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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Understanding Differences in Hams

Posted by Jenna Smith - Holidays

Ham tends to be a traditional entrée for the Easter holiday meal, and because of its ease, you don’t need a professional chef to cook one. However, you do need to know what to look for when purchasing a ham.

Ham comes from the hind leg of a hog. There are many different varieties of ham to choose from. You should decide if you want it cooked, cured, smoked, bone-in or canned.What’s the difference?

Basically, hams are either ready-to-eat or not. Fully cooked and canned hams can be eaten straight out of the package or warmed. If you want to reheat a fully cooked ham, set the oven temperature to no lower than 325 degrees, and heat to an internal temperature of 140 degrees as measured with a food thermometer.

Most hams are both fully cooked and cured with either a wet or dry cure. The more popular wet-cured hams have been injected with a brine solution consisting of salt, water and more.

The slightly less popular dry cured hams are rubbed with salt and spices, which draws out moisture and leads to a more concentrated ham flavor. These are generally called “country hams.”

Country hams are uncooked and may be smoked or unsmoked. This type of ham tastes even saltier than a wet-cured ham, but the sodium can be reduced by soaking the uncooked ham in water for four to 12 hours or longer. Uncooked hams must be cooked in an oven no lower than 325 degrees and heated to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Fresh ham is not cured or smoked and must be labeled with the word “fresh.” Since it hasn’t gone through a curing process it is considerably lower in sodium (a 3-oz. portion has only 55 milligrams of sodium compared to the same portion of cured ham, which contains over 1,100 milligrams!)

Hams may also be sold as either bone-in or boneless. Bone-in hams are considered to be more attractive, but boneless hams are easy to slice. A spiral sliced ham is fully cooked and has thin seamed lines, perfect for slicing cold deli meat. It may also be warmed, but the meat can dry out quickly. Try wrapping the ham with aluminum foil, and check frequently to make sure it isn’t dried out.

Buying a ham can be confusing if you’re not aware of all the options. But no matter which one you choose, fixing a ham can be as easy as turning on the slow cooker or roasting in the oven.



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