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What’s the best way to cook a spiral ham without drying it out?

Quick Answer

The best way to cook a spiral ham and keep it moist is to bake it in the oven at a low temperature (325°F) for a long time (18-24 minutes per pound). Make sure to coat the ham with a glaze, use acooking bag or foil tent, and baste the ham every 30 minutes. Checking the internal temperature and removing the ham when it reaches 140°F will also prevent overcooking.

What You Need to Know About Cooking Spiral Ham

Cooking a bone-in spiral cut ham can be tricky. If you aren’t careful, it can end up dry and tough. Here are some tips on how to keep your holiday ham juicy and delicious:

Choose the Right Size

– When selecting a spiral cut ham, allow for 1/3 to 1/2 pound of uncooked ham per person. For example, a 10 pound uncooked ham would feed about 20 people.

– It’s easier to end up with leftovers than not have enough, so round up if you aren’t sure.

Read the Packaging

– Spiral hams come fully cooked or not. Make sure to read the packaging carefully to determine if yours needs to be cooked or just heated through.

– Fully cooked hams just need to be warmed to an internal temperature of 140°F. Uncooked hams must reach 160°F.

Use a Meat Thermometer

– Checking the internal temperature of the ham as it cooks is crucial for doneness. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the ham, avoiding the bone.

– When the ham reaches the target internal temperature (140°F for pre-cooked, 160°F for uncooked), it’s ready to come out of the oven.

Choose a Cooking Method

There are a few ways to cook spiral ham:

Oven: Excellent heat distribution leads to even cooking. Use a low temp (325°F) for a long time.

Smoker: Imparts delicious smoky flavor. Maintain temp at 225-250°F.

Grill: Gives a nice sear but can be tricky. Use medium heat and rotate frequently.

Prepare the Ham

– Place the ham cut side down in a roasting pan. Add 1 cup of water to the bottom to help steam it.

– Score the ham’s fatty top layer in a diamond pattern. This helps the glaze soak in.

– Stud with whole cloves if desired. Press them into the scored fat.

Apply a Glaze

– Glazing adds flavor and moisture. Brush with a sticky, sugar-based glaze periodically during cooking.

– Make your own glaze or use a store-bought variety like honey, maple, brown sugar or fruit preserves.

Maintain Moisture

– Prevent the ham from drying out by trapping steam and moisture:

– Cover loosely with foil or use an oven roasting bag.

– Fill a disposable foil pan with water and place under the ham to catch drips.

– Spritz or brush the ham with broth, juice or water every 30 mins.

Rest and Carve

– Before carving, let the ham rest for 15-30 minutes tented with foil. This allows juices to redistribute.

– Carve across the grain in thin slices. Go just to the bone, then under it to free the slices.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these steps for juicy oven-baked spiral ham:

1. Choose a Fully Cooked Ham

Look for a boneless, fully cooked spiral sliced ham at the grocery store. These are already cured and smoked. You just need to heat it through. Purchase 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person.

2. Prepare the Ham

Take the ham out of the refrigerator and remove all packaging. Place it fat side up in a foil-lined roasting pan. Score the fat in a diamond pattern. Press whole cloves into the scored fat if desired.

3. Make a Glaze

In a small saucepan, stir together 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Warm over medium heat just until combined. Reserve 1/2 cup for basting, and brush the remaining glaze all over the ham.

4. Preheat the Oven

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Add 1 cup water to the roasting pan to help create steam.

5. Cook the Ham

Place the ham in the oven and bake for approximately 18-24 minutes per pound. So for a 10 lb ham, bake for 3-4 hours. Every 30 minutes, brush the reserved glaze over the ham. If the ham seems to be drying out, loosely tent foil over the top.

6. Check Temperature

After the estimated cook time, begin checking the temperature periodically. Insert a meat thermometer deep into the thickest part of the ham without touching the bone. When it reaches 140°F, the ham is ready.

7. Rest and Carve

Remove the ham from the oven, loosely tent with foil, and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes. This lets the juices redistribute. To carve, slice across the grain working from the outer edge in. Go just to the bone then under to free the slices.

Recipe Variations

There are lots of ways to adapt this basic spiral ham recipe:


– Brown sugar & mustard
– Sweet & tangy citrus
– Spicy pineapple
– Herb-infused honey
– Bourbon molasses
– Fig, apple & onion

Flavor Additions

– Stud with whole cloves
– Coat with crushed peppercorns
– Rub with minced garlic & herbs
– Slather with spicy mustard
– Sprinkle with brown sugar & spices

Prep Tips

– Partially bake ham the day before for ease
– Soak ham overnight in brine or cider
– Marinate ham for 1-2 days in a wet rub
– Smoke low and slow on a grill or smoker
– Cook in a brown sugar & cola braise

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about cooking spiral ham:

How long does it take to cook a spiral ham?

Plan on roasting fully cooked ham for approximately 18-24 minutes per pound at 325°F. An 8-10 lb ham takes around 2.5-3 hours. Always use a meat thermometer for best accuracy.

Should you cover ham when cooking?

It’s a good idea to tent foil loosely over the ham, especially towards the end of cooking. This traps in moisture and prevents the exterior from drying out before the interior is done.

What is the best way to reheat leftover ham?

Carve leftover cooked ham into slices or dice, and add to soups, fried rice, pasta, frittatas, sandwiches and more. Or simply reheat slices wrapped in foil at 300°F for 15-20 minutes until warmed through.

Can you freeze cooked spiral ham?

Yes, fully cooked spiral ham can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating to serve.

What happens if you overcook a ham?

An overcooked ham will be dry, tough, and less flavorful. Use a meat thermometer and stop cooking when the ham reaches the target internal temperature to prevent overcooking.


Cooking a spiral cut ham may seem intimidating, but it’s actually quite simple. Allow plenty of time for low, slow oven roasting and keep the ham moist with steam, glazes and broth. Checking the temperature and stopping the cook when the ham reaches 140°F is also key. With this foolproof process, you’ll have perfect ham for the holidays or any time of year. Enjoy your deliciously juicy and flavorful spiral ham!