What Kind of Ham to Buy
Ham is a cut of meat taken from the back legs or sometimes the shoulders of a pig. It can be wet-cured, dry-cured, smoked, aged, or raw. The best cooking technique will depend on which type of ham you buy.
Most store-bought hams are city hams. They’ve been soaked in brine (wet-cured) and then either smoked or boiled before being sold fully cooked. Spiral-sliced hams are fully cooked city hams and can be served cold out of the package, but most people prefer to glaze and heat before they eat. Fully cooked hams can be heated to to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.
Try these ideas for glazing and heating fully-cooked ham:
- Always Juicy Baked Ham is baked with a simple glaze of beer, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard.
- Honey Glazed Ham is your homemade answer to that famous honey-baked ham. Glaze a spiral-cut ham with this sweet honey-butter sauce and stand back while your guests rush the table.
- Bourbon-Glazed Ham deepens the flavor of a brown sugar/honey/pineapple glaze with a generous measure of bourbon whiskey.
- Not So Sweet Baked Ham lets the flavor of the ham come through without a sugary glaze.
Country-cured hams are dry-cured by packing them in salt, and are often smoked over fragrant hardwoods and aged. They’re made from pigs that have been fed fruits and nuts to produce more flavorful meat. Some are aged seven years. Country-cured hams have a more intense flavor, but they’re drier than wet-cured, brined hams.
This recipe for Easy Slow Cooker Ham bathes a bone-in country ham in apple cider, maple syrup, and spices, and cooks it low and slow for a favorite holiday meal.
Fresh or Raw Ham
Fresh hams are sold uncured and uncooked, and must be fully cooked before eating.
Canned ham can be a whole piece of ham, but is often several pieces of ham pressed together to make a ham “loaf.” It’s fully cooked and sold in a sealed can. Follow package directions to glaze and heat, or try this simple recipe for Sweet Ham glazed with orange juice, brown sugar, and pineapple.