With the beginnings of autumn upon us, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to serve over the holidays. If you have your heart set on whipping up a deliciously glazed oven-roasted ham this holiday season, you wouldn’t be the only one. However, many at-home chefs have been scorned by an overcooked ham’s dry, crumbly, chalky insides. To prep your pig just right, let’s look at how to keep your ham from drying out.
Know Your Ham
Most people tend to buy spiral ham because it’s pre-sliced and, therefore, much easier to carve. There’s nothing wrong with buying a spiral ham, and it can be just as delicious as a fresh cut from the butcher. However, the problem many home chefs run into is that they treat the ham like it’s raw, even though most spiral hams come precooked. You’re not really cooking the ham at all; you’re just reheating it. Keeping this in mind is the first step to not overcooking your ham and keeping it moist.
Cover it in Foil
To cook ham, your first step should be to cover it in tinfoil and place it in a roasting pan. The foil traps steam and keeps the meat moist. You don’t have to wrap the aluminum foil tightly around the ham because you’ll want to be able to check on it later. Instead, simply cover the ham with the foil, tucking it under the lip of the roasting pan. If you want to make cleanup easier and don’t want to worry about all those drippings, line the pan with tinfoil as well.
Put Liquid in Your Pan
The best way to keep your ham from drying out is to utilize the drippings that come in the package. Pour the juice from the package onto the ham. If there isn’t a lot of juice in your package, you may want to add your own liquid. You don’t want to make a ham soup, so put just enough to coat the ham and cover the bottom of the pan. You can use water, but if you want to add more flavor, you should use wine or beef, chicken, or vegetable stock. Most of this liquid will cook off, but your tinfoil cover will help your meat absorb those juices.
Use a Meat Thermometer
Ham is technically lean meat, and the best way to cook lean meat without drying it out is to avoid overcooking it. Your spiral ham packaging should come with instructions for how to cook your ham, and you’ll want to follow those instructions closely. Every ham weighs a little differently and, therefore, will have a different cooking time. Your instructions will detail the exact time and temperature you need for your specific ham.
The problem here is that some ovens run hotter than others, so you may overcook your ham even if you follow the instructions perfectly. However, you can avoid this. Your instructions should list the ideal internal temperature of the ham, which you can consistently track with a meat thermometer. The hotter your oven runs, the more often you’ll want to check it. This way, you can ensure your ham’s center doesn’t overheat and become dry.