Glazed Ham is the easiest holiday centrepiece – but can seem daunting if you’re new to it! This is a practical, concise tutorial for everything you need to know about Glazed Ham – from choosing a ham, removing the rind, how much to buy, making the ham glaze and glazing the ham.
It’s the RecipeTin Eats Ultimate Holiday Baked Ham Guide – for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and everything in between! Use with your favourite glaze – classic Brown Sugar Ham Glaze or my special Maple Ham Glaze.
INTRODUCTION: Glazed Ham is EASIER than turkey
If you’re a first timer or not confident working with large holiday centrepieces like ham, don’t worry! A Glazed Ham is an easy, low risk, forgiving recipe. It’s far easier and less “risky” than other traditional holiday mains like Roast Turkey or Prime Rib because:
- the ham is already cooked;
- it’s cooked for a couple of hours on a low temperature and cook time precision isn’t that important;
- you know it’s done just by looking at it – no thermometer needed;
- you can make ahead days in advance; and
- it can easily be salvaged even if you run into problems.
It’s also an economical option because a little bit goes far, and it’s practical because it can be served at room temperature so you don’t need to worry about the mad rush of heating it up before serving!
So – are you ready? Here we go!
1. Best ham for Glazed Ham
Around holiday time, there’s a wide range of hams available in grocery stores and butchers – and prices range vastly too. So how do you choose a ham? Here’s my advice!
- MUST get rind on – you need to get the ham with the skin on (called the rind) in order to make glazed ham. The rind is that orange rubbery skin on top of the fat in the photos above and below. You need rind because the fat under the skin is what becomes sticky and golden once basted with ham glaze. If ham has no rind, it won’t have the fat layer so you can’t get a sticky glaze;
- Get smoked ham – it has better flavour than unsmoked ham. The label will say if it’s smoked (it will say nothing if it is not smoked);
- Whole or half ham? Hams are sold whole, or halved (see photo above). Choosing which one to get comes down to how much ham you want to buy (see below for determine how much ham to get per person). I usually get a half ham leg. I like to get the half with the handle because it looks better – and gives me something to hold onto when I’ve carving!
- Bone in – always get a bone in ham, if you can. It’s far juicier than boneless ham, because juices run out of the hole where the bone was cut out.
- NOT raw ham eg gammon That’s a whole different recipe as the meat is raw and needs to be cooked!
What’s the difference between expensive and economical hams?
The more economical hams tend to have a higher water content because of the way it’s been prepared, and that affects texture and flavor. Quality of life of the pigs comes into play, as does the amount of preservatives and additives in the ham, and how intense / “good” the smoked flavour is.
Christmas is certainly a time for indulgence, and I know there are some who may take a view to buy top end, or don’t bother.
I take a more pragmatic view. Buy the best you can afford. The more you pay, the better quality it will be, translating into better flavour.
2. How much ham to buy
I just did a ham on the weekend for a gathering of 35 people with a 5.5 kg / 11 lb bone in ham leg (we had 2 other mains and side salads) and had about 1/4 of the ham leftover.
35 ÷ 5.5 kg = 6.4
(ie 6.4 people per 1 kg / 2 lb of ham with about 1/4 of the half leftover)
- Ham is salty, people don’t eat giant slabs of it like steak
- You slice it thinly so less goes further
- Typically, ham is part of a larger spread with other dishes
- Ham bone (with residual meat on it) weighs anywhere between 750g – 1.25 kg (1.5 – 2.5 lb). I assume it’s about 1 kg
And don’t forget – leftover ham keeps for ages in the fridge, and months in the freezer – and there’s a plethora of things you can make. If you only make ham once a year, make it last!!
3. How to peel the rind (skin) off ham
Top Tip: Just remove the rind and leave as much of the fat on as you can. Fat = sticky glaze!
This part is easy – the skin WANTS to come off!
Your ham will come with a thick, rubbery skin which is called the rind. The rind is not edible, even once cooked (it’s thick and chewy and just really not nice!).
The top of the ham will be completely covered in rind. The underside will be partially rind and partially just the surface of the ham which is stained brown from the smoking.
You want to remove just the rind. Trust me, you can easily tell by feel what’s rind and what’s ham!
Here is how to remove the rind. IMPORTANT: Just remove the skin, leave as much fat as you can. The fat is what creates the caramelisation!
- Cut through the rind all around the top of the bone handle;
- Cut from the face of the ham down to the cut you just made at the top fo the bone handle;
- Run a small knife under the skin all along the face of the ham;
- Place your fingers under the skin, and run them back and forth while you pull back;
- Most of the skin should come off in one piece, but if it doesn’t, just peel off the rest using a combination of your knife and hands.
4. Score fat
TIP: Just score lightly about 75% of the way through the fat. If you cut all the way through to the ham meat, some of the diamonds might loosen and fall off.
“Scoring fat” just means you cut diamonds into the ham fat. This serves a few purposes:
- You get caramelised edges on each diamond – caramelisation is flavour!
- The glaze seeps into the crevices and into the ham meat; and
- It just looks good. 😂 The diamonds sort of open up like a “flower” as it bakes, giving the ham the signature look that everybody loves!
Troubleshooting – If you cut into the meat, it might open up a lot after it bakes so you end up with a thick pale crevice that stands out against the rest of the dark sticky surface. Easy fix – just “disguise” it by basting into the crevice a lot as the pan juices cool and thicken. The extra basting stains the crevice so it’s not as noticeable!
If fat “diamonds” fall off, stick them back on with a toothpick. They usually “glue” themselves back on with the glaze as the ham rests and the glaze thickens!
5. Make ham glaze
Make your ham glaze – it’s dead easy, just mix! Here are my two favourites:
- Maple Ham Glaze – my favourite, simple but extra special from the maple! Can use honey too.
- Brown Sugar Mustard Ham Glaze – this is the classic that everybody loves!
How to make ham glaze – It is literally just a dump-and-mix job. Really!
How far in advance can you make the ham glaze? Days in advance. The ingredients in ham glaze tend to be things like sugar or honey/maple, mustard, spices – all things that have a long shelf life.
6. How to glaze ham
TIP: Glaze ALOT after it comes out of the oven! This is when you can really get that deep golden colour and thick glaze.
The glazing part is no different to brushing and basting anything that’s marinated!
- Pour / brush the glaze onto the ham. Just the top and sides is fine – it will drip to the underside while baking and also the underside will be sitting in the glaze / ham juices.
- Baste every 20 minutes as it bakes with reserved Glaze and pan juices
- Initially, the glaze won’t stick to the fat but the longer it’s in the oven, the thicker the glaze gets
- Baste lots once it’s out of the oven! This is when you really get a thick gorgeous glaze!
7. How to bake Glazed Ham
This is the easiest part – if you follow a few very simple Nagi Ham Rules that make all the difference!
- Level the surface – this will ensure your ham caramelises more evenly. If it’s sloped, the highest point browns far faster and you end up with burnt patches and some barely caramelised bits. Also the same trick I adopt to get a perfect crackling all over my Pork Roast 🙌🏻;
- Water in the roasting pan – it’s a must to stop the drippings from burning! Sugar in glaze = burnt mess = can’t baste using pan juices + no sauce 😩. Plus, water = more moist environment for your ham. I use: water, white wine or OJ;
- LOWER TEMP – The oven temp of most ham recipes is too high, resulting in too many burnt bits. Lower the temp slightly – you’ll thank me later!
- Baste, baste, baste! Baste lots – every 20 minutes. More basting = better glaze!
- Baste LOADS before serving – This is where magic happens, especially if you’ve got bits that didn’t caramelise well. As the ham rests, the liquid in the pan thickens so you get a thicker glaze on the ham. Think of it like paint – it will make your ham a glowing deep caramel colour with a super thick, glossy glaze!
- Wrap the handle – for practical purposes, so you can hold it. And if you are so inclined, pretty it up with ribbon and some greenage (last year I stole a sprig off the Christmas tree!)
8. How long to cook glazed ham
A glazed ham will take 1.5 – 2 hours at 160C/320F for the surface to become gorgeously sticky and caramelised, and for the middle of the ham to come to a high enough temperature to be safe to eat.
9. How to avoid burnt bits
One problem that many people run into is uneven caramelisation of the ham. Some parts brown faster than others, so you end up with burnt bits or under caramelised bits.
But there’s an easy way to ensure your ham is beautifully caramelised all over:
- Level surface – more even caramelisation – Prop up the handle so the surface is as level as possible using the edge of your baking pan and foil balls;
- Foil patches – patch away to your hearts content. If you just press it on gently – and it will stick very easily and it won’t peel off the caramelisation when you take it off! But if you do accidentally peel some off, don’t worry. Just use the pan juices to “paint” the patch and it will be as good as new!
10. What sauce to serve with ham
The glaze is everybody’s favourite part…. and there’s just not enough to go around! So some years ago, I started using the pan drippings as the sauce to serve with the ham – and it’s been a huge hit!
It’s loaded with flavour from both the Glaze you use AND the juices of the ham. The pan drippings are usually a bit thick to use as a sauce so I just thin it with water. The flavour is very intense so you don’t lose flavour at all.
Other sauce options: chutney, Cranberry Sauce, mustard, caramelised onion jam.
11. How to serve Glazed Ham
This is where the immature side of me comes out…
I like to have the whole ham on the table for people to ooh and aaah over before I start carving! Lap up the compliments, bask in the glory while secretly feeling so smug about how little effort it took. 😉
Then after your head has grown so big you might not fit through the door, whisk it away to carve up.
Or – as I do – start carving at the table, then once you have a bit of a stash, finish carving in the kitchen (also, this is the part when it usually gets a bit messy!)
Here are some photos from a Christmas Lunch I catered for my mother and her friends on the weekend just gone. The only “catering” job I do every year…because I can’t say NO to my mother! 😂
How to “style” the Glazed Ham Platter
I just buy any good value green leafage – a big bushy bunch – and lay it on a platter or board then place the ham on top. For a pop of colour, I just place quartered oranges around it – or any other fruit that’s good value at the time (oranges are usually good value).
Wrapping Bone handle
I also like to wrap parchment / baking paper around the handle and use ribbon to secure it in place. This is for practical and presentation purposes – it gives you something to hold onto when carving!
Sometimes I add a sprig of rosemary as well – or steal a sprig off the Christmas tree.
12. How to make ahead (100% perfect!)
99% of the time I have made ham, I’ve made it the day before – or even several days before serving. Yes, really, ham is 100% perfect for making or preparing ahead. Here’s how:
How to prepare ahead
If you want to prepare ahead then just bake on the day:
- Make glaze up to 5 days ahead – even further ahead should be fine;
- Remove rind from ham, score it, then return to fridge until required
- On the day of, baste and bake!
Make entirely ahead (this is what I usually do)
Make the Glazed Ham, including baking it, then let it cool. Remove pan juices and place in an airtight container.
Cover ham with baking paper (parchment paper) then foil and place in the fridge until required – days and days ahead.
On the day of, remove from the fridge and reheat in the oven at 160C/320F for around 1 hour, just to warm through and revitalise the glaze! Doesn’t this look like it was freshly made?? It was reheated!
13. Storing leftover ham
There’s a lot of schools of thought about how long ham will last. 1 week is definitely safe if you use a ham bag, or slice then place in very airtight containers (I’m still alive!).
You can also freeze for up to 3 months.
To keep the ham nice and juicy, it’s best to leave the ham uncarved, then carve on an as required basis!
Ham bag: Use a purpose made ham bag, calico, tea towel, or even a pillowcase. Soak in 1 L / 1 quart water and 2 tbsp white vinegar for 15 minutes. Wring out excess water, then place uncarved ham inside. Resoak in same water-vinegar solution once the bag dries out (every 2 – 3 days).
14. What to do with leftover ham
The best part!! Here are recipes I think are worthy of making with your precious leftover Glazed Ham.
Leftover Ham recipes
And for your ham bone, try these:
- Ham Bone Soup with Beans – the most amazing broth ever, thanks to the ham bone!
- 3 Ingredient Chinese Ham Bone Congee (rice soup) – it’s epic – and it’s a “thing”. The Chinese community goes nuts over leftover ham bones every Christmas!
Leftover Ham Bone recipes
And there you have it. My Holiday Ham Guide! I’ve written an abbreviated form of the preparation directions in the recipe card below which you can use for any ham glaze you choose.
And here are the recipes for my two favourite Ham Glazes (including full recipe):
- Maple Glazed Ham – the maple gives this a touch of special!
- Brown Sugar Mustard Ham Glaze – the classic, with a gorgeous sticky caramelised surface
If you have any questions, just drop them below and I’ll respond as soon as I can! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
This is the recipe video for my Maple Glazed Ham which depicts the steps outlined above!
How to make Glazed Ham
- 5 kg / 10 lb leg ham, bone in, skin on (Note 1)
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- Take ham out of fridge 1 hour prior.
- Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F (140°C fan). Arrange shelf in lower third so the ham will be sitting in the centre of the oven (rather than in top half of oven).
- Make Glaze per recipe.
Remove ham rind (skin)
- Run small knife around bone handle, cutting through rind.
- Cut the rind down each side of the ham, from the cut face of the ham, down to the cut you jujst made around the handle of the bone.
- Run the knife between the fat and the skin on the cut face of the ham.
- Slide fingers under the rind on the cut face of the ham, and run them back and forth to loosen so you can get your fingers under.
- Start pulling back, while continuing to slide fingers back and forth. The rind comes of fairly easily. Use knife if needed to slice off any residual rind.
Scoring fat (making diamonds)
- Lightly cut 2.5cm / 1" diamonds across the fat surface of the ham, about 75% of the way into the fat. Avoid cutting into the meat.
- Insert a clove in the intersection of the cross of each diamond on the surface (optional).
Glaze and Baking
- Place the ham in a large baking dish. Prop handle up on edge of pan + scrunched up foil so surface of the ham is level (more even browning).
- Brush / spoon half the glaze all over the surface and cut face of the ham (don't worry about underside, glaze drips down into pan)
- Pour the water in the baking dish, then place in the oven.
- Bake for 2 hrs, basting very generously every 30 minutes with remainig glaze + juices in pan, or until sticky and golden.
- Use foil patches to protect bits that brown faster than others - press on lightly, caramelisation won't peel off with the foil.
- Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. Baste, baste, baste before serving - as the glaze in the pan cools, it thickens which means it "paints" the ham even better - but be sure to save pan juices for drizzling.
Serving and presentation tips
- Sauce: Use pan juices as the sauce - it's loaded with flavour. Drizzle sparingly as the glaze flavour is intense! Note juices need to be warm for drizzling, it thickens when cooled. Thin slightly with water if required.
- Presentation: Wrap handle with baking paper and ribbon if desired. Remove cloves, if you used them. Cover serving platter with lots of green fluffage, then place ham on. Surround with quartered oranges or other fruit, for colour. Let people admire before carving!
- Serving: Personal preference whether to serve at room temp or warm, I like either. I also like to drizzle with pan juices - it looks messier but tastes fabulous. Slice thinly! I start slicing at the table, then finish it in the kitchen (towards end when it gets messy!)
- Leftovers: See list in post for recipe using leftover ham and ham bone!
- Skin (rind) on ham - Make sure you get the ham with the skin on (rind - thick rubbery skin). Between the skin and the ham is a layer of fat which is what makes this ham gorgeously sticky. There are some hams which come with the skin and fat removed. Though you can use this recipe for those hams too, you won't get the sticky exterior you see in the photo.
- Half or whole - this recipe can be used for half or whole hams.
- Larger hams - For larger hams, scale the glaze by using the recipe slider (click on the Servings)
- Ham quality - Buy the best ham you can afford. The more you pay, the better the quality. However, for an economical option, I can recommend the Woolworths Smoked Ham Leg for $9/kg (I used a half leg). I was very impressed with how great it was for such good value - I've used it for several years now. There is an even cheaper one for $6/kg - I bypassed this because it wasn't smoked and looked a bit pale.
- Cooked ham - Make sure you get a cooked ready-to-eat ham, not a raw one (also referred to as "gammon"). All ham sold in Australia in supermarkets is ready-to-eat but if you get your ham from the butcher, double check that it's not raw. If you have a raw ham (gammon), this recipe is not suitable.
- With other main dishes - 6 to 8 people per 1 kg / 2 lb ham (bone in weight). So a 5 kg / 10 lb ham = 30 - 40 people, about 100 - 130g / 3.4 - 4 oz per person.
- As the only main protein - 5 people per 1 kg / 2 lb ham (bone in weight). So a 5 kg / 10lb ham would serve 25 people, about 150g/5oz meat per person..
Life of Dozer
He has quite a Christmas wardrobe!!