Cooking a ham is a straight-forward process which requires little prep work and few culinary skills. Best tips for working with a ham include maintaining proper oven temperature and cooking time and applying a flavorful glaze near the end of the cooking process. Ham is easily over-cooked and tends to be salty, so care should be taken to ensure proper cooking times and appropriate seasoning.
Hams should be cooked fat-side up in an uncovered roasting pan. One tip is to remove all but a thin layer of fat, about 1/4-inch (6.4 mm) thick. A knife can be used to score a shallow, diamond-shaped pattern on the ham's surface. Spicing the ham can be achieved by poking rows of whole cloves onto the ham's surface. When cooking a ham, it's best to turn it over at the half-way point in order to evenly distribute juices and salt throughout the meat.
It is usually best to keep the oven at a low temperature when cooking a ham and bake it for a longer period of time in order to avoid drying it out. Preheating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 degrees Celsius) will ensure a crisp surface on the ham. For hams which are not pre-cooked, cooks should allow approximately 20 minutes of cooking time per pound or kilogram. Undercooked pork may contain a parasitic disease called trichinosis, therefore the United States Department of Agriculture recommends cooking the ham until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71 degrees Celsius) in order to kill dangerous bacteria.
During the last hour of cooking a ham, a glaze coating can be applied to add flavor. A glaze is often a better choice than basting the ham in its own drippings, as they are likely too salty to use. Glazes are a thick, spreadable mixture applied to the ham to help keep it moist and tender and to enhance its flavor. Common glazes are made from a variety of ingredients such as honey, fruit, brown sugar and mustard. After cooking a ham, it's best to let it stand for 15 minutes before slicing.
In addition to baking, cooking a ham can also be accomplished by boiling, broiling, grilling and frying. Boiling a ham is a healthy option because it does not require the addition of any fat. Grilling is best for thinner and smaller pieces of ham because the outside can easily become over-cooked while bringing the internal temperature up to the correct point. Frying and broiling are also best for thin slices of ham as the outsides will be crisp and insides will be moist, if cooked properly.