How to Cook a Ham
Caterer’s Secret Revealed

How to Cook a Ham for Parties Large and Small

Cooking a ham is not all that hard, especially because it’s already fully cooked when you buy it. The hard part is getting more flavor into it - without drying it out.

Even notice how ham turns to leather when overcooked? The delicate meat loses it’s moisture in a heartbeat.

Follow our method for ham perfection - especially for larger numbers.

Here is our Complete List of Dinner Recipes

“How to Cook a Ham” is kind of an oxymoron - because ham is already fully cooked - else it can’t be sold and legally called “ham.” But - serving it hot and moist is a real trick, because it’s delicate and tender meat dries out in a heartbeat.


This recipe will feed 12 people, or more. Read about Party Food Quantities and how to plan for the right amounts.

Baked Ham Shopping List
for 12 People:

___1 - 4 pound boneless Ham

___1 cup dark brown sugar

___2 tablespoons good mustard

___Minor’s Chicken Base (optional)

Check out how we use bases, what they are and where to get them.


The Day Before the Party:

Unwrap the ham over a pan. Catch all the liquid that comes out. Add a little water to it and refrigerate for use tomorrow.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and mustard.

You should have a thick, smooth paste.

Spread the paste over all the ham. Refrigerate on a baking pan overnight.

The Day of the Party

Next day, put the ham into a preheated 375°f oven, directly from the fridge, for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, place the ham on a cutting board. Carefully collect all the sugary liquid from the pan, and combine it with the ham liquid you saved yesterday into a large pan/pot that goes on the stove.

Add water, a quart or so (enough to cover all the ham when sliced,) to the ham liquid. You can also add Minor’s Ham or Chicken Base (1/4 cup), or your own chicken stock, etc. The more flavor, the better. Heat the liquid on the stove to boiling, then reduce heat to low.

While the ham liquid is heating, slice the ham. Think portion size. Is this a stand up buffet? Cut small pieces. Is it a knife and forker? Cut 4 ounce slices.

When you’re ready to serve, soak the ham slices in the hot stock for 60 seconds. Serve immediately.

If you are serving a buffet and using a Food Warmer/Chafing Dish, you can pour the hot ham liquid into the Chafing Dish, and then add the ham directly to it. Keep the heat low, and check throughout your party to make sure that the liquid doesn’t cook out. The minimum temperature for the liquid is 140°f .

Why does this method work so well? Remember that ham is fully cooked when you buy it. The idea is to simply warm it up and add some flavor. This way, you get the flavor without drying it out.

Presentation: Your Eyes Eat First

Look carefully at the pic of the ham slice on a plate. It’s incredibly moist, and loaded with flavor. We bet you’ll never do ham another way ever.

Also - this method works for countless servings. Think of it - as long as you’ve got hot liquid, you can pull ham out of the fridge, slice it and drop it in - then serve. We’ve used this technique on location in fields without electricity, from out of our van, from humble kitchens and community centers, you name it - and several times for over 1,000 people. It’s so simple, and the ham is delicious.

And - this method works with other meats. Use Ask a Caterer for ideas and advice for chicken, turkey, pork and roast beef dinners using this technique.


If you’ve kept your ham liquid at 140°f throughout the meal, then you refrigerate and re-serve portions for the next day or two. It will also freeze well.

How about some Desserts?

Check out some Appetizers!

Ready for some Dinner and Entrée ideas?

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