Special Report

12 Ways You Can Ruin Your Christmas Ham

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1. Getting country ham

There are two main type of hams — country and city. Technically, there is nothing wrong with getting the former, but it takes much longer to cook and it’s a lot more complicated, which mean more possibilities of making big mistakes, according to Alexander. A city ham is smaller, placed in salt water, and par-cooked, he explained. “This is easier to cook, less expensive and easier to find.” It may not be as flavorful as the country ham, but “it is still very good and what most people use when they cook it for the holidays.”

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2. Choosing a boneless ham

Some people are tempted to buy boneless ham because it seems convenient, but this is a mistake, Alexander warned. “Bone-in ham is the only way to go.” This is because, he explained, bones make meat taste better as most of the flavor is retained. A ham without the bone means it has more than likely been heavily processed by grinding and then molded to look like ham again, according to Alexander. “Those taste terrible.”

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3. Disregarding the ingredients label

Don’t forget to look at the ingredients label when you buy your ham. Ham is labeled based on its water-to-protein content. “If it is 20.5% protein and no added water, it is labeled ‘Ham,'” Alexander said, whereas ham with 18.5% protein is labeled “Ham in its natural juices.” “These are often par-cooked.” Alexander said. And these are the two you want, especially if you are a beginner . Don’t go for “Ham water added” or “Ham and water product.” The latter means that the ham has been deboned, ground and reconstituted. “That is terrible and should be avoided,” Alexander said.

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4. Not covering the ham

You shouldn’t cook ham uncovered because all of the moisture in the meat will evaporate leaving it dry and tasteless. “A double layer of aluminum foil in the form of a tent works just fine,” Alexander said. Keep it on until it’s time to glaze.

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5. Forgetting to line the pan with oil

“If you are worried about it sticking, a simple nonstick spray should suffice,” Alexander said. “However, I frequently cook it in a sweet sauce that I baste it with.” This will work if you don’t need or want to use oil. Basting is a cooking method used to add moisture to food, especially meat.