Everything You Need to Know About How to Cook Ham (2024)

A gorgeous baked ham is the best centerpiece we can think of for holiday meals. It looks impressive (especially with a glistening ham glaze), but takes very little work to get on the table. Luckily, there are many ways to cook a ham. You can bake ham, grill it, or even cook it in a slow cooker! So even if your oven is full of holiday sides or pies, you've got other appliance options. We'll tell you how to cook ham all those ways, plus offer tips on carving and how to choose a ham when you're at the grocery store.

Everything You Need to Know About How to Cook Ham (1)

How to Bake a Ham in the Oven

When it comes to learning how to bake ham there are only a couple of steps—prep the ham and bake it! It's pretty low-fuss since most hams available at the grocery store are already cooked. Follow these instructions for tender, perfectly cooked ham.

Step 1: Preheat the oven and prepare your ham

Preheat the oven to 325°F. You don't need to wash a ham before baking. If you ask us, baked ham is delicious even when you leave it plain; however, scoring a diamond pattern with a chef's knife in the outer layer and brushing on a glaze during baking makes the ham a showy centerpiece and adds flavor. Use your chef's knife to make diagonal cuts about 1 inch apart on the ham. Cut through the surface of the ham so the glaze penetrates the ham. If desired, insert whole cloves into the ham for decoration and flavor. It's easier to poke them in where the cuts intersect. (Remove the cloves before eating the ham.)

Step 2: Bake the ham

Place the ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the center of the ham. (It should not touch the bone of a bone-in ham.) Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven until ham registers the desired temperature (140°F for pre-cooked ham). Because cooking times vary based on the size and type of ham, use the timings below as a guide.

Everything You Need to Know About How to Cook Ham (2)

Step 3: Glaze the ham (if you want)

If you're using a glaze, the best time to put it on is during the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking time. If you glaze the ham sooner, the sugar in the glaze may cause it to burn. Pull the oven rack out, and use a basting brush or spoon to cover the ham with glaze. Continue baking. Reserve any remaining glaze to serve with the ham.

How Long to Bake Ham

How long to cook a ham depends on the weight and type of ham. Use these guidelines for how long to bake ham for your special occasion:

Boneless cooked ham

  • 1½ to 3 pounds bake ¾ to 1¼ hours until 140°F
  • 3 to 5 pounds bake 1 to 1¾ hours until 140°F
  • 6 to 8 pounds bake 1¾ to 2½ hours until 140°F
  • 8 to 10 pounds* bake 2¼ to 2¾ hours until 140°F

Bone-in cooked ham

  • 6 to 8 pounds bake 1½ to 2¼ hours until 140°F
  • 14 to 16 pounds* bake 2¾ to 3¾ hours until 140°F

Bone-in ham (cook before eating)

  • 3 to 5 pounds bake 1¾ to 3 hours until 150°F
  • 7 to 8 pounds bake 2½ to 3¼ hours until 150°F
  • 14 to 16 pounds* bake 4 to 5¼ hours until 150°F

*Note: Hams weighing more than 8 pounds should be loosely covered with foil halfway through roasting.

How to Cook Ham in a Slow Cooker

Yes, you can make slow cooker ham. For a 5½- to 6-quart slow cooker, choose a boneless ham that's about 5 pounds, brush it with a glaze, and slow cook it, covered, for 8 to 9 hours on low-heat setting. Get step-by-step directions for our Cherry Cola Ham recipe in the slow cooker.

How to Reheat Ham in a Slow Cooker

How to Grill Ham

Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of a cooked ham shank. For a charcoal or gas grill, cook indirectly by arranging medium coals around a drip pan. Test for medium-low heat above the pan. Place the ham on the grill rack over the pan, cover, and grill until ham reaches 140°F (timing guidelines below), brushing ham with desired glaze once or twice during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes before carving. (The temperature will rise 5°F during this time.)

Learn How to Light a Charcoal Grill

How Long to Cook Ham on the Grill

As with all roasts, how long to grill ham depends on its weight.

  • 3- to 5-pound ham: grill 1¼ to 2 hours, or until ham reaches 140°F
  • 6- to 8-pound ham: grill 2 to 3¾ hours, or until ham reaches 140°F

Test Kitchen Tip: If your grilling a natural ham, you may need to grill 45 to 60 minutes longer to reach 140°F.

Everything You Need to Know About How to Cook Ham (3)

How to Cook a Stuffed Spiral Ham

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a shallow roasting pan with foil. Between the slices of one 8- to 10-pound spiral-sliced ham insert half a thinly sliced orange; four garlic cloves, slivered; and sprigs of fresh rosemary and/or thyme all the way around the ham. Transfer ham flat side down to the prepared pan. Cover with foil. Bake 2 to 2½ hours or until browned and heated through (140°F). For the last 45 minutes of cooking, uncover and spoon glaze over ham (if you're using a glaze). Transfer to a platter using two large, wide spatulas.

Get the Stuffed Spiral Ham Recipe

How to Cook a Ham Steak

When you don't need to cook a full ham, ham steaks are a good option. Lightly coat a heavy skillet with nonstick cooking spray or use a nonstick skillet. Preheat over medium-high heat until very hot. Add ham steak, and reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, for 9 to 11 minutes (for a ½-inch thick steak) or until heated through (140°F). Ham steaks are ideal for grilling and broiling too.

Apple Butter-Glazed Ham

Everything You Need to Know About How to Cook Ham (4)

How to Carve a Bone-In Ham

Place the ham on its flattest side. If there isn't a flat side, use a carving knife to slice off a small piece of ham from the bottom so the ham will sit flat. Cut slices down to the bone, then cut along the bone to release the slices.

Our Best Ham Recipes

Figuring out how to carve a ham that doesn't have a bone? Simply slice it. There's not a thing to worry about here except maybe making sure you have a carving knife and fork to hold everything still.

Types of Ham

Ham is a cut of pork from the hind leg. Although most hams at the grocery store are fully cooked, you do have a few choices to make when selecting a ham.

Bone-in: At least part of the leg or hip bone is still in place, which adds flavor during cooking. You can purchase a fully cooked whole ham, which includes the entire cured leg, but the rump half (round, meatier end) or the shank portion (tapered and easier to carve) is usually enough for most occasions (a 5- to 6-pound ham makes 16 to 20 servings). The rump half is usually meatier and more tender than the shank half, which is usually slightly tougher and has more connective tissue.

Boneless: All of the bones have been removed. The shape of the fully cooked ham is reformed, and the ham is wrapped or canned to hold the meat together. Some canned hams are formed from pieces of ham held together with gelatin. Boneless hams are simple to slice.

Spiral-cut: Fully cooked bone-in or boneless ham presliced for easier serving. These often come with a glaze packet.

Water or brine added: Fully cooked ham injected with brine or water. The label on the ham will say if the ham has water or brine added.

Dry-cured: The surface of the ham is salted, and the ham is stored to let the salt penetrate, usually for four to six months.

Wet-cured: Wet-cured hams are immersed or injected with a brine containing water, salt, sugar, spices, and curing agents like sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, and potassium chloride.

Natural-uncured: Hams with this label are usually preserved using celery powder, which is organically rich in nitrates, then smoked. Labels that include "ham with natural juices" don't have much added water and could take up to 60 minutes longer to bake.

Ham steak: A slice from the center of a bone-in ham. This cut is ideal for when you want a smaller portion of ham and for cutting up and using in recipes.

Fresh ham: Unprocessed, uncooked ham. Most hams go through a curing process and are then called cured ham.

Country ham: Uncooked but cured, dried, and smoked, or unsmoked ham, such as the famous Smithfield ham from Virginia.

How to Buy and Store Ham

When purchasing a cooked, cured ham, choose one that is firm and plump with rosy-pink meat. For a bone-in ham, such as a rump half or shank portion, figure about three entrée servings per pound. For a boneless ham, plan on four to five servings per pound. Unless the label says otherwise, assume your ham needs to be refrigerated. A boneless, uncanned ham can be refrigerated for up to one week; shank and rump portions can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Test Kitchen Tip: You may want to purchase extra ham so you will have leftovers for sandwiches, egg dishes, soups, salads, and casseroles.

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The Best Holiday Ham Recipe

Cooking ham for the holidays is pretty darn easy. If you're looking for an oven-baked recipe, this basic holiday ham is a great place to start. This recipe teaches you how to glaze a ham and includes three different glaze recipes.

Get Our Holiday Ham Recipe with Glazes

Everything You Need to Know About How to Cook Ham (2024)


Everything You Need to Know About How to Cook Ham? ›

Cook all raw fresh ham and ready-to-eat ham to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.

What is the rule for cooking a ham? ›

Cook all raw fresh ham and ready-to-eat ham to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.

What is the cooking guide for ham? ›

Cooking Temperature and Time

A half ham weighing between five and eight pounds requires 35 to 40 minutes of roasting at 325°F per pound. For whole bone-in hams weighing 12 and 16 pounds, cook the ham at 325°F for 22 to 26 minutes per pound. The internal temperature should be 145°F.

How long does it take to cook a fully cooked ham? ›

If the ham is labeled "fully cooked" (does not require heating), heat it in the oven for about 10 minutes per pound, or to an internal temperature of 140 F. If the ham is labeled "cook before eating," heat in an oven set no lower than 325 F to an internal temperature of at least 145 F.

Do you cook a ham at 325 or 350? ›

Heat oven to 325ºF. Remove all packaging materials and place ham on its side, fat side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan; cover loosely with aluminum foil. Heat approximately 15 to 20 minutes per pound until heated through. Remove ham from oven and let stand, covered, 20 minutes before serving.

Should you cover a ham while baking? ›

If you don't cover your ham while cooking it will quickly dry out. Instead: Put some aluminum foil over your ham while it's cooking. It is recommended that the ham is covered for at least half of the cooking process and only removed during the last half when you glaze it.

How do you cook a fully cooked ham without drying it out? ›

The goal is to reheat the ham without drying it out. The best way to do this is to place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan. Add water to the bottom of the pan and cover the whole thing tightly with foil. Bake at 325F for 16-20 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer registers 135F.

Do you need to add water when cooking a ham? ›


Add water to keep ham covered. Take ham from the pan and while warm, remove the skin and fat as desired. If a sweet coating is desired, sprinkle the fat side with brown sugar and bread crumbs and bake in a 400 degree oven until brown (approximately 15 minutes).

Can you overcook fully cooked ham? ›

If you are baking a precooked, bone-in spiral cut ham, the great news is it's already cooked and you're just basically reheating. The bad news is if you over bake it, you can dry it out easily. Since it's already sliced, it really doesn't take much to dry it out.

Does ham get more tender the longer you cook it? ›

Why slow cook ham? Slow cooker ham is infinitely more tender for a fall-off the bone texture. A low, consistent heat over hours breaks down the collagen and connective tissues, which tenderises the meat. The natural fat slowly renders down, infusing the meat with a more intense, rich flavour.

What is the best temperature to cook a ham? ›

Smoked Ham, Uncooked

If you're cooking a smoked ham that has not been pre-cooked (oftentimes labeled as "cook before eating"), you'll need to cook it at 325 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. 10 to 14 lbs. 18 to 20 min/lb. 5 to 7 lbs.

When to put glaze on ham? ›

The glaze should not be applied until the final hour to 30 minutes, in order to avoid burning the sugars. What you're going to do with the glaze ingredients is just combine most of them into a paste, and then apply it to the ham. After that, the heat in your oven will take care of everything.

How long should ham sit out before cooking? ›

While baking a show-stopping ham is simple and easy, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to bring the ham to room temperature for an hour (for even heat distribution) as well as up to 2 1/2 hours to bake it long, low and slow, depending on your ham's size.

Does a fully cooked ham have to reach 140 degrees? ›

If reheating is desired, hams that were packaged in processing plants under USDA inspection must be heated to 140°F as measured with a food thermometer. Leftover spiral-cut hams or ham that has been repackaged in any other location outside the plant, must be heated to 165°F.

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