time out of the fridge depends on where you are situated in the world (is it summer or winter?), and if you have airconditioning.
While ham is coming to room temperature make ham glaze of choice.
Preparing the Ham
Using a small sharp knife cut a zig-zag pattern around the shank end of the ham. You want to make this cut about 10cm from the end of the bone.
Run the knife around the edge of the ham rind. Then run your fingers under the rind of the ham, between the fat layer and the skin. You will find that the skin will slowly separate from the fat layer. Take it slow, don’t rush it. Do not remove the fat.
Once you have removed the skin from the ham, with a sharp knife score the fat, about 1cm deep, in a diamond pattern. Be careful not to cut into the ham meat, you only want to score the fat.
The fat will render (shrink in size) during cooking. Deep scoring may expose the ham meat when cooking and spoil the look of your ham
Glazing and Baking the Ham
Pre-heat oven 180°C (360°F).
Place a roasting rack into your chosen baking tin/roasting tray. It needs to be one big enough to fit the whole ham.
Pour some water into the baking tin. This will catch all the drippings and juices while the ham is cooking. It prevents them burning and allows you to base the ham. You can add some wine or juice to the water for extra basting flavour.
Put the ham on the roasting rack and give it a generous brush of glaze.
Place the ham in the oven to cook. Baste and glaze (until glaze is used up) every 10-15 minutes while it is in the oven. You want a thick, luscious, sticky glaze layer of flavour.
If some parts of the ham look like they will start to burn, cover them with aluminium foil until the rest of the ham has finished caramelising and is looking gorgeous. This way the have will have a nice even colour.
Serving the Ham
The ham can be served warm or cold, it comes down to preference.
You can carve at the table for maximum impact. Or carve in the kitchen and place the whole ham and slices on a platter on the table.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT HAMIt is important to note that all hams I am discussing and referring to are already cooked and ready to eat (city ham).
Bone-in: A whole ham that is still on the bone. The classic large showstopper, which has the hock at one end and then expands out into an oval shaped ham leg.
Half Ham: A bone-in ham cut in half. The top half is called the butt, it is the leaner, more tender half of a whole ham. The bottom half is called the shank, which has more flavour but is also fattier.
Semi Boneless: Also known as Easy Carve Ham, all the bones are removed except the central bone (the hock/shank part). The meat of the ham is formed around the bone to create that classic ham shape. Having the bone still there makes it easier to carve.
WHAT SIZE HAM?The below bone-in ham sizes will give you an idea of the size you need to feed hungry guests.
3 kg (6.6 lb) - 10-14 serves / 4 kg (8.8 lb) - 12-16 serves / 5 kg (11 lb) - 15-20 serves / 6 kg (13.2 lb) - 18-22 serves / 7 kg (15.4 lb) - 20-25 serves / 8 kg (17.6 lb) - 23-27 serves*Lower number if ham is the only main – Higher number if serving ham with one/two other main dishes.COOKING TIMESRemember that your ham is already cooked. The time it spends in the oven is to warm it through and create a gorgeous sticky glaze. If you over cook your ham it may become dry. Which you want to avoid. Don’t overcook your ham.2 kg (4.4 lb) - 40 mins / 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) - 50 mins / 3 kg (6.6 lb) - 1 hour / 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) - 1 hour 10 mins / 4 kg (8.8 lb) - 1 hour 20 mins / 4.5 kg (9.9 lb) - 1 hour 30 mins / 5 kg (11 lb) - 1 hour 40 mins / 5.5 kg (12.1 lb) - 1 hour 50 mins / 6 kg (13.2 lb) - 2 hours*Add 10 minutes for every half a kilo/1.1 pounds in addition to the 6kg/13.3lb cooking time for larger sizes.MAKING AHEADTo bake on the day
Make the glaze a few days ahead and store it in the fridge.
Remove the rind from the ham one or two days before. Place the removed rind back on the ham, and wrap the ham in a damp (not wet) clean tea towel before placing it back in the fridge to keep it from drying out.
Then simply baste and bake on the day.
Cook entirely ahead of time
Cook the ham entirely as per instructions.
Let it cool completely.
Pour all the pan juices into an airtight container and store in the fridge.
Cover the ham with baking (parchment) paper, and then wrap entirely in foil. Place in the fridge until needed. You can do this a few days before you want to serve the ham.
On the day remove the ham from the fridge and place in a pre heated oven 160°C/320°F for around an hour.
Place reserved pan juices in a saucepan to warm. Brush the ham with the warmed pan juices while it is reheating. This ensures the ham looks gorgeously glazed and just cooked.
STORING LEFTOVER HAMGlazed ham will safely keep for a week in the fridge, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months. It is best to keep the ham on the bone and then carve as wanted.I don’t store glazed hams in a ham bag. Ham bags are best for hams that haven’t gone through the glazing and cooking process.How do I deal with my excess ham? In a couple of ways. I slice up a fair amount and place it in a vacuum sealed container for the family to help themselves for sandwiches etc. I find if I don’t slice it and make it easy for them, it does not get eaten.You can also cut off large chunks of leftover ham from the bone. These are either placed in a vacuum sealed bag for later, or freeze it. Yes, you can freeze cooked ham.Another suggestion is to finely dice the ham and freeze it in ½ cup portions. You can then easily defrost it down the track for quiches, frittatas, omelettes, jaffles, and even soup, the list goes on!Don’t discard the ham bone. This can be used to make soup. It can also be frozen for later use.
GENERAL COOK’S NOTESAll oven temperatures are for a conventional oven, if using fan forced lower the temperature by 20 Deg C (70 Deg F).All measurements are Australian tablespoons and cups. All measures are level, and cups are lightly packed unless specified;
1 teaspoon equals 5ml
1 tablespoon equals 20 ml (Nth America, NZ & UK use 15ml tablespoons)
1 cup equals 250ml (Nth America use 237ml)
4 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon
I use the below unless specified in my recipes;
Herbs are fresh | Vegetables are of a medium size | Eggs are roughly 60 grams in weight (large)
NUTRITION CALCULATIONIs for a 4kg ham meat only. You will need to refer to the individual glaze recipes for their nutrition information.