How To Cook A Juicy And Tender Ham

Few things are as satisfying as sitting down to a delicious meal with friends and family, especially when the centerpiece is a succulent ham cooked to perfection.

A juicy and tender ham can be the star of any meal, whether it’s a holiday feast or a weekend gathering. But how do you achieve that ideal texture and flavor?

Cooking ham can be a daunting task, but with the right technique and a few helpful tips, you can create a mouth-watering ham that will leave everyone wanting more.

In this guide, we will walk you through the steps on how to cook a juicy and tender ham that will be the highlight of any meal.

Let’s begin!


How To Cook A Juicy And Tender Ham

Choose the Right Ham 

The first step to cooking a juicy and tender ham is choosing the right cut of meat. There are several types of ham available, including bone-in, boneless, smoked, and cured. Bone-in hams tend to be more flavorful and moist than boneless hams because the bone helps to keep the meat moist during cooking. 

Smoked and cured hams are also great choices, as the smoking and curing process adds flavor and helps to tenderize the meat. When selecting a ham, look for one that is pink in color and has a good amount of fat marbling throughout the meat.

Prepare the Ham 

  • If the ham is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator. If you purchased a frozen ham, thaw it according to the package instructions before cooking.
  • Use a knife to create shallow cuts (about 1/4 inch deep) in a crisscross pattern on the surface of the ham. This adds visual appeal and allows the glaze to penetrate and flavor the meat.
  • While optional, a flavorful glaze can take your ham to the next level. Common glaze ingredients include brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and cloves. Brush the glaze evenly over the ham before roasting.
  • Before cooking the ham, it’s important to prepare it properly. If the ham is bone-in, remove any skin and trim off any excess fat. If the ham is boneless, you can skip this step. Allow the ham to come to room temperature before cooking. This will help it cook more evenly.
  • Brining the ham before cooking can help to add flavor and moisture to the meat. To brine a ham, mix water, salt, sugar, and any desired seasonings in a large container. Submerge the ham in the brine and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours. Rinse the ham well before cooking to remove any excess salt.

Choose Your Cooking Method 

There are several ways to cook ham. You might decide to try baking, roasting, or slow cooking. Choose the one that works best for you.


Baking ham is a popular method that is easy and produces a delicious result. To do this;

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place the ham in a roasting pan and add a little water to the bottom of the pan. 

Cover the ham with foil and bake for about 15-18 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F. 

Remove the foil during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking to allow the glaze to caramelize.


Roasting ham is similar to baking but requires a higher temperature and less moisture. To do this;

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place the ham in a roasting pan and roast for 22-25 minutes or until the outside is golden brown. 

 If your whole ham weighs between 10 to 14 pounds. Leave the oven temperature at 325°F and continue to roast for about 18-20 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F.

Slow Cooking: 

Slow-cooking ham is a great option. if you want to set it and forget it. Simply place the ham in a slow cooker and add a little water or broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F.

Cooking the Ham:

Add Flavor 

Adding a glaze or seasoning to your ham can help to enhance the flavor and make it more tender. There are many different glaze recipes available, but a simple brown sugar and mustard glaze is a classic choice. To make the glaze, mix brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and a little apple cider vinegar. Brush the glaze over the ham during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking.

Add Aromatics to the Pan 

Adding aromatics to the pan can help to infuse the ham with additional flavor. Try placing sliced onions, garlic, or herbs such as rosemary or thyme in the bottom of the roasting pan before adding the ham. The aromatics will help to create a flavorful base for the pan juices.

Baste the Ham 

Basting the ham throughout the cooking process can help to keep it moist and flavorful. Use a basting brush or spoon to drizzle the pan juices over the ham every 20-30 minutes during cooking. This will also help the glaze to adhere to the meat.

Use a Meat Thermometer 

Using a meat thermometer is essential to ensuring that the ham is cooked to the proper internal temperature. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the ham, being careful not to touch the bone.

The internal temperature should reach 140°F for a fully cooked ham. If the ham is not fully cooked, continue to cook it until the desired temperature is reached.

Don’t Overcook the Ham 

Overcooking the ham can cause it to become dry and tough. Once the internal temperature reaches 140°F, remove the ham from the oven or slow cooker and allow it to rest before carving. If you’re unsure whether the ham is done, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Remember that the temperature will continue to rise as the ham rests.

Use a Covered Roasting Pan 

Using a covered roasting pan can help to trap moisture and heat, which can help to keep the ham moist and tender. If you’re baking or roasting the ham, cover it with foil or a lid for the first part of the cooking time. Remove the cover during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking to allow the glaze to caramelize.

Rest and Serve 

Once the ham is cooked, it’s important to let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making it more tender and juicy.

When carving the ham, start at the bone and make thin slices against the grain. Serve with your favorite sides, such as roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, or mac and cheese.


Cooking ham can be a bit intimidating, especially if you want to make sure that it comes out juicy and tender. However, with these few tips and techniques listed above, you can achieve a delicious and perfectly cooked ham that will impress your guests. A delicious and perfectly cooked ham is sure to be a hit at your next meal.