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A Guide to Buying Ham


Tip of the Day

With Easter just around the corner and with ham as one of the most popular meats cooked for Easter, I thought it would be a good idea to post a buying guide to buying ham.

Admittedly, I knew little about buying ham and what all the things on various labels meant until a few years ago when I came across an excellent buying guide from Cuisine at Home (Issue 50 April 2005)…. and yes… that was the same issue that had those phenomenal coconut cupcakes I posted a couple of weeks ago.

You can buy the expensive spiral-sliced hams available from various specialty stores, but the taste of a great ham baked yourself can’t be beaten. Hams are very easy to bake… the buying is where most cooks lose interest… labels can be confusing… and all the choices overwhelming… leading most cooks to wonder if they are making the correct choice… so they retreat and buy those expensive spiral hams.

This guide should answer most of your questions… or at the very least take some of the mystery out of buying a good ham. This is from Cuisine at Home… and taken in its entirety from them. (I’m just not that smart to remember all this).

I hope you find it helpful.

Butt Half

Ham comes one of three ways: whole, shank or butt. Whole is hard to carve, the shank has too much connective tissue, but the butt… is just right. Its large muscles provide pure meaty slices that are easy to carve.

Bone-In

You want a bone-in or semi-boneless ham- just not boneless. Boneless ham is nothing more than ground ham that’s mixed with a binder and re-formed. Bone-in ham is still easy to carve and will serve 2-3 people per pound.

No Slices Removed

Have you ever seen those nice individually-wrapped slices called “ham steaks”? They’re from the center of the ham… slices that should be on your ham. If you see the word “portion”, it means the best pieces have been cut out of the center of the ham. Try to find a half that says “no slices removed”.

Natural Juices or Water Added

Labels that read “Natural Juices”, “No Water Added”, or “Water Added” are all acceptable. Avoid anything that says, “Ham and Water Product Added”. These hams are spongy and weak tasting.

Natural Juice and No Water Added hams are excellent, but can be hard to cook – they can dry out unless you use a recipe that uses a moist heat (liquid in the bottom of the pan below the rack that the ham is on)…. Water added hams are moist and easy to slice…. but you won’t go wrong with either type of ham.

2 comments:

Coleen's Recipes April 3, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

I was SO EXCITED to see your post. I've been struggling with this topic most recently. I first bought a shank and it had great flavor but was horrible when I went to cut it. I then did a butt ham but I think I cooked it too long (I used one of those baking bags). Thank you so much for the post. Can you now give us some tips on baking the butt ham???? (please?)

Linda April 3, 2009 at 3:51 PM  

I'm one step ahead of you...LOL... tips on baking will be posted tomorrow... I've never used bags... I have tented foil over it ... and had a liquid on the bottom... like coke... I know it sounds weird... but I have this recipe I tried and it was very good... I'll post it.

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