When you think of a holiday meal, there are generally four classics that come to mind— Prime Rib, Turkey, Rack of Lamb or, our personal favorite and namesake, Smoked Ham. Truth be told, it’s one of our favorite products from the farm. Beautiful marbling, a nice layer of crispy fat cap and your glaze of choice. Easy and always a crowd-pleaser. We’re lucky to have a great processor, Byron Center Meats, taking great care of our hams through the curing and smoking process.
We get asked how to prepare these smoky little treats more than anything other than turkey, so we wanted to help demystify the ol' ham cooking process and make sure that you have that perfect holiday table centerpiece, glistening and crispy in all of its glory. Here’s how.
The first, and most frequent, question we always get is, “ It’s cooked, right?”. The short answer is, yes. I’ll spare you the curing and smoking preservation nuances, but feel free to reach out with more questions and we can nerd out about it. Anyhow, curing and smoking is what takes it from a roast to a ham. It gives it that salty, smokey goodness, and the "hammy" flavor you think of. During the smoking process, food safety regulations require it to get above a safe temperature to ensure a botulism-free environment. So, technically, when it walks out of that smoky sauna, it is cooked.
Now what? Well, this is where it’s up to you. One way our hams are absolutely delicious, believe it or not, are sliced cold for use in sammiches, so you may want to plan for leftovers! Some nice sourdough bread, grainy mustard, a few slices of ham, maybe a pickle or two, and you have yourself a pretty tasty little sammy for lunch. Add it to a grilled cheese, or as the French call it, Croque-Monsieur, and you have a classic that can't be beat.
I suspect, however, that most of us want it as that beautiful glistening centerpiece of the table, a true spectacle. Who can blame you? How do we get there? It’s easier than you think. Because the ham is already cooked, our job is, at its most simple, to reheat. We want to bring it to an internal temperature of 130/135 over the course of a few hours, and we do this with a few easy steps.
1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. It seems low, I know, but trust me on this. Lower and slower will keep your ham moist and also help to prevent your ham from running away from you on the temperature side. Do you have a good meat thermometer? If not, get one! Seriously, spend the money on one. You won't regret it.
2. Once your oven is preheated, remove your defrosted ham from the packaging and wrap in foil. Yup, you read that correctly— wrap the ham in foil, as this helps to keep in moisture. You could also add in a bit of apple cider to the ham packet to help with moisture as well. Not necessary, but depending on the glaze you intend to put on it, it may just add that much more flavor.
3. Place the ham on a baking sheet and cook about 20 minutes per pound. You’re looking for the ham to get to about 120 internal temperature.
4. While your ham is cooking, prepare your glaze. There are a ton of recipes for glaze out there, but one of my favorites is simply maple sugar, some bourbon, black pepper and salt, a bit of brown sugar and some smoked paprika. Heat all of this in a pan over low heat, whisking to combine all the ingredients into one solution, and set aside.
5. Once your ham hits 120 degrees, remove from the oven and remove ham from foil. Set your oven to 400 degrees while you are working on the ham. While waiting on the oven to raise its temperature, brush on some of your glaze. Be generous but don’t go crazy [no oven fires please]. Place back in the oven for about 5 mins.
6. Remove after 5 min, paint with 1/3 more glaze and then place back in for another 10 minutes. You’ll be wanting to eat it immediately, when you see that glistening, crunchy glaze. Patience!
7. After removing from the oven after that final 10 minutes, apply that final 1/3 of glaze. Tent the ham with some foil and then let it rest for 15 minutes. You want to make sure you rest at least 15 mins to allow not only the glaze to adhere, but also for the juices in the ham to redistribute. DO NOT CHEAT. We will know.
8. Carve and serve...