How to Make a Ham Dinner

by Bonnie Swain Schindly

    Ham serves as a traditional holiday dish, as well as a versatile centerpiece to a weekday dinner. Even leftovers make a great meal, including cold slices between two pieces of soft bread. This rose-colored meat typically comes from the rear legs of hogs. Many varieties are available, from ready-to-eat Italian prosciutto to smoked shank portions that require several hours of baking. Always review preparation instructions on the packaging labels as part of understanding how to make a ham dinner.

    Select a ham according to your family's tastes, such as smoked, sugar cured or lean varieties. Count the number of guests who will be at your dinner table. A standard rule is 1/4 to 1/3 pound per person of boneless ham, 1/3 to 1/2 pound for small boned hams, and 3/4 to one pound per guest with a large bone, according to What's Cooking America. Assemble plenty of foil, a platter that fits in your refrigerator for defrosting, a meat thermometer, and a roasting pan for oven cooking.

    The safest method of defrosting a frozen ham is inside your refrigerator, according to What's Cooking America. Allow four to five hours per pound for a small ham, or five to seven hours for each pound of a larger roast. Pork can remain inside the refrigerator up to five days after thawing, so you can defrost early to save steps on cooking day. Place the unthawed ham on a platter on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator with the wrapping intact. You also can remove the outer packaging and loosely cover the meat in foil.

    Follow the instructions on your ham's packaging. Some pork products are pre-cooked and ready to eat, such as canned or vacuum-packed products. Remove your already-cooked ham from its packaging and reheat in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven until your meat thermometer reaches 140 degrees. These hams generally require four to 30 minutes of heating time per pound. Uncooked hams require the same a 325-degree oven setting, and your meat temperature must hit 145 degrees before serving. Cooking times generally require 18 to 40 minutes per pound of meat.

    Make your pork come alive with special flavors and glazes. Apply these special seasonings during the last 15 to 60 minutes of baking. Sprinkle some powdered mustard and brown sugar. Other suggestions are to coat your ham with honey and brown sugar, honey and creamy buttermilk dressing, or light corn syrup and fruit preserves like apricot or raspberry. Another idea is to baste with a combination of orange and pear juices. You can skip the extra sauces by roasting with the fat side up so that your ham bastes in its own brine during cooking.

    Your baked ham represents the crowning glory of your dinner menu, whether it's Easter brunch or an everyday meal. Complement this succulent pork with some traditional side dishes like scalloped or garlic mashed potatoes. Serve a healthy vegetable dish such as green beans, asparagus or a mixed green salad topped with creamy dressing. A fresh fruit medley of berries, grapes, pineapple and creamy blue cheese dressing served with your ham can be an instant hit with your family.

    About the Author

    Bonnie Swain Schindly has been writing professionally since 1981. She was a reporter and columnist for the “North Hills News Record” and “Kittanning Leader Times” newspapers in Pittsburgh. She also has worked in corporate communications and human resources since 1990. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Temple University.

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