A pig leg, better known as pork leg or ham, is one of the most flavorful cuts of meat. Whether you're looking for a delectable Sunday roast or the perfect holiday fare, you can't go wrong with this cut of pork. The large slab of meat may seem a bit intimidating, but it is not any more difficult to cook than any other roast. As long as you use the right technique and handle it with care, your ham will turn out to be a succulent meal.
A pig's rear leg is divided into two sections: The upper portion is the butt and the lower portion is the shank. The shank is preferable for roasts because it has less connective tissue and slices more easily. Many companies put out partially cooked or fully cooked hams, which can be delicious and reduce your cooking and preparation time drastically. Spiral hams are pre-cooked, then carved in a thin, spiral shape around the bone for ease of serving. Another option is to purchase fresh or cured ham. Cured ham, such as country ham, has been seasoned and dried. It requires more preparation time and can have a very strong flavor.
Rehydrate a cured or country ham before cooking. To do this, unwrap the ham and put it into a large basin or cooler of cold water. Country hams are large, usually made up of both the butt and the shank, so your container will need to be quite large and have a cover. Soak the pig leg for two days and change the water at least twice per day.
Put your fresh ham or rehydrated, cured ham in a large roasting pan and plan to bake it at 350 for approximately 15 minutes per pound. Your ham will benefit from a sweet liquid, such as a bottle of soda pop or a fruity glaze, to balance out the salty flavors. If the skin is on, keep the ham uncovered and it will crisp and crackle. When the skin begins to brown, cover it with aluminum foil for the remainder of the cooking time. Cook your ham until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
If you have chosen the partially or fully cooked pig leg, check the package to see if it comes with a glaze. If not, add your own glaze or sweet liquid. Reheat the ham in the oven according to the package instructions until an internal temperature of 140 degrees is reached; this usually requires about 30 minutes of cooking. Or place a precooked ham in a slow cooker in the morning on high, then reduce the heat after an hour to low. The ham will be ready in six to seven hours, just in time for dinner.
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