The Secret To Cooking The Perfect Ham

Spoiler alert: Unless you're buying from the butcher, the ham you just added to your grocery cart is likely already cooked. Your job, therefore, as a home chef hunting for porcine perfection is to reheat your ready-to-eat ham, also known as "city ham," low and slow without drying it out (via The New York Times). Moisture, and ultimately cooking time and temperature, is the difference between a ho-hum dinner and a toast-worthy celebration.

First things first, if it's not too late, take this tip from Taste of Home and opt for a bone-in ham rather than boneless. Carving around the bone will not only give you the opportunity to sharpen up your knife skills, it will also — and more importantly — impart more flavor into your finished dish while helping to achieve your goal of a juicy ham. Why? Because bone-in hams tend to have a little more fat. And more fat means more juice.

How to not dry out your ham

Next, you'll need to decide whether or not to glaze your ham. Glazing will lock in an unctuous flavor profile of your choosing — think brown sugar or honey-pineapple or double mustard. If you go for the glaze (and you absolutely should!), make sure you score the top of your ham with cross-hatches to create all sorts of nooks and crannies for that glorious glaze to seep into (via The New York Times). But, don't glaze it just yet! Wait until the last 20 or so minutes of cooking time to keep it from burning.

Preheat your oven. This point is not up for debate. Putting your ham into a hot oven ensures even cooking that will help prevent it from drying out. And just how hot? Herein lies the secret to perfect ham. Fine Cooking recommends you set your oven for 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover your ham with aluminum foil — another trick for trapping moisture — and roast for 7-1/2 to 8 hours, depending on size. You'll want to rely on the final temperature rather than the length of time in the oven. Your ham should be melting off the bone in buttery slices when its internal temperature reaches 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.