Any holiday that revolves around a centerpiece dish (ahem, turkey) can be stressful. Easter is all about the ham. Unfortunately, preparing this piece of meat isn’t always straightforward, so we asked the test kitchen for a little advice. No matter what recipe you’re using–from a pineapple-dotted family heirloom to our April issue’s Easter Ham with Golden Breadcrumbs and Madeira Sauce–these tips will help you along.
Don’t Buy Just Any Old Ham
It’s Easter, not just another Sunday meal. Call your butcher to reserve a good-quality smoked bone-in ham instead of buying from the supermarket. If that doesn’t work, there’s still time to order from d’Artagnan.com (they’ll even ship overnight). Whether it’s bone-in or partially deboned, order a ham with some kind of bone in it. It will give you a sense of where to take the ham’s temperature to determine doneness (see below), plus, that leftover bone will bring a soup or pot of beans to the next level. Also: Plan to buy at least 1 lb. of meat per person so you’ll have plenty of leftovers.
SEE MORE: 8 Ways to Use Leftover Easter Eggs
Don’t Skip the Liquid
Gently cook the ham with at least 1/2 cup of water, wine, or stock in the pan and cover it with foil to make sure the ham won’t dry out (until you’ve applied the glaze–the the foil comes off).
Don’t Use the Glaze Packet
The glaze that comes with the ham is garbage. Throw it out and make your own. Remember our Christmas ham? That glaze works for this holiday, too.
Don’t Glaze Too Early
To avoid burning the glaze, apply it 15-30 minutes before taking it out of the oven, and take a peek once in a while to make sure it’s not burning.
SEE MORE: The Easter Bunny is Better When He’s Cooked
Don’t Be Shy With that Thermometer
Hams are often already cooked (they’re usually smoked and boiled or baked), so don’t go past an internal temperature of 145 degrees–it’ll dry out. Stick a thermometer deep into the ham near the bone to get an accurate reading. Don’t Dig Right In For the ham to be juicy, it needs some time to rest like any other piece of meat. Let it sit for about 20 minutes once it’s out of the oven. –Hunter Lewis, Janet McCracken, Mary-Frances Heck