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How do you display sliced ham on a platter?

Sliced ham makes a classic, tasty addition to any charcuterie board or appetizer platter. When artfully arranged, sliced ham can be the focal point of a delightful platter that is sure to impress guests. There are a few key steps to keep in mind when displaying sliced ham on a platter for optimal visual appeal.

Selecting the Ham

Choosing high-quality, attractively sliced ham is the first step to creating an eye-catching ham platter. Opt for versatile crowd-pleasers like Black Forest ham, Serrano ham, Prosciutto di Parma, or smoked ham. The slices should be evenly cut and around 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick for the best consistency and presentation. Avoid slices that are too thin or irregularly cut, as they will be difficult to arrange nicely. Prioritize hams that are sliced from a whole, bone-in ham rather than a spiral cut ham, as they typically hold their shape better when handled. The ideal hams to display in slices are cured or cooked hams that have rich, concentrated flavor in smaller portions.

Cured Ham Varieties

Popular cured ham varieties like Prosciutto di Parma, Iberico ham, Serrano ham, and Black Forest ham are ideal choices for sliced ham platters. The curing and aging process concentrates their flavor, so they deliver a tasty punch of hammy flavor in thin slices. The characteristic marbling and caramelized exterior of cured ham also delivers appealing visual contrast. Just be sure to slice the ham paper-thin, as too thick of slices can be tough and chewy.

Cooked Ham Options

Quality cooked hams like French Roast ham, applewood smoked ham, and pineapple glazed ham can also make excellent plattered ham. Opt for hams with rich sensory qualities like smoky flavor, aromatic spices, or sweet glazes. Cooked hams should be sliced thicker than cured hams, between 1/8 and 1/4 inches. Slightly thicker slices will hold up better when handled and give you more surface area to showcase any flavorful outer bark or crust.

Slicing and Portioning the Ham

Proper slicing and portioning is crucial for an artful presentation. Here are some tips:

  • Use a long, thin slicing knife for the most control and even slices.
  • Trim off any awkward end pieces or uneven edges before slicing the ham.
  • Aim for 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Slice with the grain of the meat, in smooth, continuous strokes.
  • Cut slices to around 2-3 inches in diameter for easy arranging.
  • Keep slices intact and handle gently to prevent tearing.

Portion out 6-8 ounces of sliced ham per person if it is the main focus of the platter. You can get away with less if combining it with other charcuterie meats and cheeses. While preparing the platter, keep the sliced ham loosely covered with plastic wrap or damp paper towels to prevent excessive drying.

Platter Selection and Set-Up

Choosing an appropriate platter is key to displaying the ham slices beautifully. Look for platters with the following qualities:

  • Neutral colored – White, cream, light gray, natural wood.
  • Long and narrow shape – Elongated platters give you more room to arrange the slices.
  • Slight lip or rim – Helps secure food around the edges.
  • Food safe and durable material – Ceramic, marble, wood, stainless steel, or slate.
  • 12-16 inches long for smaller gatherings.
  • 16-20 inches long for larger groups.

Before placing the ham, line the platter with parchment paper, butter lettuce leaves, or fresh herbs to add color and coverage. To avoid slipping, put a damp paper towel underneath the lining for grip.

Arranging the Sliced Ham

With a prepared platter and sliced ham ready, it’s time for the fun part – the artful arranging! Follow these tips and techniques for platter perfection:

Focus on Balance and Variety

Aim for balance in placement, with filled spaces distributed evenly from end to end. Vary the direction of the slices, with some placed vertically and others diagonally. Mix up the placement of any particularly attractive slices to spread them out.

Use Color and Contrast

If you have hams of varying colors like Serrano, Prosciutto, and Black Forest, arrange them in an alternating pattern for visual interest. Play up contrast between the darker cured hams and lighter cooked hams.

Layer Symmetrically

Start by placing the largest slices on the outer edges, then build up layers in a pyramid shape toward the center. Keep the layers symmetrical from left to right as you fill in space.

Roll Up Certain Slices

For fun height and shape variation, roll up a few of the ham slices and stand them upright. Cured hams that hold their shape especially well are ideal candidates for rolling.

Fold Into Accordions

Fold some of the longer slices into accordions or loose s-shapes to add contours and angles.

Curve and Drape Artfully

Let a few thinner slices gently curve and drape over the edges for a soft, elegant touch.

Vary Directions

Point some slices toward different sides rather than all facing the same way for liveliness. Alternate which direction the accordion folded and rolled up slices face as well.

Pile Up Ends and Scraps

Use up any uneven end pieces and smaller scraps by piling them up in mini ham mounds. This adds dimension.

Fill Gaps

If any awkward gaps remain, fill them with extra greens, herbs, edible flowers, nuts or fruits.

Top With Garnishes

Once satisfied with the ham arrangement, add final garnishes. Fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley and oregano nicely complement the ham. For fruit accents, opt for tart green apples, fresh figs, pomegranate arils or mandarin oranges to balance the rich ham.

Keep Ham Safely Refrigerated

Be sure to assemble the ham platter just before serving and keep refrigerated until ready to enjoy. Cured meats and cooked ham should not sit at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours. Provide a serving utensil or tongs for guests to transfer ham to their plates, avoiding excessive handling with bare hands.

Here is a helpful refrigeration guide for different types of ham:

Ham Type Refrigerator (40°F)
Fresh uncured ham (raw) 3-5 days
Cooked ham (whole) 7 days
Cooked ham slices 3-5 days
Dry cured ham slices 2 weeks

How to Serve the Ham Platter

Once you have gloriously displayed the sliced ham, it’s time to serve your guests! Follow these tips for enjoying the ham platter in style:

Offer Crackers and Accompaniments

Provide baskets of crispy crackers like water crackers, flatbreads, baguettes, or crostini so guests have a base for placing ham slices.

You can also set out bite-sized accompaniments to complement the ham’s saltiness, such as:

  • Cornichons
  • Marinated olives
  • Dijon mustard
  • Jams and fruit preserves
  • Hummus
  • Baba ghanoush
  • Cheeses

Include Other Charcuterie

For a full mezze spread, expand the platter with salami, mortadella, pâtés, and other charcuterie meats. Provide a charcuterie knife set or slicer to allow guests to portion their own meat and cheese.

Offer Beverage Pairings

Offer a range of beverage options that work well with the salty, savory ham. Possibilities include:

  • Sparkling wines
  • Light, fruity white wines like Pinot Grigio
  • Dry ciders
  • Wheat beers
  • Iced tea

Platter Presentation Ideas

With the right styling techniques, you can transform basic sliced ham into a dramatic focal point. Get inspired by these easy platter presentation ideas:

Ham Feast Platter

For a hearty, rustic look, surround the ham with crusty bread, cornichons, stonefruit, aged cheese wedges, roasted vegetables, and fresh herbs.

Glam Ham Platter

Show off the ham slices on a shiny silver or white marble platter garnished with edible flowers, lemon wedges, olives, and microgreens for modern elegance.

Holiday Ham Platter

Choose festive garnishes like pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, rosemary sprigs, figs, and pine berry sprigs with the ham for a seasonal celebration spread.

Picnic-Style Ham Platter

For a casual, picnic look, serve the ham on a wooden board alongside grainy mustard, pickles, boiled eggs, and tomato wedges.

Key Takeaways

Displaying sliced ham on a platter is an artful presentation that can impress any crowd. Follow these best practices for success:

  • Source high-quality sliced ham cut 1/8-1/4 inches thick.
  • Prepare ham just before serving and keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
  • Select a long, narrow platter to give room for arranging slices.
  • Aim for balance, symmetry and appealing use of space.
  • Incorporate height, rolls, and folds for dimension.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs, fruits, nuts, or other charcuterie items.
  • Serve with crackers, breads, and beverage pairings.

With delicious ham and beautiful presentation, you’re sure craft an appetizer platter guests will rave about.