Ham is made from the front leg of a hog, while the back leg renders a pork shoulder picnic. The butt portion of a ham tends to be leaner while the shank is easier to carve. Hams come fresh or ready-to-eat. Pork must reach a high enough internal temperature to eliminate any microorganisms that may be present in the meat. Cooking your ham in aluminum foil helps keep it moist and tender
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Choose a fresh or ready-to-eat ham. Ready-to-eat hams, such as some specialty store spiral-sliced hams and canned hams, do not need to be cooked; rather, they will need to be heated. Fresh hams that need to be cooked will bear a safe handling label. You can store uncooked ham for three to five days in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer.
Defrost ham before cooking. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, defrost ham in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
Wrap ham in aluminum foil and place in a baking dish or pan. Place two large strips of foil on the counter, forming a cross. Center the ham in the foil and wrap the foil up around the ham, sealing the foil at the top and edges. Juices from the ham will seep out during cooking so make sure the foil forms a loose bowl around the base of the ham and the top of the foil is sealed to prevent moisture from escaping.
Heat thoroughly. Ready-to-eat ham can be eaten at room temperature or warmed slightly before serving for moister, more flavorful meat. Fresh ham should be cooked until the interior temperature reaches a minimum of 160 degrees. The USDA recommends cooking a whole, bone-in ham for 22 to 26 minutes per pound and a half, bone-in ham for 35 to 40 minutes per pound.
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Hams can be cooked at temperatures as low at 250 degrees or as high as 350 degrees. Cooking at lower temperatures takes longer but results in a more moist ham. Do not open foil while ham is cooking.
To add moisture or impart flavor, pour glaze, seasonings or liquids, such as water, ginger ale or orange juice, over ham before sealing foil. For a sweet outer crust, pour a brown sugar mixture over the ham or adorn with pineapples, cloves or other ingredients.
Allow ham to sit in its own juices and come to room temperature before slicing.
Never defrost ham on the counter because part of the meat may reach a high enough temperature to allow bacteria to grow. Do not partially cook ham or other pork products then refrigerate for later as any bacteria present may not have been completely destroyed. Do not cook ham at temperatures below 200 degrees.
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