How To Cook a Ham: The Ultimate Guide to Boneless & Bone-In Ham

Publish Date March 8, 2023

Whether you’re planning an elegant holiday feast or festive family meal, few main courses feel as special as ham does—and luckily, few main courses are as simple to prepare! Ham is a great option when you want to serve something easy, delicious and large enough to feed a crowd. But should you choose a bone-in ham or a boneless one? And how long does it take to cook a whole ham? Whether you’re a master chef or you’re new to the kitchen, we’re sharing tips and tricks to help teach you how to cook a bone-in ham and boneless ham like a pro. We’ll go over the different varieties and cuts of ham, how much you’ll need for your meal, why you should glaze your ham (plus some of our favorite glaze recipes), what you can do with the leftovers and much, much more. Get ready to ham it up with one of our favorite meats!

The Difference Between Boneless & Bone-In Ham

Boneless and bone-in hams are both delicious, and each has its own advantages. The bone that’s left inside of bone-in ham doesn’t just enhance the presentation, it also helps the meat retain moisture, providing deeper flavor and making it a great option to serve on holidays or to large crowds. You can also use the ham bone in soups and stocks! Boneless hams, on the other hand, cook a little quicker and are easier to slice (we’ll get into carving ham a little later on).

Knowing the Cuts of Ham

Ham comes in three common cuts, each coming from a different part of the leg and providing its own unique flavor. Let’s take a look at what differentiates each of these selections:

  • Shank: This portion comes from the lower half of the leg and is the most common cut used for baked ham.
  • Butt: Also known as ham sirloin, this section comes from the upper region of the leg and is the most tender and flavorful cut of ham.
  • Center: Center-cut ham comes from the center of the leg and is usually sold in slices.

How Much Ham Do You Need?

Knowing how many pounds of ham per person is important to ensuring you have enough food for everyone (and enough for leftovers!). Depending on the number of guests you’re serving, you’ll probably want to choose between a whole ham or a half ham. If you’re buying a bone-in ham, you’ll need about ½ pound of meat per person; if buying a boneless ham, estimate about ⅓ pound of meat per person. If you’re still unsure, use our handy ham calculator to figure out exactly how many pounds of meat you’ll need based on how many guests you’re serving!

How to Cook Ham

Wondering how long to cook a bone in ham per pound? Or how long to re-heat a precooked ham? Get out your roasting pan and use this guide to see how long to cook a ham to achieve the most succulent flavor, every time:

  • Fully cooked or ready-to-eat ham: To reheat fully cooked hams, preheat the oven no lower than 325°F and cook the meat until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 140°F. Anticipate the bone-in ham cooking time to take approximately 15-24 minutes per pound, and boneless to take approximately 10-20 minutes per pound.
  • Cook-before-eating ham: To cook a fresh ham, preheat the oven no lower than 325°F and cook the meat until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 160°F. Anticipate the cooking time to take approximately 18-25 minutes per pound for bone-in ham and 24-35 minutes per pound for boneless ham.
  • Spiral-cut ham: To warm a spiral-cut ham, preheat the oven to no lower than 325°F and cook the meat until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 140°F. The cooking time will take approximately 10 minutes per pound.

Video: Simple Ham Glaze Recipes

From sweet to savory, we have delicious, flavor-packed ham glaze recipes sure to please a crowd.

Though a ham is delicious and hearty on its own, the addition of a glaze can elevate the dish to a whole new realm of flavor and aroma. From sweet to savory to fruity, we recommend trying one (or more!) of these delicious yet simple glaze ideas:

  • Brown Sugar & Bourbon Glaze: ⅓ cup bourbon, ½ cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons dry mustard.
  • Honey, Sriracha, Brown Sugar & Garlic Glaze: ½ cup honey, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sriracha and 1 clove garlic, finely chopped.
  • Maple Syrup, Grainy Mustard & Rosemary Glaze: ½ cup real maple syrup, 2 tablespoons grainy mustard, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped.
  • Root Beer, Brown Sugar & Barbecue Sauce Glaze: ¾ cup root beer, ½ cup barbecue sauce and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
  • Tangy Balsamic & Mustard Glaze: 2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar, 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard and ¼ cup brown sugar.
  • Spicy No-Sugar Glaze: 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons black pepper and 1 teaspoon dried mustard.

If you have extra glaze, serve it on the side as a dip or additional sauce. These combinations don’t just work well as a glaze for ham, they also taste great with pork, chicken and other meats, too!

Tips for Making the Best Baked Ham

Who doesn’t want tender, juicy meat complemented by a perfectly crispy skin every time they bake ham? Ensure a heavenly ham by keeping these cooking tips in mind:

  • Let it sit before baking: Let the ham come to room temperature before cooking to ensure juicer, more evenly cooked meat.
  • Cook it cut-side down: Place the ham cut-side down in your pan to prevent it from drying out while baking.
  • Cover it while cooking: Help the meat retain moisture by covering the ham or pan with aluminum foil before putting it in the oven.
  • Glaze at the end: Apply the glaze near the end of cooking to avoid burning or over caramelizing the skin.
  • Let it sit before serving: Once the ham is cooked, let it rest 10-20 minutes to let the juices soak into the meat.

Ham Recipes the Family Will Love

Whether you’re looking for bone-in ham recipes or a way to spruce up your boneless cut, we’ll help you make sure the star of the table is perfectly baked to everyone’s liking. Have fun testing the glazes suggested on this page, impress guests with a Baked Ham with Honey Ginger Glaze, or follow one of the delicious ham recipes here.

Ham Recipes

How to Carve a Ham

There’s no bone in a boneless ham, so to carve it, simply cut slices to your desired thickness. Since spiral-cut hams come pre-sliced, you can carve this version by making a simple lateral cut against the slices, allowing the meat to peel off in thin, easy layers. To serve a bone-in ham, cut a few slices off one side to create a base. Next, lay the ham flat and make vertical cuts perpendicular to the bone, starting at the narrow end and working back towards the thicker section. Finally, cut along the bone horizontally to release the slices. When slicing any variety of ham, try to cut only as much as you need to help prevent the remaining meat from drying out.

What to Do with Leftover Ham

One of the best things about ham is the amazing leftover potential. You can add ham to a breakfast wrap, make sliders and salads, add a slice to a grilled cheese, whip up a cheesy ham and hash casserole or use it in a spiced ham and potato soup. Store cooked ham tightly wrapped in the fridge for 3-5 days or stash it in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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