Here is your quick and easy to understand guide on buying, cooking, carving and serving ham.
Before you cook a ham...you have to buy a ham! It might seem complicated...but we'll try to simplify it here.
The term ham refers to the meat cut from the upper rear legs of the pig. This is a meaty, fatty cut. It is generally dry (rubbed) or wet cured (brined) with salt and spices and is usually smoked or processed in a variety of ways.
The upper rear cut of the pig is divided into two more cuts. The butt ham comes from the most upper part of the pig leg and the shank ham comes from the lower section of the leg.
So, a whole ham = butt end + shank end.
Another type of ham is the picnic ham. This cut comes from the front leg or shoulder area of the pig.
These are technically not hams but are pork shoulders that are smoked and processed in a way similar to rear end hams.
FYI, ham hocks are found further down below the shank.
Hey, it's all pork goodness! Which is best is generally a matter of taste and how you want to serve the meat.
The butt end is meatier and has more fat and membrane then the shank end. Because of this, it can be more flavorful. The butt end contains the pig's hip and pelvic bone which makes carving a bit tricky but makes it a good compliment to beans, greens and other slow cooked dishes.
The shank end has a straighter bone and less fat and membrane. The shank is easier to crave and makes a nicer presentation. This makes it good for sandwiches and a dinner party menu.
In reality, your choice of ham may be limited to what's available at your supermarket and may also depend on the time of year and the size and price you desire.
FYI, the whole, butt and shank cuts can be purchased bone-in or boneless.
When buying a ham, estimate the size needed based on the serving size suggestions on the packaging. In general, plan on 1/4 to 3/4 pound of ham per person depending on how you are serving (appetizer, sandwiches, main entree) and what else is being served, especially meats.
When shopping for a ham for your next party menu, be aware that whole and half hams can be fully-cooked, partially cooked and raw. Be sure to read the label and ask the butcher or grocer if you are unsure. Different hams require different cooking times and handling methods.
Most hams purchased in the supermarket are smoked and fully-cooked. The smoking process cooks and flavors the meat. The ham can be eaten as is but reheating or roasting the meat maximizes the natural flavor, juiciness and texture. Also, nothing is better than a fresh, hot-baked ham!
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Reheating Times for Fully Cooked Hams
The internal temperature, as measured with a food thermometer, is the best indicator of doneness
Partially-Cooked and Raw Ham
Partially cooked hams are processed to an internal temperature of 145°F to kill parasites. The purchased ham still requires additional cooking and must be reheated to an internal temperature of 145°F.
Raw or fresh ham (also called "green" ham) is an uncured and uncooked pork product which has the the pinkish beige color of other raw pork cuts. Just like other hams, it must be cooked to a temperature of 145°F.
Bone-in half-hams of 5-8 pounds are cooked from 35 to 40 minutes per pound.
Whole leg, bone in hams of 12-16 pounds are cooked from 22 to 26 minutes per pound
Here is a brilliant way to carve a butt end bone-in ham. Makes leftovers so much more manageable.
Ham is extremely versatile and flavorful. It is a welcome at breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. It goes with pasta, potatoes, rice, bread and most vegetables. Once properly carved, ham becomes a very easy protein addition to any meal
The smoky, salty, savoriness of ham lends itself perfectly to thick, sweet glazes and cool, creamy sauces.