How to cook a ham
- 1.5kg bacon or gammon joint
- 1 onion, cut into wedges
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 black peppercorns
- 3tbsp runny honey
- 1tbsp Dijon mustard
Learn how to cook ham with our step-by-step guide to cooking the perfect gammon. Whether for Christmas dinner or Sunday lunch, our recipe makes it easy. Home cooked ham is so much cheaper than buying it sliced and ready cooked and tastier too. It makes a perfect centre piece for a Christmas or buffet party table and leftovers have no end of uses in sandwiches, pies, pasta bakes and soups, to name just a few.
Gammon is the premium joint from the hind leg of a pig, whereas bacon joints are slightly cheaper and come from the front legs or shoulder. Available smoked or unsmoked, choose whichever flavour you prefer. Larger gammon joints sometimes have the bone in but if buying from a butcher you can ask them to remove the bone for easier carving, smaller bacon joints are usually boned, rolled and tied into a neat shape.
To unsure the ham stays moist, it’s best to boil it for most of the cooking time and then glaze and bake in the oven for the final 30 mins to give it an attractive finish and added flavour.
Gammon and bacon are pork cuts that have been salt cured. Sometimes it is necessary to soak the meat for a few hours before boiling to remove excess salt, however these days most supermarket gammon and bacon is mildly cured so doesn’t need soaking but if buying from a butcher just ask if it needs to soaked. If you’re not sure how salty the meat will be, place the meat in a pan of cold water to cover, bring to the boil, throw away the water and replace with fresh water for cooking. Now you know everything you need to, follow our easy step-by-step guide for how to cook a ham.
Step 1Place the gammon or bacon joint in a large pan. Cover with cold water and add the onion, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 mins per 500g (1.5kg will need to simmer for 1 hour).
Step 2Remove the ham from the pan, cool slightly then cut off the rind leaving a thin layer of fat covering the ham.
Step 3Score the across the fat diagonally in opposite directions to make a diamond pattern.
Step 4Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/170°C (fan oven)/Gas Mark 5. Place the ham in a baking tin. Mix together the honey and mustard and liberally brush the mixture over the fat. Cover the ends of the ham with foil to prevent them drying out and bake for 30 mins until the fat is golden.
Step 5Remove from the oven and serve hot or cold.
Sweet Chilli Glazed HamReplace the honey and mustard glaze with 3tbsp marmalade (warmed slightly) mixed with 1tbsp sweet chilli sauce.
Mulled Cranberry and Orange Christmas Ham
Place 50g dried cranberries in a small pan with 6tbsp port or orange juice and 1 mulled wine spice sachet. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and leave to stand for 10 mins. Remove the spice sachet and stir in 3tbsp redcurrant jelly. Warm until melted. Score the fat as above and bake, unglazed for 15 mins. Arrange I sliced orange over the ham and spoon over the cranberry mixture, return to the oven and cook for a further 15 mins until golden.
Ham in Cider
Simmer the gammon or bacon in 1ltr dry cider instead of water in Step 1, topping up with a little water if necessary to just cover. Spread the scored fat with 1tbsp wholegrain mustard and sprinkle over 2tbsp Demerara sugar before baking.
Sticky Ginger and Apricot Glazed Ham
Warm 3tbsp apricot jam in a pan with 1tbsp dry sherry, 2 pieces finely chopped preserved ginger and 2tbsp ginger syrup from the jar. Brush over the scored ham fat, reserving about 1tbsp of the mixture. Bake for 15mins then arrange 8-10 no-need-to-soak dried apricots over the ham, brush with the reserved jam mixture and bake for a further 15 mins until golden.