Three o’clock on Easter afternoon, and I’m in a standoff with a ham roast. Am I supposed to boil the thing, bake it, or merely heat it through? Should there be a glaze? I’d done a couple of hams before but couldn’t remember, so it was time to do some digging. Luckily this is something you can figure out by piecing together a few basic clues.

For starters, if the wrapper says “cooked”, then you just heat through and serve. If the wrapper says, “cook before eating”, or something like it, then cook to an internal temperature of 140-160 degrees. If a sliver of ham is super salty when you fry it, then oops, you’ve got country ham and need to soak it in cold water overnight before proceeding. Otherwise, so long as it’s pink, you can assume the ham’s been smoked and/or quick cured and in need of cooking.

Ours was a smoked ham requiring cooking. Upon consulting prior ham posts, I was reminded I had previously roasted ham in moist heat and finished it in a hot oven, and the results were variable. Boiling liquids made it too easy to overcook the thing, even if the juices came out divine and mostly made up for tough meat. But I wanted ham that was delicious by itself — that’s why we had chosen so carefully and paid a premium, after all. So this time I opted to go dry heat all the way, knowing there was a risk, of course, of drying it out.

I consulted about a dozen sources and decided to roast the meat on low to just cook through, then finish on high heat with a simple glaze, which would caramelize while the meat temperature continued to rise appropriately. The flavor and texture were just what I wanted, and for better or for worse there were fewer leftovers than one would have hoped. And the meat was, yes, a bit dry, which I chalked up to a lack of fat on the cut. Next time I’ll get a fattier cut or make a gravy made from pan juices. Or I’ll do all three if I’m feeling particularly ambitious. And I’ll dry roast again, because I think it’s a more forgiving method than moist.

Oven Roasted and Glazed Ham

3 lb partially cooked ham, bone in / ½ cup brown sugar / 2 tsps dry mustard / 1 tbls cider vinegar / ¼ tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line roasting pan with foil and position ham with fat side up. Place in oven and roast until internal temperature hits 130 degrees — about 53 minutes, or 18 minutes per pound in our oven — then remove roast and increase oven temp to 425 degrees.

Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients for a glaze. Trim skin and all but ¼-inch of fat from the ham surface. Score fat in a cross-hatched pattern and smear glaze on. Return to oven and roast for 20 minutes more, basting periodically with pan juices and additional glaze if desired. Remove when ham surface is nicely crisped, cover with foil on the stovetop for 20 minutes longer, then carve.

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