How to Boil and Bake a Ham


A simple boiled ham is such a useful thing to have in your fridge. Prepare it on Sunday, and you have the makings of sandwiches, Spaghetti Carbonara or a ham omelette during the first days of the week. Here are our easy instructions showing how to boil a ham from scratch and how to glaze it with honey, mustard and cloves for a more elaborate baked ham for Christmas.

To boil a ham:

1. Cover the ham with cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat and discard the water. Cover the ham with more cold water, bring back to the boil and skim any froth or impurities that rise to the surface.

2. Turn the heat down to medium low so that the water is just lightly bubbling. Simmer the ham for 20 minutes per 450g plus an extra 20 minutes. When the ham is cooked, it should have an internal temperature of 71C (160F) –  you need to stick a food thermometer right into the centre of the meat to check. If it hasn’t reached that temperature, cook it for a while longer until it does. The only safe way that we know to check that a ham has cooked all the way through is to slice into the middle of the joint and check that the inside is not raw.

Leave the ham to cool in the cooking water if you are not using it immediately – it helps to keep it moist. (If the ham cooking water is not too salty, leave it to cool, freeze it and use it in soups.)

How to glaze a ham

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

2. When the ham is cooked, drain and leave to cool slightly. Remove the outer layer of skin leaving a thin layer of fat behind. Score the skin with a sharp small knife, cutting diagonal lines to make a diamond pattern but not quite cutting through the fat. Brush the ham with the glaze of your choice (a mixture of runny honey and mustard is good) and stud it with cloves. Place the ham on a rack on a tin foil-covered baking tray. That way the glaze will fall through on to the tin foil. Use the drips to baste the ham throughout cooking.

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3. Bake the ham until golden and caramelised – this will take between 20-30 minutes.

To serve the glazed ham:

Leave the ham to rest, lightly covered in a loose tent of tin foil for 20 minutes so the juices come back into the ham. Or leave it to cool completely when it will be easier to slice.

COOKED HAM TIP: You get more slices of ham from a cold ham than from a hot one because it is easier to slice thinly.

How long does a cooked ham last?

A cooked ham will last for up to 7 days in a cold fridge from the time you first cook it. Cool it completely before you put it in the fridge. Cover the ham well with two layers of tin foil, always use a clean knife to cut it and replace the tin foil after 2 days. Never touch the ham with your hands when you are cutting it because you will transfer bacteria to the meat: instead, use the tin foil to hold it.

Ways to use up leftover ham

– Sandwich ham between warm savoury buttered scones.

– Add leftover chopped ham and defrosted peas to just-cooked linguine with a few spoons of single cream and chopped mint and warm through.

– Make macaroni cheese, a natural home for cooked ham!

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