How Long Do You Actually Need to Cook Ham?

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

One of the pleasures of cooking a ham for a large gathering, obviously outside of eating it, is that the city hams we glaze and bake for holidays are already cooked. This should take the guesswork out of cooking a ham at home, right? But because most hams are quite large and have spiral cuts and giant bones to contend with, it can be hard to tell when a ham is actually “done” cooking.

Here’s everything you need to know about ham temperatures for reheating and serving.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

How Long Do You Actually Need to Cook Ham?

This question assumes that you are actually buying a fully cooked city ham (not a cured country ham or a free ham — both of which require different handling) — which is what most of us think of as a holiday ham. City hams are most widely sold as honey baked hams or labeled as cured, spiral-cut hams. If you’re unsure, just ask the butcher at the supermarket.

City hams are almost always sold cured and fully cooked, so your main goal in cooking a holiday ham is to reheat the ham safely without drying it out. Most hams are between seven and 10 pounds and cooking methods vary so it can be hard to give one-size-fits-all instructions, but here are some general guidelines.

  • Bake low and slow at 275°F for 20 minutes per pound, between 2 and 3 hours total OR
  • Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes per pound, between 1 to 2 hours total OR
  • Slow cook on low for 4 to 5 hours total
  • The ham is ready when it has reached an internal temperature of about 120°F to 140°F

Use a digital probe thermometer inserted to the thickest part of the ham (without hitting the bone) to get a good read on the internal temperature of the ham. Sometimes, this will mean inserting the probe from the side of the ham, rather than the top.

So, Can I Serve a Holiday Ham Cold?

Yes, absolutely! But be sure to keep it cold up to serving and don’t leave it out on the buffet without ice for more than two hours.