With Easter coming up, we’re talking to Food Network Canada Chef School’s Michael Smith, Mark McEwan and Roger Mooking to help us master the baked holiday ham, a favourite roast this time of year. Your top ham questions for Easter and beyond are answered right here, by the pros. Along with what ham is best, how to cook ham and great tips for keeping your ham moist during roasting, the chefs deliver great ham glaze recipes for the trademark sticky-sweet crackling crust guests can’t get enough of. Intensely savoury, a little sweet and always crowd-pleasing, your Easter ham will be better than ever this year, thanks to the pros.
Best Ham to Buy
For the chefs, it’s all about the best quality, bone-in ham you can find – Easter ham is a once-a-year luxury, but can stretch beyond a single meal. Go big, and be rewarded with incredibly versatile leftovers – ham sandwiches, ham macaroni and cheese, ham omelettes, ham biscuits and more, next-day ham is a recipe-improving boon (we have a handful of leftover ham recipe ideas at the bottom of this article).
Michael Smith offers his advice on the traditional Easter ham, including what to look for when you’re purchasing it, saying, “I only cook one ham a year and that’s right around Easter. The best ham is bone-in, from a trusted source. You want something natural, naturally smoked. Not too many words that you can’t pronounce on the label.”
“To me, the best is buying a smoked, bone-in ham,” says Roger. “If you can go to a really good butcher, they can guarantee that they’re giving you [a good quality] Berkshire Ham or a Red Wattle Ham.” Red Wattle and Berkshire are heritage breeds of pork known for having the best quality meat.
How to Cook a Ham and Best Ham Glaze Recipes
Unlike other holiday meats, the beauty of a smoked ham is that it’s already cooked through. Cooks just have to heat, glaze and slice.
Roger keeps his ham moist and tender by covering it in the first half of cooking and mopping the glaze over the ham to finish. This helps to avoid both dry meat and a burnt crust. “As long as it’s covered you’ll have a nice steamy environment, and then towards the end, you [uncover it] and glaze,” he says.
Mark doesn’t typically add a liquid to the roasting pan when preparing his ham but that’s not to say you shouldn’t if you’re worried about keeping it moist.
“You could throw a tiny bit of stock in the bottom of the pan. A little bit of moisture with ham is not a bad thing at all. It helps to temper the cooking process and keep the ham moist. And you do want a moist ham.”
Mark also cautions against glazing the ham too early, as it can become too dark, or even burnt.
For a great ham glaze, the chefs love the interplay of sweetness with acid which complements a salty, smoky pork. The sweet component of a ham glaze can come from maple syrup, honey, fruit preserves, brown sugar, fruit puree or a mix of these. The acidic element can come from apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or citrus. A warm savoury note is welcome, too; some chefs like to add a bit of mustard or a strong spice like allspice to the mix.
You’re after the consistency of loose preserves or maple syrup for a glaze, something viscous enough that it will stick to the ham as you mop it on and baste.
Mark McEwan favours an “old school, old-fashioned bone-in a ham out of the oven, beautifully glazed. For his glaze, Mark juices clementines and adds it to maple syrup. “I like clementines because they have a really rich colour and there’s a bit of pulp in it.” He rounds out the glaze with a bit of brown sugar and cider vinegar. And on the McEwan table, ham is served with a good mustard; it’s “oh my goodness” delicious.
For Rogers’ glaze, he pairs his naturally smoked ham with honey, grapefruit juice, allspice, five-spice, a touch of strained tomato puree, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, all stirred together until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup.
Lynn Crawford has two delicious glazed ham recipes to serve at your holiday table: Pumpkin, Apple Cider, Maple Syrup and Mustard-Glazed Ham and a Traditional Maple-Glazed Ham with Cloves.
For a glazed ham recipe that gives you flexibility to create your own mix of flavours, try Michael Smith’s Sunday Ham with Apple and Rosemary Mustard Sauce.
Easter Side Dishes for Ham
The perfect pairing for that beautifully glazed Easter ham is scalloped potatoes. Try Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Potato Gratin recipe or pick your new favourite recipe from our 24 Seriously Delicious Scalloped Potato Recipes collection.
Our Favourite Recipes for Leftover Ham
Repurpose your holiday Easter ham myriad ways with these leftover ham recipes. It’s worth making extra just for them.
- Ham Mini Scones
- Baby Greens with Ham Quiche Croutons and Maple-Cider Vinaigrette
- Potato Nests with Peas, Ham and Cream Cheese
- Ham and Cheesy Egg Crepes with Mustard Sauce
- Country Ham Breakfast Casserole
- Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich
- 7-Layer Pasta Salad
- Hong Kong-Style Macaroni Soup Breakfast
- Individual Ham Casseroles
And for more leftover inspiration, here’s our collection of Best Easter Leftovers recipes.