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Ham for the Holiday!

How to safely cook your ham for the holidays.

Nashville, Ark. – When it comes to the holidays, many will find ham on the menu. The most popular ham options are cured or cured and smoked. These cuts are pork that comes from the hind leg of a hog. If it comes from the front leg of a hog, it must be labeled as a picnic ham.

When deciding how much to buy, estimate the size needed according to the number of servings the type of ham should yield. For a boneless ham, purchase one fourth to one third pound per serving, one third to one half pound of meat per serving if it has a little bone, and three fourths to 1 pound of meat per serving with a large bone. Hams with the bone left in them tend to be more flavorful than boneless hams. Bone-in hams are more decorative.

Many brands of bone-in ham are spiral-cut. This means that the ham has been cut in a continuous spiral all the way around the bone, producing thin slices that easily peel away, making it very easy to serve.

There are two methods to safely thaw your ham, refrigerator, or cold-water method. Never thaw meat on the kitchen counter. The outside of the meat will reach a temperature above 40 degrees F while the inside is still frozen. The area that reaches a temperature above 40 degrees F would be susceptible to bacterial growth.

The refrigerator method is the slowest but safest method and will result in the least amount of moisture loss. Leave the meat wrapped and placed on a platter or a tray to catch the drippings as it thaws. Allow 4 to 5 hours per pound thawing time.

The cold-water method allows you to thaw pork in cold water. It is faster than thawing in the refrigerator and is safe as long as the proper precautions are taken. Fill the sink with enough cold tap water to cover the cut of meat, place the pork in a leak proof bag and put it into cold water. Be sure the meat is sealed tightly so that it is not exposed to the water. Meat exposed to the water will result in flavor and color loss and will have a greater chance of bacterial growth. The water must be replaced with fresh cold water every 30 minutes. Do not use warm or hot water because it will encourage the growth of bacteria. The ham will be thawed in two to three hours.

Do not use the sink for other purposes during the thawing period and be sure the water does not splash onto other preparation surfaces or food. Once the meat is thawed, remove it from the sink and sanitize all utensils and surfaces. The pork should be cooked immediately after thawing.

The most traditional way to cook a ham is to bake it. Place the ham cut side down in a baking pan. For a ham that is partially cooked, allow about 20 minutes per pound in a 325-degree oven. A fully cooked ham that needs only reheating will require about 10 minutes per pound.

For more information on safely thawing or preparing your ham, contact me at the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. You may also email me at or follow Howard County Extension FCS page on Facebook. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

If you are looking for last-minute baked goods for the holidays, be sure to check out the Howard County EHC Bake Sale this Friday morning beginning at 8:00 a.m. The sale will take place at the EHC Educational Center located directly behind the courthouse. All items are baked from scratch from the best cooks in the county. Come early to get the best selection!

Recipe of the Week - Brown Sugar Pineapple Glaze

            To “dress up” your ham, some people enjoy preparing a glaze and garnishing with pineapple and cherries. Here is a great recipe to make your ham extra-special. It is enough glaze for a six-to-eight-pound ham.

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed

  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1 Tablespoon prepared mustard

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pineapple slices, drained and juice reserved

  • 1 (4 ounce) jar maraschino cherries

  1.  In a heavy saucepan, mix brown sugar and cornstarch.
  2. Add reserved pineapple juice and prepared mustard; stir well.
  3. Bring this mixture to a boil and continue to cook until the mixture has boiled for 1 minute.
  4. Arrange pineapple slices and cherries on top of ham.
  5. Drizzle half the glaze over the ham and place in a 325-degree oven.
  6. Continue to brush ham with glaze every 20 minutes until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.



By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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