Preparing Your Ham for the Oven
Before we delve into the actual baking, the first thing we need to do is prepare our ham. Preparing the ham is a critical step that can make or break the final result. Firstly, you need to choose the right kind of ham. I prefer bone-in ham because it tends to be more flavorful and moist. Once you have your ham, you need to score it. Scoring the ham allows the glaze to penetrate deeper into the meat, enhancing its flavor. To score your ham, use a sharp knife to make diagonal cuts along the surface of the ham, forming a diamond pattern. Be careful not to cut too deep - about a quarter of an inch will do.
Selecting the Perfect Glaze
Next, we're going to prepare the glaze. The glaze is what gives the ham its sweet, tangy and savory flavor. There are numerous glaze recipes out there, but my favorite is a simple brown sugar and mustard glaze. To prepare the glaze, you'll need about a cup of brown sugar, a quarter cup of mustard, and a couple tablespoons of honey. Mix these ingredients together until you have a thick paste. You can adjust the quantities to suit your taste preference. If you like your ham sweeter, add more honey. If you prefer it more savory, add more mustard.
Applying the Glaze and Baking the Ham
Now that we have our glaze ready, it's time to apply it to the ham. Using a basting brush, generously apply the glaze all over the ham, making sure to get it into the scored cuts. Once your ham is fully glazed, place it in a roasting pan and cover it with foil. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the ham for about 15 minutes per pound. For example, if your ham weighs 10 pounds, you'll need to bake it for about 150 minutes.
Checking the Ham for Doneness
One of the most common mistakes people make when baking ham is overcooking it. Overcooked ham can be dry and tough, so it's important to check it for doneness. The best way to do this is by using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the ham, making sure not to touch the bone. The ham is done when the thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it reaches this temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the ham, making it more flavorful and moist.
Serving the Baked Ham
Now that our ham is baked and rested, it's time to serve it. Use a sharp knife to slice the ham, following the natural lines of the ham. If you baked a bone-in ham, don't throw away the bone! It can be used to make a delicious ham broth or soup. Serve the ham with your favorite sides - I love it with mashed potatoes and green beans. The leftovers, if there are any, can be used to make sandwiches, salads, or added to soups and stews. Enjoy your homemade baked ham!