The holiday ham is a tradition in many households. If you plan to cook a ham this season we have some helpful hints for you.
Buying the ham:
There are many types of ham: cooked, uncooked, canned, spiral and boneless hams. The cheapest and best ham is the bone-in, uncooked ham. It has the most flavor. You can purchase these fresh or frozen. The easiest ham to cook is the pre-cooked, spiral-sliced ham. It's actually already cooked, you just need to heat it up. This Home Cooking Site has great descriptions of every type of ham and how to choose the best one.
Thawing the ham:
There are three ways to safely thaw a ham: the refrigerator, the cold-water method and in the microwave. To thaw by the cold-water method, place the ham (still in its wrapper) in a basin full of cold water. Change out the water with more cold water every 30 minutes in order to avoid the water and ham becoming room temperature. Once it becomes room temperature, it can easily promote bacteria growth. This method takes around 30 minutes per pound of ham to completely thaw.
Glazing the ham:
There are so many types of glaze from brown sugar to molasses, from fruit juices to poking in whole cloves. Do a search on-line and find the glaze that suits your taste. More from BellaOnline : To glaze a baked ham, the drippings should first be removed from the pan and discarded. (Pan juices from a baked ham are salty and unappetizing.) The Glaze can be applied with a pastry brush, or spooned over the ham and spread with a spatula. The ham is then returned to the oven to complete the baking time. Sometimes additional glaze is applied at 10 to 15 minute intervals.
Scoring the Ham:
Scoring looks nice, allows fat to render from the ham, and lets the glaze seep well into the ham for more flavor. When a recipe tells you to score a ham: first, remove the rind and trim away fat, leaving about a 1/4" layer of fat. Using a sharp knife, slice 1" to 2" squares in the remaining surface fat, about 1/4" to 1/2" deep, creating a diamond pattern. Then, using a metal skewer or the tip of a thin knife poke a hole in the center of each diamond and insert a clove in each hole.
Cooking the ham:
Some people smoke their ham, others roast it, still others dry cure or wet cure the ham. The USDA site has great charts and information about how long to cook each type of ham. The length of time depends on whether your ham is pre-cooked or uncooked. You will only need to re-heat the pre-cooked ham, but still allow about 10 minutes per pound and cook in a 325° oven. Before re-heating the pre-cooked ham, let it sit at room temperature for about an hour or so.
To bake an uncooked ham, heat the oven to 375°. According to How to Cook the Perfect Holiday Ham , “Place your ham into the roasting pan with the fat side up. The fat will melt and baste your ham during the cooking process. Place a meat thermometer into the ham and leave it in while the ham is cooking. Do not let the thermometer touch a bone or you will get an inaccurate temperature reading. Bake your ham for 20 to 30 minutes per pound in the 375°F oven.” When the meat thermometer reads 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (71 to 74 degrees Celsius), it's ready to sit out for the next 15 minutes. Then, slice and eat. Do not overcook the ham; it will become very dry and tasteless.
The USDA site also includes a ham storage chart which details how long you can refrigerate your type of ham versus freezing your ham.
Enjoy your holidays!
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