How to Cook a Ham: Ultimate Guide

The Ultimate Guide to HamThe Ultimate Guide to Ham
A delicious ham can be the centerpiece of any special meal. Ham is pork, that comes from the hind leg of a pig. Depending on the type of ham you choose, the taste and texture can be drastically different. Find the right ham for you and learn how to safely prepare this delicious protein.

Types of Ham

Types of Ham found at Burgers' Smokehouse

  • Naturally Smoked Hams – our most popular Hickory Smoked “City” Ham is a hickory-smoked ham that is cured in a sweet brine solution before it is cooked and smoked. This cooked ham is available spiral-sliced, bone-in, semi-boneless, or cut into ham steaks or pieces. We also offer an Applewood Smoked Carver Ham. Prepared the same way, but smoked over real Applewood chips and is available boneless.

  • Country ham is a dry-cured ham, aged for over 90 days, that is first dry rubbed & cured. This ham is lightly hickory smoked but acquires most of its flavor during the aging process. It is drier and has a bolder flavor than the brined & smoked hams.

  • E.M.Burger Private Stash Attic Aged Hams are dry-rubbed & cured with a simple ingredient list, but its real secret ingredient is time. It is aged for over 210 days or “through the seasons” to reach its prime eating flavor profile.  No smoke or brine is added.

How Ham is Made

To make a cured ham, we first start with a fresh, raw pork leg (the ham portion).  Depending on the type of ham you are planning to make, you will choose the appropriate process and begin preserving your fresh ham into a cured ham.

To preserve the ham, it can be cured through a process of dry or wet curing, with or without smoking, and with or without cooking during the process.

Dry Curing          

Within the dry curing method, you can simply dry cure your ham and achieve preservation.  Or you can go the extra step and dry cure your ham with the goal of country curing your ham.The reason we make the distinction is that to call your ham a country cured ham it must meet specific requirements determined by the USDA.

Burgers’ Smokehouse Country Cured Hams are a dry-cured ham using a mixture of simple ingredients, with the intent of calling these hams country cured hams.  Our process requires hand rubbing the dry cure mixture on the fresh hams, prior to wrapping them and hanging them through the seasons (winter, spring & summer).  At Burgers' Smokehouse, we age our traditional country hams over 90 days and often times longer.

If planning to dry cure, but not label as a country ham, your cure recipe will still start with salt as the primary ingredient, but include other ingredients, such as, herbs, and spices.  Just like the country cure ham process, there are many quality checkpoints to achieve the desired end quality & flavor goals.


Wet/Moist Curing

Wet curing or brine curing ham is the most common method for preserving and making ham as most people know it today.  Depending on the process, it can be added to the ham via injection or hams can be allowed to age in the brine and take on the flavors over time before they are smoked or cooked.

Burgers’ Smokehouse Hickory Smoked “City” hams and Applewood Smoked hams are wet cured in brine, but we take our time.  We place the hams in our sweet brine cure, which means it is submerged and left to cure in the brine for several days, before being slowly smoked and cooked over natural wood chips.  Our hams take about a week to make!


Smoking a Ham

The hams are placed on racks in a smokehouse to be preserved and cured by the smoke from real wood chips and left raw (only for country cured hams) OR the hams stay in the smoker longer to be cooked to perfection.  At Burgers’ Smokehouse, we do not use any liquid smoke in our process – only real wood and slow smoking techniques.


Cooking Tips for Ham

Before heating, make sure your ham is fully thawed (if frozen) and allow 2-3 days for this process to happen in refrigeration.  Remember, heating your fully cooked ham is not required.  It is safe to eat from the refrigerator.



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place your ham in a roasting pan, cut side down, and cover with foil.
  3. Heat the ham for approximately 10 minutes per pound.
  4. When the ham is warmed to your preference, remove it from the oven.  Do not overheat.
  5. Allow ham to rest covered for approximately 15 minutes and glaze if desired.  If you'd like your glaze to crust onto the ham, turn your oven to a low broil and place back in the oven with a glaze applied for about 5 minutes.

Oven – Alternative Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place ham in a baking bag (cut side down) and add 1-2 Tablespoons flour.
  3. Close the bag & secure the tie to close it.
  4. Make 2-3 slits in the top of the bag to let the steam escape.
  5. Place ham in the bag, cut face down, into roasting pan.
  6. Heat in the oven for approximately 10 minutes per pound.
  7. Use your meat thermometer through a slit in the bag if you'd like to know the exact temperature.  Heat to your desired warmth & remove ham from the oven.  Do not overheat.
  8. Let rest, in the bag, for approximately 15 minutes, covered in foil, and glaze if desired. See note about glazing above.


It is difficult to grill a whole ham, but ham slices can be grilled easily.

  1. Heat grill to medium heat (coals are turning white.)
  2. Slice the ham and place the slices on the grill for 2 minutes – each side.
  3. Remove the slices from the grill and serve as desired.

Slow Cooker

  1. Make sure your ham can fit in the slow cooker.
  2. Place the ham in the slow cooker.
  3. Add one cup of water or chicken broth.
  4. Cover the ham with the slow cooker lid and cook it on low for 5-8 hours, until the meat thermometer registers 140°F.
  5. Place the ham in a broiler pan and cover it with glaze.
  6. Broil the ham 10 inches from the heat for 10-15 minutes.

Ready to Eat

  1. If your ham is labeled fully cooked, you can eat the ham directly from the fridge or not heat it all.  
  2. We recommend eating many of our hams at room temperature to enjoy the full flavor.
  3. Please note all food safety tips - when it comes to how long a ham can stay out of the fridge before being re-re-refrigerated.  We recommend no longer than 2 hours before re-cooling.

How to Cook a Country Ham

Preparing the country ham for cooking involves cleaning the ham and much more!



Uses for Leftover Ham

  • Sprinkle ham on a baked potato
  • Add your ham to a quiche
  • Crumble ham on your favorite soup
  • Add it to your scrambled eggs or omelet
  • Top pizza with ham and pineapple
  • Add ham to your carbonara in place of bacon
  • Place ham in your favorite sandwich
  • Add ham to your scalloped potatoes
  • Top your macaroni and cheese with ham

Did You Know? 7 Interesting Ham Facts


  1. Frozen ham imported to Australia is not allowed to have bones in it.
  2. Hams that are smoked lose about 25% of their weight during the smoking process.
  3. The people of Gaul—Western Europe during the Iron Age—were the first people to salt, smoke, and cure pig.
  4. Virginia Baked Ham was given that name to insult the residents of Virginia due to a Civil War surrender agreement.
  5. On the Apollo 13 mission, the crew created a CO2 filter with duct tape and ham.
  6. April 15th is National Ham Day in the United States.
  7. Trigg Country, Kentucky has hosted a Country Ham Festival every October since 1977.




Can I freeze ham?

Yes, you can freeze ham for up to three months before cooking.

How do I thaw a ham?

This depends on the size of the ham. Generally, 48-36 hours in the refrigerator will thaw the ham. Do not defrost your ham on the countertop because this can cause bacteria to grow.

What is the difference between boneless and bone-in hams?

Not only do these hams differ in whether they have a bone or not, but they also differ in texture and flavor. It is really personal preference to decide which a person likes better.

How do I cut a spiral-sliced ham?

Place your ham on the cutting board with the glaze side up. Slice a thin-bladed knife around the center bone release the slices. Cut starting at the center bone and cut towards the outer surface of the ham to free the slices.