Taste test: Baked hams for Easter

Epicurious

View gallery

.
 Carando Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Bone-In Ham

(Carando Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Bone-In Ham)

Easter's culinary traditions are about more than egg hunts (and leftovers), jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. When families gather to celebrate, oftentimes a baked ham takes center stage on the table. While there are almost as many specialty hand-cured hams as there are flavors of jelly beans, these tend to cost between $50 and $80 each.

For those who are content to pick up a ham at the supermarket—one that is already cooked and, yes, more affordable—we've taken the guesswork out of which baked ham is best.





As usual, prior to our testing, we invested time researching the world of hams; you may want to put your concentration cap on for this one. Our ham selections took into consideration the most important factors: bone-in, semi-boneless, or boneless; spiral cut or not; half or whole sizes; style; and meat grade. Supermarket hams can be sold uncooked yet cured with salt and sugar (country style) or brined (injected with solution) and smoked and cooked (city style). The grade of the pork reflects the amount of water it contains; the more water, the lower the grade. The ham can be labeled as just ham (meaning it's the highest grade and no water has been added). It can be brined in its natural juices (water has been added and the ham is 10 percent water). It can be labeled as "ham, water added" (15 percent water), and/or it can be injected with ham and water product (50 percent water).

All judges agreed that the perfect ham should not be rubbery, taste like a salt lick, or feel slimy but should rather be tender, moist, and chewy. Most importantly, in terms of flavor, it should contain a combination of the three S's: sweet, salty, and smoky. Three hams fit the bill.

Best Baked Ham Overall

Winner: Carando Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Bone-In Ham (Pictured above left)
($4.49 per pound)

Pros: The judges unanimously agreed that Carando had the right balance of smokiness and saltiness. "It is tender and meaty, not flobbery—floppy and rubbery—like some of the others!" stated one judge. Another taster said, "I am not a big ham fan, but I would actually eat this variety again." This ham was also noted for its family-friendly size and easy-to-serve presentation.

Cons: Not as moist as a non-spiral-sliced ham.

(See also: High tech kitchen products)



View gallery

.
Cook's Half Bone-In Shank Ham brined with ham and water product

(Photo courtesy of Cook's Ham)

Baked Ham, First Runner-Up

Winner: Cook's Half Bone-In Shank Ham brined with ham and water product
($1.79 per pound)

Pros: "I like the nice rosy color and the mild, smoky, maple-sweet flavor; it makes me think this one is fresh and more natural," declared one editor.

Cons: Somewhat rubbery.



Ice Invaders Ice Cubes

(Photo by: stupid.com)

Baked Ham, Second Runner-Up

Winner: Niman Ranch Uncured Boneless Ham brined with natural juices
($9.99 per pound)

Pros: Nitrite-free and mild in flavor, with a hint of smokiness. "This one is pleasantly thick and moist," one editor observed.

Cons: Slightly spongy.


The Other Contenders: The Bottom Three

Boar's Head Black Forest Ham had several tasters concerned. Not only did a fluorescent pink tint permeate its surface, but it tasted fairly processed. "Perhaps this brand should always be eaten between two slices of bread," suggested one taster. Jones Dainty Ham was described as rather tough and rubbery. One editor compared it to "water with salt." Lastly, Thumann's Spiral Sliced Ham was greasy, flavorless, and "flobbery."

Additional Taste Test Details

The ten varieties of hams we tasted are available nationwide and include the following, listed from highest to lowest score in our taste test: Carando Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Bone-In, Cook's Traditional Half Bone-In Shank, Niman Ranch Uncured Boneless, Boar's Head Sweet Slice Smoked Boneless, Hormel Spiral Sliced Bone-In,* Smithfield Hickory Smoked Bone-In,* Hormel Cure 81 Boneless, Boar's Head Black Forest Smoked Boneless, Jones Naturally Smoked Dainty Ham Boneless, Thumann's Spiral Sliced Bone-In.

(*Asterisked brands received the same score.)

Methodology: In a blind taste test, seven judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of baked ham. All varieties were cooked according to the directions on the packaging, which most often meant reheating the hams for 15 or 20 minutes per pound. (Glaze packets were included in the packaging but were not used in our testing.) We ranked the hams according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system, four being the best.

Prices and availability subject to change.


More from Epicurious:

Easy Family Dinners

25 Sandwich Makeovers

How to Eat Your Spring Veggies

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Everything Aaron and Jordan Rodgers Have Said About Their Family Feud

      Quarterback Aaron Rodgers may have led the Green Bay Packers to a narrow victory during Sunday night’s playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, but his family did not share in the celebration. According to a new interview with The New York Times published Sunday, Ed Rodgers confirmed that he’s not on speaking terms with his son following the 32-year-old NFL star’s rise in popularity. Word of the family’s rift became public knowledge last spring when the quarterback’s younger brother Jordan appeared on JoJo Fletcher‘s season of The Bachelorette.

      People
    • Texas teacher who had sex almost daily with 13-year-old student gets 10 years in prison

      A former Texas middle-school teacher who was impregnated by a 13-year-old student has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Alexandria Vera, 25, was facing up to 30 years behind bars after pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child in November. She admitted to police that a relationship that started with Instagram messages between her and the boy blossomed into a romance — one that the boy’s family approved of. A judge in the 209th District Court in Houston said during Vera’s sentencing hearing on Friday that he does not believe the former English teacher is a danger to children or a classic pedophile, the Houston Chronicle reported. But Judge Michael McSpadden said he wants to send

      Washington Post q
    • Massive Alligator Strolls Casually Past Florida Tourists

      Video shows the gator without a care in the world.

      Inside Edition
    • Tom Brady Responded To Antonio Brown Posting Mike Tomlin's 'A**holes' Speech On Facebook

      Only historians will ever be able to properly place Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video into proper context. Well, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was the victim of Brown’s odd choice, and now the world knows his secret — he doesn’t like the Patriots, who are the Steelers’ opponent in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday.

      UPROXX
    • Kourtney Kardashian Steps Out with Justin Bieber — But ‘Is Still Serious About Making Things Work with Scott’: Source

      Kourtney Kardashian may have been spotted hitting the town with ex-fling Justin Bieber over the weekend — but the two are now just friends, a source tells PEOPLE. Bieber and Kardashian stopped by West Hollywood hotspot The Peppermint Club on Saturday night, shortly after the reality star left a birthday celebration for Jessica Alba‘s husband Cash Warren. According to a Kardashian source, she and Bieber “hung out together with friends, but didn’t spend the night together.

      People
    • NBD, just a massive alligator out for a stroll

      Nothing to see here, just a ginormous alligator casually sauntering across your path. Kim Joiner, a visitor to Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland, Florida, took the video over the weekend, according to Storyful. She described the encounter as "very exciting." SEE ALSO: Alligator seems to go for a little ride on a manatee Joiner said the alligator was about 12 feel long and that while she took the photos from a safe distance, she was "close enough." According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the state record for an alligator is 14 feet 3.5 inches. Video credit: Kim Joiner via Storyful UPDATE: Jan. 16, 2017, 3:21 p.m. EST This post was updated to include information from the photographer.

      Mashable q
    • Selena Gomez Wears Red Leather in a Way You're Guaranteed to Have Never Seen Before

      Selena Gomez might be the ultimate style chameleon. For Sunday's InStyle Golden Globes afterparty, Selena chose a vaguely boho, ethereal off-the-shoulder white gown from J. Mendel. But last night? Selena did a complete style 180. With the help of her stylist, Kate Young, Selena selected a long, red leather Louis Vuitton dress to attend the Sixth Biennial UNICEF Ball in Los Angeles. Far from appearing heavy, the dress seemed relatively weightless thanks to floral cutout details and a ruffle around the neck. While at the event, Selena made the rounds and said hello to some of her very stylish friends, including new face of Louis Vuitton Léa Seydoux and designer Nicolas Ghesquière. Louis Vuitton

      PopSugar q
    • Georgia constituent pens open letter to Rep. John Lewis

      Woman shares her message on 'Fox & Friends'

      FOX News Videos
    • Samsung says it knows why the Galaxy Note 7 exploded — and it's no surprise

      Reuters reported that Samsung had concluded its investigation of its Galaxy Note 7, and determined that the battery was the main culprit. Seeing as the battery was the part of the handset known to explode, this comes as little surprise.

      Digital Trends
    • Aaron Rodgers Hasn't Spoken to His Family in 2 Years, Father Confirms

      In a New York Times story about the family rift, the NFL star's dad, Ed Rodgers, said the family hasn't spoken to the Green Bay quarterback since the end of 2014. The public first became aware of a rift in the Rodgers family when Aaron's younger brother, Jordan, appeared as a contestant on ABC's reality show "The Bachelorette" last summer. Before Jordan brought the show's star JoJo Fletcher to his Chico, California, hometown to meet his family, he told her that Aaron would not be there, explaining that he had chosen to distance himself from his family.

      Good Morning America
    • Donald Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare

      When even the most committed Republicans came around to support Donald Trump in 2016, they made a kind of bet. It wouldn’t matter much that Trump had no apparent fealty to conservative ideology or that he was a complete ignoramus about policy, because he’d be leaving all that boring stuff to them. The Republican Congress would pass its agenda, he’d sign whatever they put in front of him, and they’d all live happily ever after. But now it’s not looking so simple. In fact, Trump just dealt a huge blow to their top priority: repealing the Affordable Care Act. Accomplishing repeal without causing the GOP a political calamity is an extremely delicate enterprise, and the last thing they want is to

      Washington Post q
    • Russell Wilson Pens Heartfelt Letter to Wife Ciara After Seahawks Playoff Loss: 'I Will Forever Win'

      The dad-to-be was feeling the gratitude for his family following the Seahawks' playoff loss on Saturday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Last Night’s Look: Love It or Leave It? 1/16/2017 (13 photos)

      See the best red carpet looks from this week

      People
    • Sasha Obama and Joe Biden’s granddaughter apparently went on a Miami vacation together, and yes, we’re jealous

      Saying goodbye to the Obama presidency has been pretty overwhelming for us, so we can’t even imagine all the emotions his family…

      Hello Giggles
    • Bob Beckel Returned, to Bash Trump On Fox News

      In a semi-surprise, that big ol’ growly, liberal bear in suspenders, Bob Beckel, reclaimed his chair on Monday’s edition of The Five. Beckel, who’d been dumped by Fox News in 2015 (and underwent, as he said on Monday, three back operations), is a sleeker grumpy ol’ bear now, having dropped 35 pounds. The other four of The Five — Eric Bolling, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greg Gutfeld and Dana Perino — seemed genuinely pleased to see Beckel, whose seat had been filled most recently by Juan Williams.

      Yahoo TV
    • Peta Murgatroyd Bra Selfie Reminds Us Post-Baby Body Expectations Are Ridiculous

      The “post-baby body” obsession has, unfortunately, seemingly taken over our culture. Instead of marveling at the fact that women bring forth life from…

      Hello Giggles
    • Amber Rose Posts Rare Makeup-Free Selfie -- See the Pic!

      The 33-year-old model was bare faced and glowing in a new snap posted to Instagram on Sunday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • How to enable the ‘dark mode’ feature hiding in your iPhone browser right now

      Apple's iOS 10 software is packed full of new features. In fact, there are so many new features that it's impossible to remember them all, which is why we often publish collections of lesser-known tips and tricks. A perfect example is this collection of 5 iPhone features only power users know about  — we always want to help people get the most out of their smartphones. When iOS 10 was first released as a closed beta last summer during WWDC 2016, developers instantly began picking it apart. In doing so, they stumbled upon a fantastic looking "dark mode" feature hiding inside iOS . The good news is it was there. The bad news, as we all know, is that it wasn't enabled when iOS 10 was finally released in September. Rumors suggest that a new " theater mode " might be introduced in iOS 10.3, but nothing has been confirmed at this point. What you might not know, however, is that there's already a dark mode feature hidden inside your iPhone browser. Night Shift is a nifty new feature Apple introduced in iOS 10 that reduces the amount of blue light emitted by an iPhone or iPad display at night. It theoretically helps users sleep better, but it doesn't do anything to make text more visible in low light situations. For that, you need "dark mode," which switches things up and makes the background black with light colored text. Dark mode is available in many third-party iOS apps and even a handful of first-party apps. Sadly, however, there's no system-wide dark mode feature for the time being. That said, there's actually a special dark mode in Safari that most people don't know about, and it'll let you read just about any article on the web in light text on a black background. Here's how to enable it: 1) First, load any article in Safari (if you're reading this Safari on an iPhone or iPad, you're good to go). 2) Tap the reader mode icon in the left corner of the URL bar. You'll then see something that looks like this: 3) Tap the "aA" icon in the right corner of the URL bar and you'll get a drop down menu that looks like this: 4) Tap the black circle all the way to the right in the top row of the drop down menu. Presto — you've just enabled dark mode in Safari: Here's what your screen will look like once you start scrolling around: In-line pictures will still display normally, but the rest of the page will be dark, as pictured above. It's not the system-wide dark mode we've all been waiting for, but people spend a tremendous amount of time reading in Safari, so this should be a big improvement at night.

      BGR News
    • ‘Fame Can Change Things’: Aaron Rodgers’ Family Opens Up About Their Rift

      NFL star Aaron Rodgers’ father Ed Rodgers has opened up in a new interview with The New York Times about his family’s strained relationship with the Green Bay Packers quarterback. “With all the craziness that comes along with the media and the show, it would have been much harder to do it not living together,” Jordan said of moving in together.

      People
    • Gerald Levin To Donald Trump On Rep. John Lewis: Have You No Sense Of Decency, Sir?

      Former AOL-Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin writes guest columns for Deadline when the spirit moves him. Like it has today, on MLK Day, on the eve of the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president, and the controversy over his reaction to comments made by iconic Civil Rights reformer and Georgia congressman John Lewis. Rep Lewis was in attendance in 2001 when Levin received the MLK Award from Coretta Scott King and her son, Dexter Scott King. An open letter to…

      Deadline