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)….
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…
I hope you find it helpful.
You can buy ham one of three ways: whole, shank or butt. Whole ham is hard to carve, the shank has too much connective tissue, the butt… is easiest. The large muscles of the ham make it easy to carve and you will have pure meat slices.
A bone-in or semi-boneless ham- is what you should look for.... not a boneless ham A 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 are taken from the center of a ham… slices that should be on your ham.
Look for the word “portion” ... you don't want it....it's missing the best slices...it has those tasty ham steak slices taken from the center of it..
Look for a half that says “no slices removed”.
Natural Juices or Water Added
Labels that read “Natural Juices”, “No Water Added”, or “Water Added” are what you should look for.
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.
Don't waste your money on anything that says, “Ham and Water Product Added” is not the best, these hams are spongy and weak tasting.