Christmas Ham – All You Need To Know And Do – Butcher’s Insider Tips

Christmas Ham – All You Need To Know And Do – Butcher’s Insider Tips


What better table centrepiece for your Christmas meal than a spectacular glazed ham – one that you can proudly say you created yourself.

Here are our tips for choosing, cooking, carving and storing your Christmas Ham.

A Choice Of Seven Perfect Christmas Hams and Pork by RQM

  1. How to choose the right ham?

Did you know that around 70% of ham and bacon sold in Australia is made from imported pork? Here at RQM we only source locally produced pork to meet our strict guidelines.  Each ham is then cured, cooked and gently smoked to ensure only the very best mouth-watering products are on offer.

To choose your ham, look for a natural, meaty texture with smooth, even skin and colouring.  If you come across a ham where the shank end is sunken, it’s overcooked. Also keep a look out for a rind that is buckled or uneven, as this is a sign of dryness.

When selecting your ham, choose a leg that has a thick layer of insulating fat to protect the meat during cooking. Hams 8-10 kg are most likely to have the best flavour and texture due to age of the pig.  A typical ham of this size will feed 15-20 people with plenty of leftovers.

  1. Preparing your ham and glaze

On the shank end of the ham leg, cut a ring in a zigzag pattern.  Cut just through the skin, not deep into the meat.

Using your hands, gently peel back the skin from the leg to the shank being careful not to tear the fat. Using a sharp knife score the skin around the shank, remove the skin in a single piece and reserve. This way you can use it later on to store the ham and keep it moist.

Use a sharp knife to score the fat, taking care to not cut all the way through to the meat or it can dry out as it cooks. Score lines running diagonal to the leg about 4 cm apart, then repeat the process by scoring it in the opposite direction. You should be left with a diamond pattern.


Part of what makes the ham a stunning table centrepiece, is its blanket of studded cloves. Stick a clove into the centre of each diamond shape. Don’t worry about the cloves overpowering the ham as it cooks, as the flavouring is very subtle.

If you need to prepare ahead of time, you can score and stud the ham up to 24 hours prior, just make sure you then re-cover the ham with the removed skin and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it.

Prepare the glaze. (See recipes in the Links at the bottom of this article).

There are a wide variety of glazes you can choose from, although the traditional mix is sugar, mustard and lime or lemon juice. This will add a layer of flavour to contrast with the smokiness of the ham.

A Choice Of Seven Perfect Christmas Hams and Pork by RQM

  1. Cooking your ham:

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Be sure to wrap the ham hock end of your ham with foil (this prevents it from burning). Place your ham scored side up on a wire rack in a large baking pan and brush over glaze.  Add approximately 2 cm of water into the bottom of the pan.  This little bit of water will stop the glaze from burning as it drips down the ham into the bottom of the pan.

Place into a preheated oven or hooded BBQ at 180°C for 15-20 minutes per kg, basting frequently (every 15 mins or so), until ham is brown and warmed through. Constantly brushing the ham with the remaining glaze will build up layers of the caramelised sugars, giving it a glossy, succulent finish and a deep golden colour.

  1. Carving your ham:

To make it easy to carve your ham, place it on a flat work surface. Use a tea towel to firmly hold the shank of the ham.

To carve nicely, make a vertical cut towards the bone, about 10 cm from the shank, then make a second cut at an angle to the first. Remove the ham wedge and cut several thin slices parallel to the second cut, then carve along the bone to remove the cut slices of ham. Place the slices on serving plates. Carve as thick or as thin as you like.

  1. Storing your ham

Soak a ham bag, pillowcase or tea towel in four cups of water and two tablespoons of vinegar. Wring out excess water and place ham in the ham bag, pillowcase or wrap in a tea towel. Store in the coolest part of your fridge.  Re-soak the bag in solution every few days or when ham bag dries out.

TIPS: Keep the rind to cover leftover ham as it keeps the meat moist. Then put it in a ham bag and store in the fridge. Cut the meat from the bone and store separately in plastic wrap. Freeze for up to one month. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Don’t forget to save the ham hock – it’ll make a great pea and ham soup.

A Choice Of Seven Perfect Christmas Hams and Pork by RQM

Handy Links

The Australian Pork Corporation has a fabulous Christmas Guide that includes videos on how to glaze a ham, how to carve a ham and so on, well worth a viewing. You can access these videos CLICK HERE 

Australian Pork Corporation Glaze Recipes

Marmalade and maple glazed ham recipe

Pineapple and honey glazed ham recipe

Redcurrant, spice and balsamic glazed ham recipe

Cherry, mustard and balsamic glazed ham recipe

Berkshire Pork Butchers Insider Tips