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How to Make the Perfect Ham

If your holiday ham experiences left you feeling like you’re trapped in a real-life Green Eggs & Ham situation, we have some really good news for you. An expertly roasted ham is sweet and juicy—a far cry from the dry, icky stuff you might be more familiar with. It’s great for big gatherings: it’s easy to make, feeds a crowd, and can be served warm or on a buffet. Plus, it goes with just about anything. Here are a few ways you can improve your holiday ham experience.

Buy Your Ham

When you’re at the grocery store, look for a “city ham.” These are fully or partially cooked bone-in hams that are often smoked. Here are a few things to look for:

  • The bone is important: it gives the meat a ton of flavor, and when the meal is over, you can use it to flavor soup or stew.
  • Check the label to make sure no water or juices have been added—it just plumps the meat and dilutes its flavor.
  • You’ll see whole and spiral-cut varieties, and both are good: spiral cut is easier to slice, but a whole ham will stay juicier.

Now that you found the right kind of ham, how much do you need? If you’re serving a meal, figure on about a third to a half pound per person.

Prep Your Ham

Scoring a whole ham makes you look like a real pro—it looks pretty, and it lets the glaze’s flavor seep into the meat. To do it yourself, use a sharp knife to cut parallel lines that are about an inch (2.5-cm) apart, and ¼ inch (0.6-cm) deep. Then, turn the ham and cut lines in the opposite direction to form a diamond pattern.

When all your lines are cut, insert a whole clove anywhere the lines meet, then place your ham bone-side down in a roasting pan and start baking.

You don’t need to score a spiral-cut ham: the slices will help the flavor sink in.

Select Your Glaze

While your ham is cooking, it’s time to decide what glaze you’re going to use. You can always use the packet that came with the ham, but making your own allows you to customize the flavors.

Why not try something trendy like an apple-bourbon glaze!

You’ll want about two cups of glaze for an 8- to 10-pound (3.5-4.5 kg) ham, and you can even make it a few days in advance and pop it in the fridge. It should be room temperature when you brush it onto your ham, though.

You can glaze once, or throughout the cooking process. About 30 minutes before your ham is done cooking, brush or spoon the glaze over the whole thing—making sure to get right into the cuts you made earlier for maximum flavor.

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