It happens every year. You buy a ham for the holidays, but when dinner gets closer you have no idea how long this ham takes to cook. Or … if it’s already been cooked? Or what kind of ham it is at all.
First, you should know that most hams that you buy at the supermarket are known as city hams. They are wet-cured hams that are usually smoked after curing (which is why they’re referred to as smoked hams in the USDA chart below). The beautiful thing about city hams is that they’re pre-cooked. It’s a very low-pressure situation for the home cook. All you have to do is cut the ham free from the package, cover in foil and reheat it to a good serving temperature. Cooking it at 325 degrees F for about 15 minutes per pound should do the trick, depending on the type of ham (whole vs. half, bone-in vs. no bone ― these specifics are outlined in the chart below). You just want to make sure the internal temperature has reached 145 degrees F. City hams are typically your spiral cut hams. While you can eat these cold, they’re easy enough to reheat in the oven as mentioned above. Or, for an even simpler and quicker reheat, you can warm individual slices in a skillet or microwave.
Then there are country hams. Country hams are less popular in metropolitan areas and are a very different eating experience, compared to city hams. They are dry-cured and are sometimes smoked (but less frequently than city hams). Country hams are saltier, drier, and if you want to serve them like a classic holiday ham, they first have to be soaked anywhere between 4 to 24 hours. Then you boil it in water for 20-25 minutes per pound. And after that, you glaze it in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes.
The other option you have is fresh ham. Fresh hams are harder to come by. They are basically blank slates that have to be fully prepared. This can mean brining, curing, glazing and cooking. Fresh ham cooking times vary greatly depending on the size. In a 325-degree oven, a 12-16 pound bone-in ham needs 22-26 minutes per pound. A 10-14 pound boneless ham needs 24-28 minutes per pound. And a 5-8 pound bone-in ham needs 35-40.
For cooking times of all these hams, we turn to the USDA for the safest advice. Here’s the chart you should consult for this year’s holiday ham.
Once you’ve got that ham taken care of, you can get started on other holiday essential dishes.