My family being what it is, a Sunday lunch means we have 17 people to feed (a very normal-sized gathering when you're the oldest of eight kids!). I often decide to fall back on ham, that oh-so-easy lunch dish.
If you too have some large lunches and brunches in your near future, let me show you how to buy and bake a ham, and finish it with a honey-balsamic glaze. It's as easy as 1-2-3, and so delicious, too.
Buying a Ham
When making a ham for lunch or dinner, the first (and in some ways most important) choice is what to buy. Here are a few tips and thoughts on buying a good ham.
City Hams vs. Country Hams
- There are city hams and country hams.
City hams are generally more common. City hams are already cooked and often come pre-sliced (spiral sliced).
Country hams are cured like prosciutto and are usually sold uncooked.
This cooking lesson is just dealing with city hams. A country ham is a very different sort of thing, and it deserves its own separate tutorial.
Buying a City Ham
So you know you want to buy a ham. What to get?
- Look for a bone-in ham. The bone is a little more work to cut around, but it imparts more flavor to the ham, and I think it's worth it.
- Look for a ham with no added water or juices. It should just be labeled "ham" — not Ham, water added or Ham with natural juices.
Whole or spiral-cut? A ham that hasn't been cut up at all has less chance of drying out in the oven, but the convenience of spiral-cut is enough to make me always opt for that. Spiral-cut means the ham is already in thin slices; you just have to slice them away from the bone.
→ Serious Eats has a wonderfully in-depth guide to choosing ham: The Food Lab: How to Pick and Cook a Holiday Ham at Serious Eats
Glazing & Baking a Ham
I ended up buying a Niman Ranch spiral-cut, bone-in ham from Costco. (It was delicious.) Now that you have your ham — probably about five to seven pounds — you have to decide how to serve it. You could of course just serve it cold, but for a lunch like this I prefer to serve it warm, and to add a sweet glaze that complements the salty, savory ham.
I use a basic honey glaze here, but there are many other options! Here are more ideas:
Here's how to do bake a ham, step by step.
Baking Times for a City Ham
The instructions below bake the ham low and slow to keep it moist. I also find that baking a ham for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours is just the right amount of time to let me get the rest of lunch pulled together. But if you need it to be ready more quickly, you can also bake at a higher temperature.
275°F - Bake for 20 minutes per pound (about 2 to 2 1/2 hours total)
350°F - Bake for 10 minutes per pound (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours total)
- The ham is ready when it has reached an internal temperature of about 120°F to 140°F.
1. Heat the oven to 275°F and line the roasting rack with several long pieces of foil. These should be large enough to wrap up and around the ham.
How To Bake a Honey-Glazed Ham
Serves at least 10, depending on the size of the ham
What You Need
1 large ham, ideally bone-in and spiral-cut, with no added water or juices
1 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Roasting pan with rack
Heat the oven to 275°F and line the roasting rack with several long pieces of foil. These should be large enough to wrap up and around the ham.
Place the ham cut-side down in the pan. Take the ham out of its wrappings and place it in the pan.
Use a sharp knife to score the skin of the ham into a crosshatch pattern. Slice long lines into the skin (not into the meat itself) and then slice back the other way to form a crosshatch pattern. This makes the ham a little prettier, and it will also help your glaze permeate the skin later in the baking process.
- Fold the foil up around the meat.
Fold the top of the foil together to seal as well as possible. This foil pouch is meant to keep the ham from drying out in the oven.
Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Put in the oven to bake, well-wrapped in foil, and go about your business. The ham doesn't need any attention or checking until at least 1 1/2 hours have passed.
Make the glaze: Combine the honey, butter, and sugar in a pan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted. Stir in the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Check the temperature of the ham. After about 1 1/2 hours, check the temperature of the ham in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding the bone. The ham is fully cooked already, so you are just checking to see if the inner part of the ham is warm yet. If the ham has reached an internal temperature of 120°F, move on to the next step. If not, seal it back up in the foil and put it back into the oven.
Glaze the ham. Once the ham hits 120°F internally, turn up the oven to 425°F. While the oven is heating, remove the ham from the oven and ease the foil away and out of the pan. Warm the glaze again if necessary to make it easy to spread. Use a pastry brush to liberally apply the glaze all over the skin of the ham.
Bake the ham for 10 minutes. Bake the ham for 10 minutes at the higher oven temperature, then remove it from the oven and turn the oven up to BROIL.
Brush with glaze one more time then broil. Brush the ham with the honey glaze one more time, then put back in the oven under the broiler for about 3 to 5 minutes (keep an eye on it though and remove if it begins to smoke). This will give a crisp edge to the skin.
Remove from the oven, slice, and serve. Remove the now-glazed ham from the oven. Cut the slices away from the bone, and serve.
- You can also use an oven bag, instead of foil, to bake the ham and keep it moist.