Delicious Christmas Ham Recipes & Baking Instructions

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Ham is a traditional choice for Christmas dinner. With a little know-how, you can grace your holiday table with a delicious ham that will have your guests clamoring for seconds.

It isn't difficult to cook ham, just follow these guidelines to produce the star of your Christmas meal.

Cooking Tools

To simplify your cooking, have a few basic kitchen tools at hand. You will need:

  • Meat thermometer
  • Roasting pan
  • Aluminum foil
  • Sharp carving knife
  • Kitchen timer
  • Cooking brush
  • Serving platter

Picking a Ham

Ham is available in a variety of forms, which can make it confusing to make the right choice at the supermarket. When determining how much you will need, figure 1/3 pound of ham is equal to a serving.

Fully Cooked Ham: Often sold in a can, or a vacuum-sealed plastic wrapper, fully cooked ham, as the name implies, is already cooked completely, and is ready to eat right out of the package. Injecting the meat with a salt and seasoning mixture before cooking cures the meat for extra flavor.

  • Other labels for a fully cooked ham include "ready to eat," or "heat and serve."
  • Fully cooked hams usually are glazed with a sweet or savory coating, or smoked for a meaty taste.
  • If your canned ham has a coating of gelatin, scrape it away before heating.
  • You can serve a heat-and-serve ham cold, but warming it up makes it tastier.
  • A general rule for reheating is 20 minutes per pound in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven to an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but follow package directions for best results.
Ready for Planting Finished Product

Partially Cooked Ham :Also labeled as "cook before eating," a partially cooked ham has been heated to a temperature of at least 137 degrees Fahrenheit before being packaged for sale, which is hot enough to kill the trichinosis parasite, but not hot enough to cook the ham through.

  • An injected seasoning mixture cures partially cooked ham before heating.
  • You will need to finish cooking your partially cooked ham to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before serving.
  • The ham might be smoked or glazed for additional flavor.

Fresh Ham: Fresh ham is uncooked and uncured. Another name for fresh ham is pork roast. You will need to cook it thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Glaze your fresh ham with a sweet or spicy coating during cooking for additional flavor.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

  • If your ham has been in the refrigerator, letting it sit out at room temperature for two hours will reduce cooking time. If frozen, you can thaw it in a cold-water soak in the kitchen sink, or by moving it to the refrigerator in advance of Christmas day. It will generally take around five hours per pound to thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Lining your roasting pan with aluminum foil will make it easier to clean up after cooking.
  • Using a sharp knife, lightly score a diamond pattern into the fat before cooking. Push a whole clove into each crossing of the cut lines.
  • Fold aluminum foil into a loose tent over the ham to keep it moist during cooking. Remove the foil approximately half an hour before the ham is finished cooking.
  • Place your ham with the fat side up, turning it over halfway through the cooking time.
  • When turning the ham, try to avoid puncturing it with a fork or other sharp utensil. Punctures will allow juices to escape, and lead to a drier ham.
  • Don't baste a ham with its cooking juices to avoid excess saltiness.
  • If your ham was not pre-glazed, do so during the last hour of cooking time.
  • Check the temperature of the ham periodically as it cooks. To avoid an overcooked ham, remove it from the heat when your cooking thermometer registers 155 degrees Fahrenheit. The ham will continue to cook for at least ten minutes after being removed from the oven, and should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit during this time.

Different Glazes

For the most delicious ham, glaze it during cooking with a sweet or savory sauce. Remove the aluminum foil tent from over the ham, and brush the glaze over the meat. Here are some recipes to try.

Cherry Glaze


  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 (12 ounce) jar cherry preserves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Stir ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Mustard Glaze


  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Mix together flour, sugar and mustard powder until smooth. Whisk milk and egg yolks in saucepan, and slowly add mustard mixture. Stir in vinegar. Stirring constantly, bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce to low and simmer until thickened.

Apple Butter Glaze


  • 1 cup apple butter
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Whisk ingredients together in small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until thickened.


  • Your ham should rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.
  • Trim off two small slices to create a flat surface, then turn the ham to rest on the flat side.
  • Use a carving fork to firmly hold the ham in place, and with a sharp carving knife, move evenly across the ham, slicing down to the bone.
  • Cut parallel next to the bone so that the slices are separated. Place on the serving platter.
  • Turn the ham to the other side, and continue to slice in the same manner until all meat is removed from the bone.

Grace your Christmas table with a perfectly prepared, beautifully presented ham, and watch your guest's smiles light up their faces. You will be receiving compliments all night long.

Last Updated: December 19, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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