Ham; Not Just For The Holidays



Serving size

            Bone in hams whole or half 1lb per person

            Boneless hams whole or portion ½ – ¾ pound per person

Cooking times and or Heating times

            Bone in hams 15-20 minutes per pound, covered until last 30-40 minutes to brown

            Boneless hams 12-15 minutes per pound*, covered until last 15-20 minutes to brown.

            *Most small boneless hams are very lean and will dry out if left uncovered too long while cooking.



When I was growing up the only time my mother would cook a ham was on holidays.  With the variety of flavors and sizes available today that is no longer necessary.  Many butchers have their favorite ham and so do I.  The first ham that I had experience in selling when I started at a little butcher shop in Rhode Island was Triple M’s Budaball Skinless Shankless ham.  It was a great eating ham but it had one problem back them.  Its’ average size was close to 20 pounds.  That was just too much meat at a regular meal unless my mom wanted to invite the neighborhood.  Today you can purchase the same ham in that size but you can buy it in sizes down to two to three pounds of solid meat with no waste.  This is just as true for many brands of hams on the market today.  This new size makes it great for a small family or even an individual that doesn’t mind a little left over.

            Hams are processed from the hind leg of pork, which is where the largest leanest muscles are located.  During the curing process the pork can be either wet cured or dry cured.  Most commercially wet cured hams are also injected with brine and flavoring to guarantee consistency in flavor.  This method also adds weight to the ham.  Hams that are over 10% water added must be labeled with the percentage of water added.  The second method of dry curing takes much longer and actually lowers the weight of the final product being sold.  This method is much more rare in most supermarkets as it is sold as a specialty item rather than an everyday meal.  If you are looking for something close and available on a regular basis I would recommend a ham that has less than 10% added water.  These ham still maintain their meaty texture and are not as mushy as some of the hams with more liquid added.

            Most of todays hams are fully cooked and only require being heated to temperature in the center to be ready to serve.  Don’t confuse this with a great savings of cooking time when you are cooking a large ham though.  It still can take 15+ minutes per pound to heat through a large ham lets say 16-20 pounds.  There is a savings in time for the smaller everyday hams in the 3-6 pound range.  Because they are full cooked your cooking time in a 350 degree oven can be 12-15 minutes per pound.  Don’t confuse a ham with a smoked shoulder that is cut from the front leg of pork and is rarely if ever fully cooked.  Where most hams are baked in the oven to heat them through, smoked shoulder are usually boiled and take a good portion of the day to simmer slowly before they are ready.

            When purchasing a bone in ham most customers are buying ham portions.  This is either the shank portion or the butt portion.  The difference between the two ends of the ham are yield vs. quality.  The shank portion usually has a better yield of meat per pound depending on the size of the shank that is left on the ham.  The shank is the long end piece that is left on this side of the ham and is visible when purchasing the ham.  Too long of a shank usually is an indication of a processor that is trying to maximize the weight of the ham and has less concern about quality.  This might show up in the flavor and quality of the ham.  The butt portion off ham has an extra bone that is not removed from most hams lowering the yield of meat per pound but this side of the ham has a better quality of tenderness than the shank portion.  Flavor should be consistent from one portion to the other.