What Are the Best Tips to Buy a Ham?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 22 February 2020
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With all of the options available in grocery stores, meat markets, and online, buying a ham can often be more confusing than purchasing any other meat. Some of the best tips for doing so include determining how much you need based on the amount of people you will be serving, and reading the label carefully to determine the water content, and thus the quality, of the ham. Even if you do not plan to use the bone, opting for a bone-in ham can give you the best flavor, and choosing an unglazed product will give you control over the flavor of the finished dish.

No matter what type of ham you eventually buy, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough for everyone to enjoy it. When it comes to bone-in varieties, which typically have the best flavor, you’ll want to plan on about 2 pounds (about 907 grams) per person, as the bone is counted in the weight of the product, thus reducing the amount of actual meat. If you are going to buy a ham that is boneless, half a pound to 1 pound (about 226 to 453 grams) per person is usually more than adequate, and will typically result in leftovers, which can be used in endless other recipes.


One of the best tips when you buy a ham that is cured is to choose the product with the least amount of water that you can still afford. This information is on the packaging, and is one of the best indicators of the quality level of the meat. Ideally, if you have the money, buy a ham without additional water or one that includes the natural juices, as these two types will typically have unsurpassed flavor and texture.

Higher-quality hams tend to come in two main forms: bone-in and boneless. While many people opt for the latter, as they do not intend to use the bone, one of the best tips when you buy a ham is to choose the bone-in variety, especially when purchasing a cured ham. It is usually less processed, as it is not necessary to reform the meat as it is when the bone is removed before packaging, and the bone itself will add a lot of flavor to the finished dish. You can also use the bone later on to add flavor to other dishes, such as a bean soup.

Although hams that come pre-glazed can be a great time-saver, and, depending on the manufacturer, may have outstanding flavor, it is usually best to choose an unglazed variety when you buy a ham. Unless you are purchasing a very-high end product, most glazes that come with standard cured pork are high in sodium and sugar, and can have an unnatural taste. Glazes are incredibly easy to make at home, often with items that you already have on hand, and can make a standard ham taste incredible.


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