There is a reason why this is the best oven-baked ham recipe you’ll ever make. This isn’t just your average baked ham with glaze. The Dutch molasses-colored syrup made from sugar syrup and glucose syrup gives it an incredibly rich sweet flavor providing the perfect caramelization to create a crunchy layer.

A picture of an oven-baked ham on a big plate with some side dishes.

Not to mention that any recipe with a sweet and salty combination is always a winning recipe. Especially for an oven-baked ham recipe, you’d want to contrast the natural saltiness of the pork with something sweet.

While baking a ham may feel intimidating (it sure felt like that to me), it’s actually quite easy. The key to a good oven-baked ham recipe isn’t just using the right ingredients, it’s also about having patience. To get a juicy and tender pork ham you’ll need to bake the pork for at least 2 hours, first covered then uncovered.

How Do you Cook a Precooked Ham Without Drying It Out?

The reason why many people end up with dry ham is because they either overcook it or they don’t wrap it during the pre-baking process.

You need to wrap the pork in a roasting bag/parchment paper and then wrap the foil around it. The roasting bag/parchment paper will help keep the pork moist. The reason why you pre-cook it is because wrapping allows the meat to absorb the fat of the pork. Wrapping with just foil won’t be as effective which is something a lot of people mistakenly do.

So, to start, you always bake a ham covered and then uncover for the last part of the baking. The aim of the last part is only to season and caramelize.

Removing the Fat

After pre-baking the ham, you’d want to remove the thick fat on the bottom part. That layer of fat has two textures. The outer layer is chewy and hard but gets softer where it touches the pork. That’s why you’d want to remove the chewy but leave that thin, soft, layer of fat to help keep the pork moist. A bit of fat is never wrong when it comes to this recipe.

How Long Does a Ham Take to Cook?

Baking or roasting large meat is always tricky because you have no idea what’s going on underneath the skin. The skin may be nice golden-brown, but the inside completely raw. A recipe may call for 1-hour baking and then when serving you realize that you’ve overcooked your ham.

To be able to create the best oven-baked ham you need to use an instant-read thermometer. Can you make it without? Well, yes but you risk over or undercooking your pork.

I have eaten a lot of oven-baked ham in my life and I have yet to taste a homecooked ham that is always juicy and tender.

Don’t waste a good piece of pork just to avoid using a thermometer. It’s such an inexpensive tool but will make a major difference.

The reason why you want a thermometer is that every oven is different. While this recipe calls for a baking period of 1 hr and 30 minutes, you may have to bake it for a longer or shorter period of time. The only way to know is to insert a thermometer into the middle of the ham (without touching the bone) to measure the internal temperature.

Keukenstroop: Dutch Molasses

Keukenstroop is like a molasses made from from sugar syrup and glucose syrup. It’s a typical Dutch syrup that is often poured on top of pancakes or used as a filling for ‘Dutch Stroopwafels’.

This product is so particular that there is no true substitute for it. I find the caramelization to be the best with the Keukenstroop and the taste incomparable to other syrups.

You can easily find Keukenstroop online at a Dutch grocer or maybe you’re lucky enough to have one near you. There aren’t many Dutch molasses brands out there so whichever you choose will be good for this recipe.

A flat view of a full baked ham with ham sliced, garnished with thyme sprigs, and roasted carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms as side dish.

Best Oven-Baked Ham Recipe

This is truly the best oven-baked ham recipe. The skin has a nice crunch while the inside is tender and juicy. The balance between sweet-salty and the aromatics of the thyme will make fall in love with this recipe.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 40 mins
De-Salting/Rest Time 4 hrs
Total Time 6 hrs 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Dutch, Fusion
Servings 6 people

Equipment

  • Parchment Paper
  • Foil
  • Instant-read thermometer

Ingredients
  

  • 11 lbs. (5 kg) smoked ham with rind, bone-in
  • ½ cup (120 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 6 tbsp. (85 gr) unsalted butter in cubes, softened
  • 4 tbsp. thyme chopped
  • ½ cup (170 gr) runny honey
  • ½ cup (170 gr) Dutch Molasses (‘Zeeuwse Keukenstroop’)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Cloves
  • Thyme sprigs for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Remove the packaging from the ham. Place the ham in a large bowl and cover it with water. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit for 3-4 hours to remove the saltiness.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C.
  • Place ham in a large roasting pan. Wrap the ham completely with parchment paper or use a roasting bag and then cover the ham with heavy-duty foil. Seal the edges tightly. Bake ham the ham until the thermometer registers 145°F/63°C (about 1 hour and 30 minutes). Remove from the oven when done and increase the oven temperature to 375°F/190°C.
  • Just a few minutes before it finishes, boil the vinegar on low heat until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Whisk the butter quickly into the vinegar to melt then remove from heat. Whisk in the thyme, honey, Dutch molasses, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Discard parchment paper/roasting bag and foil. Peel off and discard the fat from the ham, leaving only a thin layer of fat on the ham (see note 1). Score (lightly slice) the top of the ham in a checkered pattern without cutting too deep (see note 2). Take the cloves and place them into the different incisions. Spread them all over the ham.
  • If there is no liquid in the roasting pan, add about 1 cup water so the glaze doesn’t stick and burn on the pan. Brush ham with half of the glaze and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Brush again with remaining glaze and bake until glaze is deep golden-brown, about 20 minutes more.
  • Remove from oven and take all the cloves out. Garnish with some thyme sprigs to serve.

Notes

  1. A little bit of fat is never bad. But, the bottom fat becomes chewy which is why you’d want to remove this part and leave only a thin layer (the “soft fat”).
  2. Even if your ham is already scored, do it again following the existing lines to loosen the top skin to absorb the sauce.
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