There’s nothing like a showstopping baked ham at the center of your holiday table. A succulent ham pairs well with virtually any side, looks impressive in your serving dish, and makes the best leftovers. The best part about a good baked ham recipe is that it’s easy to prepare, and cook time is short compared to other sizeable cuts of meat.
The downside? Most baked ham recipes feature brown sugar, maple syrup, or even soda. If you’re trying to keep your sugar or carbs down, sticky-sweet glazes aren’t the best route to take.
Should you miss out on a great ham because you’re watching your sugar? No way. We offer two baked ham recipes that play off of ham’s smoky, salty qualities: one version with spicy mustard, rosemary, and a touch of honey to round it out, and the other version that uses a sweet-savory-salty-spiced ham glaze in a jar. Disclaimer: The jarred ham glaze is a seasonal offer by Primal Kitchen, but there are tips below for how to recreate an admittedly less convenient option at home if you can’t find the product.
Baked ham makes an ideal meal for carniflex individuals, too. You could go whole hog and forego the sauce, but our options offer so much flavor that even more strict meat-eaters might want to sample.
What Type of Ham to Buy for Baked Ham… and How Much?
We recommend buying an already cooked ham, as both of these recipes require flavoring and warming up a cooked (or even smoked) ham. The cook times for these recipes only account for warming up an already cooked ham.
Some variables exist when considering how much ham to buy, including:
- who will you be feeding: adults or children, or a combination
- what else will you be serving with the ham? If you have any carnivore eaters who will only be eating ham, take this into consideration for your planning.
A bone-in ham will feed fewer people per pound than a boneless ham will. When looking for a ham to buy, aim for 1/4-1/2 lb. per person for a boneless ham and up to 3/4 lb. per person for a bone-in ham, with the idea that you’ll also serve side dishes with the ham. Scroll to our section below for side dishes that pair well with ham.
More FAQs About Baked Ham
How long does it take to bake a fully cooked ham?
Hams can be bone-in or boneless and may be intact or spiraled (pre-sliced). Bone-in hams take a little longer to heat up and spiraled hams can be slightly more prone to dry out, so reheat accordingly. Most hams come with instructions for temperatures and minutes per pound. The best way to make sure you’re reheating appropriately is with a meat thermometer that has a probe you can place in the center of the meat. Hams are done when the internal temperature reaches about 140ºF.
Do You Have to Cover a Ham When You Bake It?
Yes, you should cover the ham while baking it so it doesn’t dry out. Sugar in the sauce (in the recipes here, pineapple juice and honey) can burn if exposed to direct heat for too long, so it’s a good idea to use an oven-safe casserole dish with a lid or a very large Dutch oven with a lid to bake the ham if you prefer not to use aluminum foil when cooking.
To prevent the already-cooked ham from drying out while reheating, add water to the bottom of the dish. Prop your ham on a roasting rack or a wire cooling rack and pour water under the rack. The warm oven will create a steam bath that will gently heat the ham.
Do You Have to Score the Ham Before Baking?
A thick layer of fat, also known as the fat cap, sits underneath the skin of the pig and its meat. You need to score the fat cap or use a sharp knife to cut a diamond pattern across the fat cap, in order to allow the ham glaze or sauce to seep into the crevices of the fat and flavor the meat below it.
Some people can trim away the fat cap on their ham slices before eating, so if you just pour the ham glaze or sauce on top of the exterior of the ham without scoring it, the sauce you made won’t flavor the meat.
Baked Ham Tips
- Some hams will be too salty if you don’t soak them prior to baking. Purchase your ham a few days before you plan to cook it, and check package directions for soaking requirements.
- Store-bought hams are typically cured either with nitrites or celery powder and smoked. Since the ham is already cooked, you’re only warming the ham before serving. Make sure the label says “fully cooked.” Otherwise, this recipe’s cook time will be insufficient.
- Look for a ham without glazes, and with minimal ingredients or added sugar. Ask your local butcher or farmer what they’d recommend. Brands like Pederson’s or Niman Ranch can be found in stores and are part of the Certified Humane Raised & Handled program. Pederson’s also sells a sugar-free ham that is Whole30 approved.
How to Make Your Own Ham Glaze
There’s a great pleasure to experience the convenience of glazing ham with a ready-made Primal, paleo, and carniflex-friendly sauce. If you can’t find such a ham glaze sauce online or at the store, try our easy method for a pared-down glaze:
- 1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup or monk fruit
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Warm, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and brush on the ham.
What to Serve with Baked or Glazed Ham
Pair salty, savory baked or glazed ham with simple roast vegetables, an uncomplicated green salad, or potatoes. These recipes play well with ham:
- Scalloped Potatoes
- Waffle Iron Sweet Potato Hash Browns
- Gluten-free Sweet Potato Souffle
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
- Julienned Carrot and Kale Salad
- Creamed Spinach
- Lemon Asparagus
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