Taste test: Baked hams for Easter


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

    • Oops! She Did It Again — Britney Spears’s Bra Top Came Undone at Her Las Vegas Performance

      Whether she’s carrying a seven-foot boa constrictor seductively across a stage, giving us the height of millennial fashion in a coordinated denim gown with Justin Timberlake, or simply displaying her unparalleled ability to Google Image search corn, it seems the singer has got it all under control.

    • Doctors thought he just had jock itch. Then it spread.

      Late Friday afternoon on Dec. 4, 2014, Stephen Schroeder was waiting to board his packed flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas for a much anticipated long weekend with his son when his cellphone rang. On the line was an unexpected caller: his doctor, reporting test results sooner than Schroeder had expected. Listening intently, Schroeder was flooded with disbelief as he struggled to comprehend what he was hearing. Using the lip of a trash can as a writing surface, he scribbled notes on the back of his boarding pass, making the doctor spell out each unfamiliar word. Then he sent a terse text to his wife, who was at their home in the Philadelphia suburbs, and got on the plane. Onboard, Schroeder,

      Washington Post q
    • A Redskins Coach Exposed His Wiener To Fans When He Whipped It Out To Pee On The Sideline

      One Redskins coach, however, decided to go full Nick Novak and pee on the sideline during Washington’s game on Sunday against Detroit. Ben Kotwica, Washington’s special teams coordinator, grabbed a cup, walked away from the action, and went to the bathroom. If you’d like to see the uncensored picture, Deadspin has your back.

    • Donald Trump just got some of his best polling news in weeks

      A CNN poll released on Monday showed Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by five points...

      Business Insider
    • Ex-wife of former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle sues company

      The ex-wife of former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle is suing the restaurant chain for damages, saying the company received at least three reports indicating his sexual interest in children but failed to ...

      Associated Press
    • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Is Losing Its Showrunner

      It can be hard to pinpoint what makes a late-night show work so well with audiences, but The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon seems to have cracked the code. Over the last few years, the series has become one of the most popular late-night offerings, consistently dominating in the ratings season after season. While much of this has to do with the charisma of the man in front of the camera, it's important to remember those behind the scenes as well. With that in mind, it now seems The Tonight Show has suffered a major loss, as showrunner Josh Lieb has officially left the series. After serving as the late-night series' showrunner for several years, Josh Lieb has decided to step down from The

    • 13 Ultra-Comforting Potato Casseroles (14 photos)

      These hearty recipes need to be in your fall casserole rotation. From Delish

    • Dear Abby: Should I report a baby with bruises?

      DEAR ABBY: I’m a 20-year-old college student and have had a job at the same retail store for two years. A few weeks ago, a mother walked in holding a baby that appeared to be about 6 months old. The first thing I noticed was that he had numerous bruises. There were pronounced bruises under both eyes, another large one on his temple, and several more visible on his arms and legs. I have heard horror stories about parents whose infants have a medical condition that causes them to bruise easily, but the parents are accused of child abuse. This mother seemed attentive to her baby, and I saw nothing in her behavior to make me think her child was in any danger. I didn’t say anything, but I keep wondering

      Chicago Sun-Times q
    • Dancing With the Stars Week 7 Recap: Did the Right Couple Go Home?

      We’ve reached Week 7 of Dancing With the Stars‘ 23rd season, and you know what that means: It’s become very clear which contestants stand a chance at the Mirrorball… and which ones, well, don’t. As the remaining couples performed iconic styles from different eras in history, a handful of duos proved exactly why they should be […]

    • Britney Spears Suffers Major Wardrobe Malfunction On Stage: Watch Her Dancers Rush to Help

      Watch Britney Spears handle the hiccup like a total boss.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • When the ‘love of your life’ is no longer interested in making love

      Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran March 18, 2013. Dear Carolyn: Although we’ve had sex before, my boyfriend of two years has zero interest in sex with me or anyone else. He just doesn’t feel the need (we used to have sex often, before the relationship was committed). This makes me feel unwanted, unloved and incredibly self-conscious and paranoid. He’s been to therapy (I am also in therapy), but his psychiatrist flat-out told him she didn’t know how to help him (!), so he stopped going. He turns down every other suggestion I make to try to overcome this issue, and talking about it leads to his anxiety and my tears. Yet, he says he loves me and he would spend the rest of his life

      Washington Post q
    • NFL morning after: The decline of Colin Kaepernick

      Colin Kaepernick is the NFL’s most significant player off the field, a player whose simple act of declining to stand during the national anthem has led to wide-ranging discussions across America about race, police brutality, free speech and the role of sport in society. That has been the subject of thousands of commentaries. But it’s…

      NBC Sports: ProFootballTalk q
    • 4 Reasons Why a Man Breaks Up With His Partner

      Wondering why a man breaks up with his partner? Here's why.

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • Mercedes-Benz teases its sleek pickup truck concept ahead of Swedish reveal

      The Mercedes-Benz pickup truck will be previewed by a concept to be unveiled in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 25. Developed with help from Nissan, the truck likely won't be sold in the U.S.

      Digital Trends
    • NCIS: LA: Eric Christian Olsen Reveals What's Next for Kensi and Deeks

      [Warning: This article contains major spoilers about Sunday's episode of NCIS: LA. Read at your own risk!] Densi fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief. At the end of Sunday's episode of NCIS: LA , Kensi (Daniela Ruah) finally woke up from her coma, with Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) by her side. ... Read More > Other Links From TVGuide.com NCIS: Los Angeles Eric Christian Olsen Daniela Ruah This article, NCIS: LA : Eric Christian Olsen Reveals What's Next for Kensi and Deeks, originally appeared on TVGuide.com.

      TV Guide q
    • Nurse who survived Ebola settles with Texas hospital system

      DALLAS (AP) — A nurse who contracted Ebola two years ago while caring for the first person to be diagnosed in the U.S. with the deadly disease settled a lawsuit Monday against the parent company of the Dallas hospital where she worked.

      Associated Press
    • NBA Power Rankings: Week 1

      Jonas Nader takes a look at the first edition of the NBA Power Rankings on the eve of opening night.

    • A Royal rift as Princes Charles and Andrew row over Beatrice and Eugenie's taxpayer-funded duties

      The Queen is said to be at the centre of an extraordinary row within the Royal Family as her two eldest sons have come to blows over the futures of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie as taxpayer-funded working royals.

      International Business Times UK q
    • These twin brothers dancing in a supermarket are going viral and it’s cause they’re amazing

      Dancing in public is pretty much a regular activity for us. But when we discovered these twin brothers with amazing moves busting a…

      Hello Giggles