Making the perfect Christmas ham is a yearly challenge that’s not for the faint of heart. It’s so difficult to cook perfectly AND ensure a tasty flavor—forget about trying to whip up a unique glaze. Luckily, Claudia Sidoti, the head chef at HelloFresh, shared a few tips that will have your guests talking about this Christmas dish until next December—for all the right reasons.
Butcher vs. Store-Bought
If your holiday tradition is to rush to the grocery store at the last minute—think again. Sidoti explains that this is one of the main places where people mess up.
“Visit your local butcher to reserve a good-quality bone-in ham instead of buying from the supermarket,” said Sidoti. “Bone-in will give you a sense of where to take the ham’s temperature to determine when it’s done.”
Sidoti explained that bone-in hams are also great because you can use the bone to add flavor to soup or beans after it’s been cut. The next choice you have to make is an important one: uncured or smoked.
“Typically, you will find a smoked ham unless you are specific about it being a fresh uncured ham,” says Sidoti. “Mildly smoked-slash-cured ham is also where that distinct ham flavor comes from.”
Related Reading: The Best Meat Delivery Options
Make Your Own Glaze (And Apply It at the Right Time)
On to the glaze! This is the place where you have the most room to play with flavors. You can go the traditional sweet route, or surprise your guests with a little spice!
“Something as simple as brown sugar, mustard and black pepper can take your ham to the next level,” says Sidoti. “Other great ways to jazz up the flavor is by adding a little fruit flavor; try stirring in some orange, peach, or apricot jam. If you prefer a little kick, red pepper jelly will add a little heat!”
Related Reading: Great Glazes for Holiday Meats
Oh, and the most important part about the glaze? Knowing when to use it. Sidoti recommends applying it 20-30 minutes before taking the ham out of the oven to avoid burning the dish. Even after you’ve applied the glaze, make sure to check in on the ham and top it with an aluminum foil tent if it looks like it’s about to burn.
Tips for Cooking Your Ham
While you can find exact details about how to cook your ham, step by step, in our Honey-Mustard Glazed Ham recipe, Sidoti has a few additions that will really make a difference. “Cook the ham with at least ½ cup of water, stock, or even some wine in the pan and cover it with foil so the ham won’t dry out,” says Sidoti. “The foil will come off once you apply the glaze.”
Sidoti also advises that it’s best to heat up the ham at a slow, even temperature of around 300 degrees. Before you apply the glaze, turn the oven up to around 450 degrees to ensure that it caramelizes. “Get the ham to an internal temperature of 145 degrees [max] or it’ll dry out,” says Sidoti. “Stick a thermometer into the ham near the bone to get an accurate reading.”
Thermapen Mk4, $99 at ThermoWorks
Beloved by chefs and home cooks alike.
Let It Rest
You can take the ham out of the oven when it reaches 135-140 degrees as it will continue heating up once it’s been removed. After it’s out, make sure to let it sit for at least 20 minutes to ensure a juicy, perfect Christmas dinner centerpiece.
Related Video: How to Make Our Honey-Mustard Glazed Ham
Header image by Chowhound.