How to cook a ham in a slow cooker

Ham lends itself beautifully to slow cooking - it’s a fool-proof way to create an outstanding meal. Slow heat, simple ingredients and a little extra cooking time can transform ingredients into something new and more delicious. 

Despite the slow cooking process being one of the easiest ways to cook ham, there's plenty worth knowing if you want to learn how to cook ham in a slow cooker. From recipe ideas to preparation methods, this guide covers it all. Read on to learn how to serve up the perfect cooked ham with your slow cooker!

Why slow cook ham?

Slow cooker ham is infinitely more tender for a fall-off the bone texture. A low, consistent heat over hours breaks down the collagen and connective tissues, which tenderises the meat. The natural fat slowly renders down, infusing the meat with a more intense, rich flavour. This ensures the ham remains juicy and doesn’t dry out. Slow cooking prevents the risk of overcooking certain areas while leaving other parts undercooked.

Bone-in or bone out?

When slow cooking ham, one of the main things you will need to decide is which kind of ham to go for. Bone-in ham is more flavoursome, generally. Bones season the meat with a savoury, rich flavour. The marrow inside the bone is full of fat that slowly melts during cooking - infusing the meat with even more flavour. Bones are natural insulators that help to lock the moisture within the meat while cooking. You’ll notice bone-in ham is more succulent and tender as a result.

Do be prepared to cook bone-in ham for a little longer - it will weigh more so your calculations will need to be adjusted. With very slowly cooked, tender ham - the bone should practically slide out after cooking, making it easy to carve afterwards.

Using a slow cooker

The slow cooker is celebrated for its convenience, assured of great tasting results from minimal preparation - often simply pushing a button to cook. It’s perfect for busy households, setting a timer for after work or the school-run or for preparing for gatherings as it frees up your time while the slow-cooker does all the hard work for you.

How to cook ham in the slow cooker

Firstly, prepare your ham by trimming any excess fat and scoring the surface lightly for the flavours to penetrate more deeply.

To season the ham, place the ham in a bowl and add your chosen ingredients. You could use brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, sage, honey, mustard, cloves, or spice mixes. Your hands are the best tools to rub ingredients into the ham so get stuck in! Massage it generously all over the surface of your ham so you have a lovely even coating.

Slow cookers need a little liquid otherwise the contents will dry out and burn. You could add stock, cider, pineapple juice or water. This will keep the ham moist while cooking.

Set the slow-cooker to low heat. The cooking time will depend on the weight of your ham. As a general guide, a two kilo ham will cook on low for approximately 4-6 hours.

You shouldn’t need to baste the ham, but if you’re at home, do check on it from time to time to ensure the bottom doesn’t run dry. You may need to top it up.

The ham is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 65c. It should be tender and easily pulled apart.

Once cooked, let it rest for a while before slicing. Carve against the grain when it’s warm, using any liquid from the bottom as a serving sauce.

Braised ham

Braising is an excellent way to transform large joints of meat into tender dishes while creating rich sauces. This lends itself perfectly for slow cooking!

What is braising?

Braising is a cooking method that usually involves searing or browning food (usually meat) before dropping the heat down and slowly cooking in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid.

How to braise ham

Place the ham in a pot and add a little liquid - cider, stock, wine, water, ginger beer, coke - there are plenty of options to play around with. You can add vegetables and aromatics - herbs, spices, fruit etc. Cover with a lid and allow the liquid to gently simmer - or you can place in the oven at a low temperature - around 160c. Depending on the size of your ham it will take several hours for the meat to become tender and fully cooked. Use a meat thermometer to probe the centre. As the meat cooks, the liquid will reduce and concentrate in flavour.

You can glaze the ham afterwards - one simple way to glaze a ham is brushing it all over with our Honey and Mustard Glaze or Seville Orange Marmalade before finishing it off in the oven for a flavoursome, glossy finish.

Slow cooked ham in the barbecue

There are also some more unconventional slow cooking methods such as roasting meat until it succumbs into tender proteins, melting fat and yielding collagen. One of the best ways of harnessing the magic of authentic charcoal barbecue is cooking in a kamado. The kamado (meaning clay oven) concept was designed in Japan thousands of years ago and has evolved over centuries.  It consists of a dome-shaped barbecue with ceramic shell. This creates outstanding insulation and efficiency. The insulation also means that kamados have the ability to hold very low temperatures, making them perfect for slow-cooking. Well-insulated ceramic barbecues run far more efficiently than stainless-steel grills, so you don’t need much charcoal for your low and slow cook. Barbecue is perfect for tougher cuts of meat that have plenty of fat and fibres to melt down over a long period of time. 

There are plenty of ways to achieve slow-cooked barbecue ham. You can simply place the ham directly on the grill above some charcoal and allow the gentle heat to do all the work. Or you can put it in a heavy duty casserole pot first, leaving it to braise down slowly. Alternatively, gammon works beautifully on a rotisserie, so it gently spins over the glowing embers and flames. The rotisserie method ensures even exposure to the heat, so it’ll be perfectly even cooking all round. With this method, the ham bastes itself in its own fat, contributing to a juicier and more succulent result.

You can add wood chunks approximately an hour before the end of the cook if you want to impart a gentle smoky flavour.

What to serve with slow cooker ham

Tender, melt-in-the-mouth ham is incredibly versatile when choosing side dishes. Creamy, buttery mashed potatoes will create a cosy, warming dinner. If you have leftovers of mashed potatoes and ham, you could make croquettes or bubble and squeak. Whereas, for a dinner party a large tray of dauphinoise potatoes will create a more decadent centrepiece. Glazed carrots and braised red cabbage work beautifully, as would a large bowl of buttered spring greens.

Best condiments for slow cooker ham

Mustard and ham go hand-in-hand together. Choose a piquant, punchy piccalilli such as our Proper Piccalilli. The tartness of cranberry sauce contrasts nicely with the saltiness of ham. Fruit-based chutneys offer a sweet, tangy flavour that complements the ham too.

How to store slow cooked ham

Cooked ham will keep in the fridge for three to four days. Simply place it in an airtight container such as tupperware or tightly wrapped in foil. Ensure it’s thoroughly cooked through if you choose to reheat it.

Want to create the perfect slow cooked ham right away? Browse the complete range of delightful DukesHill ham online and check out our fantastic slow cooker ham with mulled cider recipe - the perfect way to embrace the low temperature cooking process and create an outstanding meal!