With its smoky flavor and rich consistency, ham is ideal for holidays as well as for quick weekday dinners. Cooking ham in a bag will keep it moist and make cleaning a breeze. If you're on a diet, opt for low-fat, low-sodium varieties so you can enjoy your meal without guilt.
Cooking ham in a bag will seal in the flavor and keep the meat moist. Feel free to add citrus fruits, apple slices, sweet or hot peppers, potatoes and other delicious, healthy ingredients for a perfect holiday meal.
Choose the Best Ham
A perfectly baked ham can be a spectacular centerpiece on any holiday table. However, this doesn't mean you can't cook ham after a long day or on a busy weekend. This type of meat requires minimal prep and goes well with mashed or roasted potatoes, steamed asparagus, salads, brown rice and other quick and easy side dishes. Plus, it's relatively low in calories and has zero carbs.
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Lean roasted ham, for instance, has only 179 calories per 3-ounce serving. You'll also get a whopping 25 grams of quality protein, 8 grams of fat and 25 percent of the daily recommended zinc intake. Regular roasted ham boasts 232 calories, 22.8 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat per serving, according to the USDA. Cured ham is lean but high in sodium, so it should be consumed in moderation.
Depending on your preferences, you may opt for fresh, cured, country-style or cooked ham. Fresh varieties are the least processed and typically include the pork leg. If the label states "cook thoroughly," make sure you bake the ham until its internal temperature reaches at least 160 Fahrenheit, advise the experts at Michigan State University Extension.
Choose a half-ham if you expect 10 or more guests. The butt half is tender and easy to cook but difficult to carve because it contains the hip bone. The shank half, on the other hand, is easier to carve but tougher, so it takes longer to cook. Another option is boneless ham, which requires no carving.
If you're planning to bake the ham, select one with water or natural juices, advises Kansas Farm Food Connections. Both options are suitable for roasting. A pound of boneless ham is enough for four or five servings, while the same amount of bone-in ham yields up to three servings, making it ideal for family meals.
Country-style ham is dry-cured, so it contains more salt than other varieties and should be served in small portions.
When consumed in excess, sodium may raise your blood pressure and put you at risk for kidney stones, heart failure and osteoporosis, warns the American Heart Association. To stay safe, try not to exceed 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
Cooking Ham in a Bag
Oven bags make cooking and cleaning a lot easier while enhancing food flavor. Choose among several brands, including the popular Reynolds bag. Manufacturers recommend choosing one in a larger size for fresh ham.
Season the meat with herbs and spices, put it inside the bag and add 1 tablespoon of flour. Bake it in an preheated oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.
For extra flavor, marinate the ham before you cook it. Mix low-sodium soy sauce, hot sauce, Dijon mustard, ground black pepper and herbs like cilantro or rosemary in a small bowl. You may also add brown sugar or honey, but these ingredients will increase the calorie count. Stir well, pour the mixture into an oven bag and then add the ham.
If you're trying to slim down, cook with fresh lean pork instead of ham. This type of meat may help improve body composition and cardiovascular health, according to a July 2012 study published in Nutrients.
Make sure the bag is fully sealed. Place it in the refrigerator and marinate for a few hours or overnight. When you're ready to cook the ham, transfer it to a new oven bag and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Feel free to add sweet potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, apples and other ingredients to your Reynolds bag for a meal that's bursting with flavor.
Get Creative in the Kitchen
If you're feeling bold, create your own oven bag ham recipe with citrus fruits, pineapple, chili peppers or red wine. For instance, you can make brown sugar pineapple ham in an oven bag to delight your guests with a tasty dish.
Just make sure you don't overcook the meat. Today's pork is up to 50 percent leaner than it was 50 years ago, so it tends to dry out when left in the oven for too long, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. The National Pork Board recommends baking the ham at 350 F for 10 minutes per pound.
- USDA: "Lean Roasted Ham"
- USDA: "Roasted Ham"
- USDA: "Cured Ham"
- Michigan State University Extension: "Country, Cured, Fresh or Smoked Ham, What Is the Difference?"
- Kansas Farm Food Connections: "How to Choose the Perfect Ham"
- American Heart Association: "Effects of Excess Sodium Infographic"
- Reynolds Kitchens: "Oven Bag Cooking Guide"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Roasting Those 'Other' Holiday Meats"
- National Pork Board: "Ham"
- Nutrients: "Effects of Eating Fresh Lean Pork on Cardiometabolic Health Parameters"