Our how to cook and prepare gammon and ham guide is one of the most popular on the site, and our users don’t just read it at Christmas – it seems people need a helping hand when it comes to ham year-round.
For Christmas, we’ve created a video on how to roast and glaze ham, plus we caught up with Tom Kerridge to get his expert advice on how to take your ham to the next level. Read it and feel your tummy rumble in approval.
Tom Kerridge’s 10 top tips for cooking ham
1. Go easy when simmering
‘If you’re starting off by cooking your ham in water, make sure you’re poaching it and not boiling it. If you’re boiling it, the ham becomes quite tough and tight, so you want it on a gentle simmer, really around 85 degrees – no hotter than that. You want slow cooking as that helps to keep it moist.’
2. Use the cooking liquor
‘Once the ham is cooked, keep the stock. Ham stock is invaluable for all sorts. It’s beautiful for making soups, it’s fantastic for putting through casseroles or for braising, and it’s actually good for just cooking vegetables – when you cook sprouts in ham stock instead of boiling water, they’re phenomenal. Just make sure it’s not too salty or overwhelmingly smoky in flavour.’
3. Cook low and slow
‘If you’re not poaching the ham and are going to roast it from raw, do it low and slow, as if you’re cooking a shoulder of lamb or leg of pork. Cover it with foil, which acts as a steamer rather than just straight roasting and drying out. You can even put a splash of water in the bottom of the tray which works equally well.’
4. Try a dry rub to add extra flavour
‘Glazes are very important, but I also like to use a dry rub on the ham, which is a way to get another flavour profile in there. You could use some ground Christmassy spices like cinnamon, cloves or star anise; I also like to roast and blitz fresh ginger to a fine, dry powder to rub into ham. Or, you could use smoked paprika, cumin or coriander, or perhaps different kinds of pepper, like Sichuan, cracked black and white, which gives another layer of flavour.’
5. When it comes to glaze, simplicity is key
‘You can do all sorts of different things – some people use cola, others use a mixture of golden syrup and stock. For me, the simplest one is to use runny honey. If you squirt it all over the top of the ham then roast it, all the juices come out and the honey cooks, reduces and caramelises.’
6. Baste regularly
‘Remember to keep basting your ham every 10-15 minutes as your glaze is slowly reducing. There’s a risk of burning with all glazes as they’re high in sugar.’
7. Use bone-in ham
‘In terms of cut, I use leg of ham on the bone, which is especially preferable when slow cooking as it helps maintain shape and moisture. If you can’t get hold of that, rolled and boneless joints are fine, just keep an eye on the cooking process and ensure it’s not too harsh, as it will dry out like a piece of pork.’
8. Use ham hocks if cooking for a smaller number
‘If you don’t want to cook a whole leg, try a couple of ham hocks – they work equally well and taste delicious.’
9. Don’t bother studding the ham
‘Studding makes a ham look absolutely beautiful but nobody wants to eat a whole clove. I prefer a dry rub so you can just slice and eat it without having to worry about removing whole spices. Cloves in general are very powerful so be careful when cooking with them.’
10. Buy high quality ham
‘My preference for ham is smoked over unsmoked, but in terms of the type of ham, buy the best quality you can afford and go for a British one if you can find it.’
10 ideas for glazes
Tom’s own ham recipe uses his tried-and-tested dry rub and glaze double act. He rubs the ham in sugar and mace before adding the honey.
The high sugar content of ginger beer means it reduces down to a thick, sticky glaze. Tangerine adds a festive tang.
The trick to this recipe is not only in the sweet glaze – the ham is first boiled in cinnamon-infused cola for an extra layer of flavour.
James Martin’s oven-only ham should only be glazed for the last 30 minutes of cooking. Remember to use Tom’s tip, basting the joint regularly.
If you don’t have a liquid sweetening agent, good old-fashioned sugar granules will do the trick. This recipe uses soft brown sugar.
This fruity ham is bathed in ginger beer before being glazed with sticky apricot jam.
Zingy marmalade is a good cheat’s option, as it’s sweet and flavoursome all at once. If, like Tom, you’re not a fan of studded whole cloves, leave them out.
Here, Richard Corrigan demonstrates the beauty of adding hot mustard to a sweet glaze. Talk about a perfect partnership.
Membrillo is a thick, set quince paste from Spain. Here, it’s combined with allspice, cinnamon, sherry vinegar and orange juice to make a sensational glaze.
One for the more adventurous cook, this glaze contains stem ginger and kumquats, which have a suitably festive, clementine-like appeal.
Ham recipes and tips
How do you serve your ham? Do you have any tips to add to Tom’s list? Leave a comment below…