Nothing beats the spectacle of a large glossy ham taking pride of place on the dinner table. Whether your ham forms the centrepiece of the main event at a festive feast, cooked and enjoyed al fresco on a picnic, or sliced off for cold cuts and sandwiches, a good ham always goes the extra mile. Having a ham in the fridge provides excellent value as it stretches to countless dishes throughout the week.
Cooking a gammon can be a bit intimidating if you’re new to the process. This comprehensive guide will take you through every step, ensuring that it turns out perfect every time.
What's the difference between ham and gammon?
Gammon and ham are both cut from the hind legs of a pig. The primary difference between the two is their preparation. Gammon is cured and often smoked, which needs to then be cooked. The curing process gives a saltiness. When the gammon is cooked, it becomes known as ham.
How to choose the right cure?
Our ham guide tells you how to select the right type of ham cure for you.
Bone in or bone out?
Bone-in ham tends to have more flavour. Not only do bones impart their own complex and savoury flavour, they also contain marrow; which is rich in fat. This melts during cooking and gives a unique depth of flavour to the meat. Bones are also full of collagen, which breaks down into gelatin when cooked slowly. This lends a delicious richness and silky mouthfeel.
Bones also act as a natural insulator, retaining moisture during cooking. This results in a more succulent ham as a result.
It’s worth noting that gammon with a bone in will increase the cooking time. This will be taken into consideration when you weigh the gammon to calculate the cooking time, but we’ll come onto that.
The only downside about opting for bone-in gammon is that it presents a carving challenge as you navigate around the bone. Both are popular choices, so it’s worth trying one of each to decide what’s right for you.
Baked vs Boiled Gammon
Baked gammon is cooked in a moderate oven for a longer period of time and has a more intense savoury flavour, whereas boiling gammon first tends to be milder but often more succulent.
What equipment do I need to cook a gammon?
A whole gammon requires a large stockpot to fit the ham, water and aromatics. A stockpot is a vast, sturdy double handled pan, usually bought for boiling bones to make stock. They’re handy to own if you enjoy entertaining guests. You can use them for larger quantities of potatoes and pasta, as well as preparing stock. Make sure you look for a stockpot with a solid base, a well-fitting lid and handles with well-riveted screws so there’s no chance it’ll slip as you’re carrying heavy boiling liquid.
Choosing the right size ham
Plan on approximately 200g of boneless gammon per person and of course calculate enough for the all-important leftovers!
We sell our range of uncooked hams by the whole or half, all ready for you to cook at home.
Many people choose to brine meat overnight or for 24 hours before cooking to impart further juiciness and flavour into the meat. Here at DukesHill, we prepare all of our gammons and cooked hams by either wet or dry curing them with a salt solution, so additional brining isn’t necessary at home. If cooking one of our York or Shropshire Black gammon joints, these should be soaked in cold water for at least 24 to 48 hours, changing the water once or twice. The length of soaking will affect the final saltiness of the meat.
Preparing gammon for cooking
Cooking gammon is straightforward and mostly hands-free, you just need to allow plenty of time.
Firstly, take the gammon out of the fridge and bring it up to room temperature. Depending on the time of year, it could take an hour. This helps the meat to cook evenly.
You can add all sorts of ingredients to the cooking water to influence the taste of the ham.
Onion, peppercorns, carrot, celery, cloves, herbs, garlic, juniper and bay leaves are just a few ingredients traditionally added to cold water when boiling a ham. Some people add a little vinegar
You can also try changing the cooking liquor itself, for instance try our gammon boiled in ginger beer recipe, or replace the water with cider, orange juice or even milk.
Bring the water to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer. The general rule for boiling gammon is to allow 20 minutes per 450g plus an additional 20 minutes.
Always cook to temperature, not to time. Probing the meat with a cooking thermometer will tell you the core temperature, which needs to be at least 75°c for safely prepared ham. For ultimate convenience, we love using the Meater Smart Meat Thermometer, which you can insert into the meat and watch the temperature rise from your smart device - it will notify you when the meat is perfectly cooked.
Save the cooking liquor as it forms the most delicious and nutritious base for soup, rice, pasta and lentils.
Ingredients for glazing your cooked ham
Something containing sugar, an acidic element and bold flavours are good ingredients for a ham glaze. Common ingredients include brown sugar, honey, bourbon, molasses, cider, mustard, cloves and ginger. This will infuse the ham with an incredible aroma and add complexity to the meat as it cooks.
Glazing ham tips
When your ham is cooked through, you can glaze it if you wish. Simply follow these six steps to perfectly glaze your ham:
- When the ham is cool enough to handle, slice the skin off the top and carefully even out the fat on the surface.
- Using a sharp knife, score a diamond pattern into the protective layer of fat, taking care not to cut through into the ham underneath.
- Smother your ham generously all over with your chosen glaze. If using a brush, look for a proper paintbrush as opposed to a silicone brush - you get much better results. Brush back and forth in each direction so every nook and cranny is saturated.
- For a traditional finish to your ham, you can stud whole cloves into each diamond section.
- When cooking off the glaze, do so in a hot oven but remember, the ham is already cooked - you just need to caramelise the glaze at this point.
- Keep an eye on the glaze while it’s cooking, so the sugars don’t burn. Do baste regularly either with more glaze or spooning from the bottom of the tin.
Allow the cooked ham to rest and cool slightly before serving to make slicing neater and with precision.
Always slice meat against the grain for a melt-in-the-mouth texture. It makes such a difference! If the ham has the bone in, carefully carve along the bone to remove the slices.
Garnish the serving board with greenery for an elegant finish. Try fresh herbs, fruit such as apples or oranges, perhaps prunes, apricots and nuts.
6 ways to use leftover ham
If you have ham leftover, don't worry! There are plenty of delicious ways that you can utilise your leftovers and create a delicious feast well beyond your initial meal.
- Save the cooking liquor for a delicious, nutritious base for soups, cooking rice or lentils. Try our ham hock soup for a cheerful, comforting dinner.
- A creamy ham pie stretches out the ham beautifully. Saute leeks, thyme, ham and all the vegetables that need using up, stir in a spoonful of flour - then add a ladle of ham stock and something creamy. Once you have a delicious pie base, simply add a pastry lid and get creative with pastry decoration before baking at 180c for 30 minutes.
- Pasta is a crowd-pleaser and an excellent way to use leftover ham. Try our cheesy ham and pea penne for a dish the whole family will enjoy.
- Mix together leftover mashed potato and try your hand at ham hash cakes. The combination of the crunchy, caramelised coating and the fluffy centre is heavenly.
- Showcase ham in all its glory in this simple salad of ham, egg and cress. The best ingredients served simply is always a winning dinner. Even better when served with chips of course - which leads us to…
- Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox? Serve green eggs and ham for the nostalgic twist on the classic ham eggs and chips.
Tips for storing cooked ham
Glazed ham will keep perfectly well in the fridge. These are our top tips for storing ham:
- To prevent ham from drying out, only carve as much ham as you need each time, as ham stored on the bone will stay juicy for longer than carved meat as it will oxygenate faster.
- Wrap ham in a slightly damp cloth. Rinse a clean tea towel, pillowcase or muslin with a little water and wring it until damp before wrapping the ham up and storing in the fridge.
- Always store cooked ham away from raw meat in the fridge. Raw meat should be on a lower shelf than cooked foods to prevent contamination.
- To freeze cooked ham, simply wrap it in plastic or bees-wax wrap and then foil, before freezing it.
- Defrost frozen ham in the fridge slowly before eating it.
- Never re-freeze raw meat that has been frozen and then thawed.
If you want to cook ham at home with all of the flavour but maximum convenience, try one of our delectable cook-in-the-bag gammon range.
Hassle-free and easy to cook, simply pop them into the oven to cook for a perfectly succulent joint with no preparation or washing up sticky trays afterwards. The cooking method retains all the moisture and gives a delicious, developed flavour and texture.
Each premium silverside cut is cured in our famous Wiltshire style before being deboned, and trimmed to ensure the right balance of fat to lean, ready to cook-in-the-bag for the most tender, succulent, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Muscovado Sugar Gammon Joint - RRP £20 (1kg)
Coated in premium dark muscovado sugar and matured for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop, this succulent joint delivers a rich and complex flavour driven by the natural molasses of the sugar.
Black Pepper Gammon Joint - RRP £19 (1kg)
Cured using our popular Wiltshire style and coated in coarse black pepper, this tender, succulent joint delivers a hint of black pepper and provides hassle-free cooking.