Tips for Cooking Your Holiday Ham

Tips for Cooking Your Holiday Ham

Originally published November 14, 2022.

If you’re making a cured ham this holiday season, read on for some easy tips for preparing it as well as our favorite recipe for jazzing it up a bit: Cider-Baked Ham.

Basic cured ham preparation

 If you want to keep things simple, the secret to success is heating your cured ham all the way through but doing so gently so it stays juicy and delicious. Here’s how we do it:

  1. Thaw ham in the fridge before cooking. As a general rule, this will take approximately 4-6 hours per pound.
  2. Let ham sit out at room for temperature for 30ish minutes before cooking.
  3. Put in an oven-safe pan (roasting pan or deep baking dish) and add ¼ inch water. Cover with foil.
  4. Cook at 325 degrees until the thickest part of the ham reaches 140 degrees; estimate approximately 15 minutes per pound, though this may vary depending on the size of your ham and how hot your oven runs. Use a meat thermometer, if you have one.
  5. Let rest before carving.


Cider-Baked Ham (adapted from Cook’s Country)

If you want to add a bit more to your ham, try this delicious recipe. It calls for a 7-10 lb. ham; if you have a smaller ham, you will want to reduce your cooking time. Keep an eye on your meat thermometer to avoid drying your ham out.


1 cinnamon stick, broken into rough pieces
¼ teaspoon whole cloves
13 cups apple cider
8 cups ice cubes
7 - 10 pound ham cured, bone-in
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pepper


  1. Toast cinnamon and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add 4 cups cider and bring to boil. Pour spiced cider into large stockpot or clean bucket, add 4 more cups cider and ice, and stir until melted. Don’t skip the ice—it is important to get the liquid cold before putting the ham in.
  2. Score fat on ham at 1-inch intervals in crosshatch pattern. Transfer ham to container with chilled cider mixture (liquid should nearly cover ham) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.
  3. Discard cider mixture and transfer ham to large oven bag. Add 1 cup fresh cider to bag, tie securely, and cut 4 slits in top of bag. Transfer to large roasting pan and let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours (less for a smaller ham). (If you don’t have an oven bag, cover ham tightly with foil.)
  4. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 300 degrees (note: USDA recommends heating at 325). Bake ham until internal temperature registers 100 degrees; this may take 1-2 hours for a larger ham, and less for a smaller ham - start checking it early.
  5. Meanwhile, bring remaining cider and mustard to boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until mixture is very thick and reduced to 1/3 cup, about 1 hour. (This can take well more than an hour. Leave plenty of time, and you may want to start it earlier in the process if you’re cooking a smaller ham. Don’t abandon it! This can burn quickly., so you need to stir very regularly.)
  6. Combine sugar and pepper in bowl. Remove ham from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Roll back oven bag (or remove foil) and brush ham with reduced cider mixture. Carefully press sugar mixture onto exterior of ham.
  7. Return to oven and bake until dark brown and caramelized, about 10-20 minutes. (Look for an internal temp of 140 degrees.) Transfer ham to cutting board, loosely tent with foil, and let rest for a few minutes. Carve and serve.
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