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The basics: how to glaze a ham
Hams are a beautiful centrepiece on any holiday table. Whether smoked or baked, It’s so easy to prepare a gorgeous and gleaming ham. Here’s how:
It’s perhaps one of the most iconic holiday images – a plump round ham glistening with a sticky sweet glaze, sitting as the showpiece of the table. You know, the one that’s all rosy and shiny, putting all the side dishes to shame? Yeah, that’s the one. And unlike the Thanksgiving turkey, which is rather difficult to cook to perfection, hams are easy. Like, nearly laughably easy. When I first discovered that in most cases all you’re really doing is reheating a precooked ham, I was flabbergasted that it was just so simple.
Cooked or uncooked ham?
Not all hams come precooked, though. The ready-to-heat hams that are most popular are actually cured, and all you’re doing is reheating them. It takes a while because you still want to make sure it’s heated all the way to the centre, without drying the outside too much. That’s why some folks prefer putting some water in the bottom of their roasting pan to help keep moisture during the reheat. If you choose to purchase an uncooked ham, you’re essentially buying a raw pork thigh. It will cook much like any other piece of roast pork – and have a greyish inside appearance with a lovely roast crust developed during cooking . But, if you’re looking for that signature pinkish hue to the meat, then you want to choose a cooked or cured ham.
Buying smoked versus baked ham
This is truly a matter of personal preference. Both have been cured, cooked and cooled, it’s just the cooking method that differs. One is oven baked, and one has been smoked. In the majority of cases, unless you are buying from a small batch craft supplier, the ham will have been smoked in a big industrial smoker. This gives a very different taste from a restaurant-style pit smoker, as the smoke can taste quite acrid and nearly artificial. Another common complaint is that they sometimes don’t even taste smokey enough. But, I have a solution for that too.
Technique: smoking versus baking a ham
Whether you purchased a pre-smoked ham or a baked one, you still have choices as to the reheating. For subtle smoke, you may choose to buy a baked ham then warm it in the smoker. For a double smoked ham, simply purchase a smoked ham then heat it up using a smoker or pellet grill so you’re giving it that good shot of smoke twice. And if you want to shy away from a smoke flavor profile altogether, go for a baked ham and use an oven for reheating.
[As a side bar, I also find it really unusual that we call it baked ham. Shouldn’t it technically be roast ham?! Anyway, let’s carry on…]
Cooking your ham safely
Your ham will likely come with instructions for cooking it (and a guide for temperature and time per pound). Both for safety AND enjoyabilty factor (no one likes half warmed ham that’s cold in the centre), you’ll need a thermometer. Once your ham reaches 135-140f internal temperature, it’s both safe to eat AND warm all the way through. I recommend a Thermapen instant read thermometer that gives you fast and accurate results.
Careful – don’t burn it!
When you do glaze a ham, your glaze is going to have a very high sugar content. And that’s an understatement. So what you do have to be cautious of is having that glaze burn. That’s why I prefer to allow my ham to develop the traditional roasty colors, then apply the glaze 20 minutes before it’s done cooking.
For a glaze, I recommend this Mexican inspired Savory Caramel Glaze.
So now we come to the actual “how to glaze a ham” part. You can use store bought or even something as simple as honey, but if you’re on this website you’re probably into cooking, so why not have a crack at making something delicious from scratch?
How to glaze a ham
- 1 x 6 lb boneless ham
- 2-3 cups of water
- Savory Caramel Glaze (link above)
- Preheat an oven to 350f.
- Line a roasting pan with foil for easy cleanup. Place a roasting rack on top of the foil, then your ham on the rack. Carefully pour the water into the bottom of the roasting pan to create steam and keep your ham moist. Place the entire pan into preheated oven.
- Cook for 15 to 20 minutes per pound (so for a 6 pound roast, you're looking at a cook time of at least an hour and a half). If your ham begins to brown too much, rotate it to account for any hot spots, and lower the heat by 15-20f.
- About 20 minutes prior to the end of cooking time, begin glazing the ham but applying it with a silicon brush. Continue to glaze every 5 minutes until the ham is done. The ham is ready when a thermometer reads an internal temperature of 135-140f.
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