A big baked ham is one of the easiest things to prepare for a holiday celebration. It’s economical, even a half-ham can feed a dozen people with leftovers, and a full ham typically goes on sale the week before Easter bringing the per-person cost down even more. The ham is already cooked, all you have to do is heat it to a serving temperature and if you want, apply a nice glaze. That said, the first time I tried to make a glazed ham, we did a couple things wrong. We bought an already cut (spiral cut) ham, which may be convenient for cutting, but dries out really easily when heated. We didn’t let the ham rest at room temp before heating, and we insisted on sticking with the ham guideline of an internal temp of 140°. So we ended up with an easy-to-serve ham with half of it (anything not near the center) rather dried out.
Recently I asked my friend Suzanne to come over and show me how she cooks glazed ham for her family gatherings. We baked two hams, one with Suzanne’s favorite sweet hot honey mustard glaze, and one with an intriguing honey thyme glaze Suzanne found in Gourmet. We scored the hams first in a diamond pattern, applied a glaze, cooked, basted with glaze, and finished browning in the broiler. Both hams turned out beautifully.
The two glazes we used are both honey-based, though you could use other things for a sweetened glaze, pineapple juice, marmalade, maple syrup. Do you have a favorite glazed ham glaze? If so, please let us know about it in the comments.
Glazed Baked Ham Recipe
Most baked ham recipes call for heating the ham to an internal temp of 140°F. But you can heat it to a lower temp, you just want it to be warm enough to eat. The higher the internal temp, the more risk there is of drying out the ham. So the guideline here is 110°F to 120°F, but heat it to a higher temp if you want. Remember, the ham is already cooked, so you're not cooking it here, you're just heating it. If you are working with a partially cooked ham, and not a ready-to-eat ham, follow the cooking directions on the package, most suggest cooking a partially cooked ham to 150°F.
Half hams are either cut from the shank end or from the butt end. The butt end may have more meat, but because of the shape of the bone at that end, is more difficult to cut. The hams pictured here are both from the shank end.
- 1/2 ready-to-eat, cooked ham, bone-in, uncut (NOT spiral cut), shank end or butt end, about 9-11 pounds
Sweet Hot Honey Mustard Glaze
- 3 Tbsp sweet hot honey mustard (or brown mustard with honey)
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- About 50 cloves
Honey Thyme Glaze
- 3 Tbsp melted butter
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dry)
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Honey Thyme Glaze adapted from Gourmet
1 Remove the ham from the refrigerator (still wrapped) a couple of hours before you intend to cook it so that it can get closer to room temperature.
2 Preheat oven to 325°F. Place ham, fattier side up, in a foil-lined roasting pan. Score a diamond pattern in the fat with a sharp knife, about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch deep, and the parallel lines about 1 1/2-inches apart. Do not score the meat itself, just the fat and any skin. You can score the fat to as deep as where the fat meets the meat. If you want you can first cut off any skin that might still be on the ham, but it isn't necessary.
3 If using cloves (with the Sweet Honey Mustard Glaze), you can either put them in before applying the glaze or after. They look better if applied after, but it is easier to see the lines in the ham as a guide for placement if you put them in first. Place the cloves in the center of the diamonds to form a nice pattern around the top and sides of the ham. (Some people put the cloves in the intersection points of the scores. Do as you wish. You just want a nice pattern.)
4 Prepare glaze.
If using the sweet honey mustard glaze, mix the mustard with the brown sugar in a small bowl.
If using the honey thyme glaze, mix thyme in with the hot melted butter and let sit for a few minutes. In a small saucepan on high heat, let the cider vinegar reduce down from 1/4 cup to 1 Tbsp, remove from heat. Whisk in the butter and thyme. Add the honey, the brown sugar, and the Worcestershire sauce.
4 Using a pastry brush, brush whichever glaze you are using over the ham. Only use about third of the glaze (reserve the rest for later in cooking). Try to work the glaze into the scored lines.
5 Place ham in oven. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours (check after 1 hour, will take longer if the ham is not at room temp to begin with), or about 10 minutes per pound, until the internal temperature of the ham is 110°-120° (use a meat thermometer). (Note that the ham is already cooked when you buy it, all you are trying to do is heat it up for eating.) Baste the ham with the glaze a couple of times during the cooking. If you check on the ham and think that the glaze is at risk of getting too browned (like on the way to burnt), you can cover with a piece of foil.
6 When the ham has reached the desired temperature, finish it off in the broiler for a minute or two just to get some nice browning on the top. Take the pan out of the oven and brush the ham all over with pan juices. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
7 To slice a bone-in ham, cut around the bone first. Then use a long, sharp knife to slice off pieces around the bone.
Another way to slice the ham is to make first a slice on wide end to get a flat lying surface. Then stand the ham upright on the wide end and make slices down the side, working around the bone.
Remember to save the ham bone for soup!