How long to cook a smoked ham

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spiral ham
A spiral cut, smoked ham looks handsome on the holiday table
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How long to cook a smoked ham depends on its weight and whether it is pre-cooked

With the holidays approaching, it is time to start considering what to serve your guests. Many hostesses opt for ham at their festive get-togethers.

It you've settled on ham as the main entree, you need to know how to prepare it. How long to cook a smoked ham? And what the devil is smoked ham anyway?

Originally, smoking meat was done to preserve it. When smoked, chemicals released from the wood slowed the proliferation of microorganisms. When cured, salt lowers the amount of water available in which bacteria can grow.

Ham is soaked in brine and then boiled or smoked. This is called city ham, which can taste smoky and rich or salt and mild, depending on how it was cooked. Most ham available in the United States is this type of pork.

A smoked ham is cured. When hickory-smoked, it is smoked as it hangs over burning hickory wood chips in a smoke house. This meat cannot be called 'hickory' smoked unless hickory wood is used during the process.

A dry-cured or country ham is cured and smoked as well as aged. Aging takes anywhere from a couple of months to a year or more to complete.

Before cooking, the meat should be soaked for four to 12 hours or even longer in water and kept in the refrigerator. This lessens salt content.

When cooking a ham, the meat's internal temperature must reach 160 degree F before it is safe to eat. Cook it in a 350 degree oven or boil it..

A whole smoked ham containing the bone, weighing 10 to 14 pounds, should be cooked 18 to 20 minutes per pound. This means a 14-pound pork requires cooking between 4.2 and 4.6 hours.

A partially cooked ham needs approximately 20 minutes cooking per pound in a  350 degree oven.


When meat is pre-cooked it does not require further cooking. However it is more flavorful if heated to an internal temperature of 140 degree before serving.

Put the pre-cooked meat on a rack in a roasting pan. Place the meat side down. Put water in the roasting pan. This prevents the pork from drying out. Cover the pan and pork in aluminum foil, creating a tent. Put the meat in a 325 degree oven. Heat for 12 to 15 minutes per pound for a whole ham.

  • This type of meat should never sit at room temperature for 60 minutes or longer. Keep it in the refrigerator. You do not want to give your guests food poisoning.
  • Create a diamond shaped pattern on the surface of the meat by scoring the fat. This requires cutting 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, making one- to two-inch squares in the surface. Fat renders the meat when this is done. A better and more stick-able surface is created for glaze  and the pattern looks visually appealing. However, if the meat was severely trimmed before you got it, you may not be able to do this.
  • Refrain from basting the meat with its dripping while cooking because the drippings are very salty. One application of honey, glaze or sugar, applied during the last hour of cooking, is sufficient.
  • When the bone is left in the pork, it tastes and looks better. Bone-in hams can be spiral cut. This spiral continues all the way around the bone, which produces slim slices of meat that effortlessly peel away.
  • The bone can be used to flavor bean dishes and soup.
  • Smoked or otherwise, some religions, including Muslim and Orthodox Jew, prohibit the eating of pork.

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