How to Perfectly Cook a Fresh Ham for the Holidays
Cooking a raw, fresh ham requires a bit more time and effort, but the flavor reward is so worth it. Here's how to pull it off at home.
A classic baked ham never goes out of style. This old school cut of pork packs unbelievable flavor with relatively little seasonings—and it pairs so well with a multitude of holiday sides.
The typical holiday ham is fully cooked, cured, smoked, and often pre-sliced when you purchase it at your local grocery store. These prepared hams are holiday favorites because they are delicious and so easy to prepare.
However, pre-cooked hams often pack loads of sodium. Even reduced-sodium ham is just too high in sodium for us to use as a main dish. That's why we at Cooking Light prefer fresh hams.
Plus, we also just love fresh ham; it's a great cut to cook, so rich with a very deep porky flavor. If you opt for a raw ham, too, you'll have to put in a little more work when time comes to cook it.
You can season and roast the ham much like how you would prepare a turkey. Unlike with a cured and smoked ham, you have to cook a raw ham from scratch up to a food-safe temperature (again, like a turkey). Also, you can go through the process of curing the ham yourself with a salt mixture, but it is not necessary.
For raw, fresh ham, the USDA advises cooking to an internal temperature of 145°F. The higher the ham cooks above 145°F, the drier the flavor and texture.
Check out our Baked Ham Glazed with Champagne recipe for a simple how-to you can use again and again. It's delicious and worthy of a special occasion. A ham feeds a crowd, so you’re likely to have leftovers. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious uses for leftover ham—toss it into fried rice, mix it into waffle batter, or pile it over pizza.