A nicely cooked ham is beautiful to behold. But how do you prepare the absolute, #1 Best Tasting Ham? Borrowing advice from the ham-savvy Serious Eats Food Lab, it’s easy: 1) Buy the right ham, and 2) Don’t screw it up. Fair enough.
But, seriously, ham needn’t be a complex dish. With these simple tips, you’re guaranteed to have success.
Know your ham. Many are probably unaware of the different types of ham available. Most of the hams sold in grocery stores are of the city ham variety (there are also country hams and fresh hams). You’ll recognize them filling chilled meat cases everywhere you look this month as people shop for their Holiday Ham. City hams are brined then either smoked or boiled to be moist and tender. Most are partially or fully cooked and come in a variety of choices – bone in, spiral cut, etc.
What to buy. Since most people in the U.S. choose city hams, we’ll focus on them here. There are many fine city hams to choose. One absolute: bone-in hams are more flavorful. Period. Plus, the bone makes a great soup stock.
What’s the word on water content? The more water added to the product, the less your ham will taste like a ham and it will have less of a meat-like texture. Aim for the highest protein to water ratio that you can afford, and remember this is the season for great ham deals at many markets.

Cook it right. You might think there’s little to cooking a ham. You’re mostly right, but a couple simple tips will help you nail it perfectly the first time. Note that regardless whether you choose a fully or partially cooked ham, cooking it is essential. For the former, it will enhance its flavor and juiciness. For the latter, it’s necessary.
Baking your ham is the hands-down best way to prepare it. Wrap your ham in aluminum foil, and place it in an oven bag cut side down inside a roasting pan. This method helps prevent you from inadvertently drying out your ham and is worth the effort.
If it’s a spiral-cut ham, it’s particularly important to place the ham in your roasting pan facing cut side down so the cut slices do not flop apart, dry and ruin your dish.
A partially cooked ham will need to cook 20 minutes per pound at about 350 degrees (175 celsius).A fully cooked ham will take less time, about 10 minutes per pound, to heat through.
Since ovens and hams vary, use a meat thermometer to gauge exactly when the ham is done. For accuracy, it’s important to know exactly where to insert the thermometer probe in your ham. Choose the center of the thickest part of your ham avoiding the bone. I usually go in at an angle from above,
You’ll know your ham is ready to come out of the oven when your thermometer reads about 140-degrees. It will continue to cook while it rests and stopping at this point will keep your ham juicy. The recommended rest period is 30 minutes, tented under foil, prior to slicing and serving.
That’s it! With these few simple steps you can choose, cook and serve the perfect Holiday Ham or Ham dinner any time. Share your tips with us here.
Check out our FREE “Holiday Ham Guide” and start planning your special ham dinner today. You and your guests will be delighted!

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