Baked ham is a popular dish for special occasions. Many families serve baked ham during holiday dinners, pairing the meat with side dishes such as green beans, pineapple slices, and potatoes. Baked ham also provides delicious meat for sandwiches and casseroles. Many people believe baking ham is a complicated process, but it is really very simple. Ham has high fat and salt content, so it is flavorful no matter how it is prepared.
Safe Ham Handling
Knowing how to bake a ham means understanding safe handling instructions for pork. The meat needs to be stored at 40 degrees F or lower until it is ready for baking. Thawed ham must be used within three to five days of the package “sell by” date. You can bake a frozen ham, but it could take up to two times the baking time of thawed ham. You can thaw the pork in the refrigerator, which is the safest, but slowest option. The ham should take approximately five hours per pound to thaw.
You can also thaw the pork in cold water. This is a faster method, so if you need to serve the ham within 24 hours, this is the right choice for thawing. Fill your sink with enough tap water to completely submerge the ham. Place the ham in a leak-proof bag, so contact with water does not dilute the flavor. Replace the water with fresh, cold water every half hour. The water must remain cold, so there is no risk of bacteria growth in the ham. The ham should take approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw.
Once the ham is thawed, prepare it for baking. Line a roasting pan large enough for the ham with aluminum foil. The oven should be set at 325 degree F. The ham will need approximately 20 to 30 minutes of baking time per pound. Some pork products are sold pre-cooked, so check the heating time on the package for this type of ham. Ham should be placed fat side up and turned about halfway through the baking time. Do not use tools that pierce the ham when turning because it will result in a loss of juices.
Baking the Ham
Baking the ham to the proper doneness is very important. Eating undercooked ham is dangerous and can expose diners to trichinosis, so you need to check the internal temperature of the ham before serving. Pork should be 160 degree F before serving. You should use a meat thermometer to read the internal temperature. If you are preparing a bone-in ham, make sure the thermometer does not touch the bone. The thermometer should be inserted into the meatiest part of the ham.
Overcooking will result in dry ham, so it is important to closely monitor the ham as baking time draws to an end. The ham should stand for 15 minutes once it has been removed from the oven. It will continue to bake during this time, so remove the ham from the oven when it reaches an internal temperature of about 155 degree F.
Baked ham is delicious when prepared in a basic manner, but more elaborate preparation methods add flavor. Before putting the ham in the oven, apply pineapple slices and cloves to the skin. You can attach the pineapple using toothpicks or hooking the slices onto the cloves, once they are inserted into the skin. You can also glaze the ham. Mix equal amounts of mustard seasoning, brown sugar, and orange juice. Glaze the ham every 30 minutes while baking. The ham can also be glazed in the same manner with honey and brown sugar, fruit preserves, or pear juice.