Learn how to recreate those memorable holiday meals at grandma's house by cooking up a delicious ham! We have all the tricks for how to cook a ham that will elevate you to family legend status.

Close up image of sliced holiday ham on a marble cutting board. - Shelf Cooking

We love when holidays roll around and we get to gather with the people we care about to laugh, reminisce, and eat good food! Emphasis on the good food, obviously! One of those star holiday dishes is a delicious ham. Whether it's tradition to eat it for Easter or for Christmas (or both!), it always makes for a satisfying and crowd-pleasing meal.

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If the torch has been passed and it's your turn to cook a show-stopping main dish, have no fear! We are here to give you all the best tips for cooking a ham. Whether it's for a holiday or Sunday dinner, you'll be able to whip up something amazing and be the “hostess with the mostest” without breaking a sweat!

How To Choose A Ham

Holiday ham being carved on a marble cutting board. - Shelf Cooking

First of all, there are a variety of ham options at the grocery store. Knowing what to look for will give you a great start for cooking the perfect ham.

Most commercially sold cuts of ham are pre-cooked, making it super easy to prepare. Likely, most of your choices when selecting a ham will be a decision between spiral cut, bone-in, or boneless.

  • Spiral cut ham is the most convenient, and will basically require that you heat it up and serve. It does run the risk of being a little more dry, and sometimes it comes already glazed, so you'll want to be aware of that when cooking and pursuing specific flavors.
  • Boneless ham is also convenient because it is so easy to slice. If cooking for a crowd, you'll want to plan on about half a pound per person when selecting the ham roast.
  • Bone-in ham will be the most flavorful of the three options, and the meat typically has a better texture. It does require some carving skills, but nothing too fancy. An added bonus is that the leftover ham bone can be an amazing flavor addition when added to simmering soups. You'll need to plan about 3/4 to 1 pound per person when choosing a bone-in ham roast.

Different Methods For Cooking A Ham

Since most hams come pre-cooked, it's actually incredibly easy to make a delectable ham, and to do so using a variety of methods! While ham can look and taste really fancy, it's actually deceptively easy to make. No matter your current kitchen functionality, it's totally possible to cook ham to perfection.

Like most meats, the most traditional way to cook ham is in the oven. However, if the oven isn't an option you can also cook ham in the slow-cooker, Instant Pot, or even outside on a smoker or pellet grill! We've included a recipe for cooking in the oven, but keep reading for instruction on how to cook a ham in the slow-cooker as well.

Best Side Dishes To Serve With Ham

Cheesy scalloped potatoes on a white plate, with some being picked up by a fork. - Shelf Cooking

One of the perks of ham is that it is so versatile and pairs well with so many delicious foods! These are some of our favorite side dishes to serve with ham:

  • Potatoes – Of course! These scalloped potatoes are a classic and family favorite. We don't know if it would feel like Easter without warm, gooey scalloped potatoes right next to some juicy ham on our holiday plate!
  • Bread – Carb-y goodness is the perfect balance to the richness of ham. We love a slice of this homemade rustic bread spread with butter. Yuummmm!
  • Roasted vegetables – Any type of roasted veggies would be great, but we particularly love this roasted carrots recipe! So tasty and so pretty on the holiday table, too!
  • Deviled eggs – What better way to use up those Easter eggs than to turn them into this scrumptious side?
  • Mac and cheese – If scalloped potatoes aren't your thing, this macaroni and cheese recipe is a great alternative!
  • Salad – This strawberry spinach salad is such a perfect blend of fresh springtime flavors!

Need more ideas? Look in your pantry or freezer and go from there! Shelf cooking is what it's all about!

How To Cook A Ham

Sliced holiday ham

Glazed Holiday Ham

This ham recipe will create an easy-to-make centerpiece for your next holiday meal.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 18


  • 1/2 fully cooked bone-in ham 6-8 lbs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole cloves


  • Preheat oven to 325°.
  • Using a sharp knife, score the surface of the ham making a diamond pattern with 1/2 inch deep cuts. Insert a whole clove in the middle of each diamond.
  • Place ham cut-side down on a rack in a roasting pan. Bake uncovered for about 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reads 140°.
  • While ham is baking, combine brown sugar, pineapple juice, and mustard in a small bowl. When the ham reaches an internal temperature of 140°, brush the ham with some of the glaze. Continue baking for 45 more minutes, brushing on more glaze about every 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, slice, and serve with remaining glaze.
Keyword dinner, Easter, ham, holiday

Cooking Ham In The Slow-Cooker

Ovens are great, but sometimes a slow-cooker is the way to go. It doesn't heat your house up on a warm day, and you can reserve your oven for cooking other meal components. Win!

To make a ham using this method, simply place the prepared ham in a slow-cooker with a little bit of water in the bottom. Mix together the glaze outlined in the recipe above, and pour about 3/4 of it over the ham. Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low, or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.

For another, even easier slow-cooker glazed ham recipe, check out this recipe on Fun, Cheap, or Free!

Ways To Use Leftover Ham

Leftover ham is the bomb when it comes to using it later on. There are SO many options!

First off, store your ham leftovers in a labeled and dated zipper freezer bag. Cooked ham can usually be frozen for 2-3 months and is so handy to use for other dishes later on!

These are some of our favorite ways to use leftover ham:

  • Sandwiches – Ham and cheese sliders, Monte Cristo sandwiches, or stacked club sandwiches are sure to please!
  • Soups – You guys, there are so many amazing soups with ham! A simple Pinterest search will give you loads of ideas. One of our favorites that utilizes a leftover ham bone is this split pea soup from The Cozy Cook.
  • Ham fried rice – Simple and satisfying! Pair with some egg rolls or dumplings from the freezer section for an easy meal.
  • Chef or cobb salad – Filling enough to be dinner! Loads of fresh veggies combined with savory cubed ham and creamy cheese. Perfect for when you don't want to cook.
  • Baked potato bar – Need a quick and inexpensive dinner? Create a baked potato bar with different topping options, including diced leftover ham. It's a tasty way to add some protein.
  • Pastas – Adding ham to pasta adds lots of extra flavor! We like this pretty Ham and Peas Pasta dish!
  • Breakfast – Leftover ham is a fabulous addition to your breakfast routine. Ham and cheese omelets, breakfast burritos, or these egg muffin cups are a great way to put it to use.

If you need even more ideas on how to use your leftover ham, we have a whole blog post dedicated to it! Check out 21 Delicious Leftover Ham Recipes for more hammy goodness.

Graphic with image of a sliced ham roast and text that says "How To Cook Holiday Ham, The Best Tips And Tricks"

Becoming An Expert On How To Cook A Ham

Now that you've learned how to shop for and select a ham, cook it, serve it, and repurpose it, we can declare you a ham expert! Time to get out there and show off your new skills!

Have you made a ham before? What are your favorite ways to eat ham? There are so many options that it might be hard to choose! Let us know in the comments.

If you need more great recipes to work with, we've got a few suggestions for you:

We hope you enjoy a truly ham-tastic holiday meal!