A classic baked ham, dripping in a glaze of brown sugar, dry mustard, and apple cider vinegar, makes a commanding centerpiece for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or Mother’s Day. The impressive and abundant main dish feeds a crowd, and having a stash of leftover ham is a very good thing. If this is your first time preparing a whole ham, you might feel intimidated, but this holiday ham recipe from the 75th-anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking streamlines the task.
How to shop for ham:
First, determine the type of ham you grabbed from your grocery store. Did you walk away with a smoked ham? (The label may read “fully cooked ham.”) Or, do you have a fresh ham on your hands (these will read “cook before eating”)? Is it bone-in or boneless? And how much does it weigh? No matter which variety you have on your hands, the recipe below will guide you to a juicy, succulent glazed ham. You can also use a presliced spiral-cut ham here, but avoid “country ham” for this preparation, a salt-cured variety popular in the southern United States.
Next, set yourself up with the right equipment. You’ll need a shallow, heavy-duty roasting pan and a good meat thermometer. You’ll also need a pastry brush to coat the ham with glaze.
Read on for instructions on how to bake a ham, plus a recipe for tangy ham glaze that’s sure to please.
How much ham per person:
You can buy a half or whole ham, depending on how big a crowd you’re feeding. A half ham can easily feed 12 people, and a whole ham up to 30. As a general rule, allow ⅓ pound per person for boneless ham or ½ pound per person for bone-in ham.
- 5-7-lb. bone-in ham equals 10-14 servings
- 5-7-lb. boneless ham equals 15-21 servings
- 10-15-lb. bone-in ham equals 20-30 servings
- 10-15-lb. boneless ham equals 30-45 servings
How long to cook a ham:
The cooking time depends on the size of your ham and whether it’s bone-in or boneless. The ham cooking instructions below cover all bases, but generally, a half ham will cook in 1½-2¼ hours, while a whole ham could need anywhere from 2½-4½ hours. Allow around 20 minutes per pound for an uncooked half ham; and 18-20 minutes per pound for an uncooked full ham. In both of those cases, roast until the interior temperature reaches 160°F. For a precooked ham, reheat for about 18 minutes per pound to hit 140°F. In general, we prefer bone-in ham, which is more flavorful and less expensive per pound than boneless ham. Plus, you can freeze the ham bone to make stock or toss it into a pot of beans or braised greens.
Approximate cooking time for fresh ham, depending on size:
- 5-lb. fresh ham: about 1 hour 40 minutes
- 7-lb. fresh ham: about 2 hours 20 minutes
- 10-lb. fresh ham: 3 hours-3 hours 20 minutes
- 15-lb. fresh ham: 4 hours 30 minutes-5 hours
Approximate cooking time for precooked ham, depending on size:
- 5-lb. precooked ham: 1 hour 30 minutes-2 hours
- 7-lb. precooked ham: 2 hours-2 hours 45 minutes
- 10-lb. precooked ham: 2 hours 30 minutes-3 hours
- 15-lb. precooked ham: 3 hours 45 minutes-4 hours 30 minutes
How to glaze ham:
To attractively finish either type of ham, use a sharp knife to slash the fat into a diamond pattern, which will allow the glaze to sink in. Brush the surface with the glaze and return the roast to the oven, reducing the heat as directed. (Let any remaining glaze reduce for 5-10 minutes on low heat on the stovetop; serve alongside the ham.) When the exterior of the glazed ham is caramelized, baste the roast with any drippings, then place the ham on a platter to rest and garnish as you wish.
Once you understand how to cook a ham, there are countless variations to try. This recipe for smoked ham glazed with brown sugar and Dijon mustard is a longtime reader favorite. For the most hands-off holiday meal, go for slow-cooker ham, which requires virtually zero prep time. Craving something less traditional? Spiral-sliced ham with rosemary and bourbon is fantastic. Serve any of these options with lots of ham-friendly side dishes, like spoon bread, mac and cheese, or quick garlicky green beans.
This recipe was adapted for style from ‘Joy of Cooking.’ Buy the full book on Amazon.