Sunday, February 28, 2021

You've probably been cooking Christmas ham wrong, according to culinary experts

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If you are cooking a festive ham for Christmas Eve, you are probably doing it wrong. Here is why!

Festive ham joints are a popular Christmas dish alongside the delicious honey-glazed turkey and the buttery mashed potatoes. It’s only natural that everyone wants to make the most delicious meal for their family on Christmas Eve. But what if you are cooking your holiday ham the wrong way?

Credits: Martin Poole / Sainsbury’s Magazine

According to Ligia Lugo, a co-founder of The Daring Kitchen and Vie De La Vega, who spoke to Daily Star, there are certain steps you need to follow when making a juicy Christmas ham.

The culinary expert says there are 3 steps for cooking the best festive ham: 

1. Baste regularly.

“Do not forget to baste the ham every 10-15 minutes as your glaze reduces.”

2. Use bone-in ham.

“For the most delicious Christmas ham go for bone-in ham. The meat is juicier and after you have finished with it you can use the bone to make an amazon broth.”

3. Spice it up and add a glaze.

“A syrupy glaze will give the Christmas ham a burnished and caramelized finish. You can use runny honey or maple syrup. Add a snappy spice like mustard or ginger to give some extra depth. Citrus juice or vinegar will add some acidity to help balance the sweetness, especially if you add sugar for additional caramelization.”

Credits: Tesco Real Food

What are the common mistakes you can make while cooking a ham for Christmas Eve?

For instance, if you forget to cover the ham while cooking it, the dish will probably end up dry. Lugo says that it should be covered “for at least half of the cooking time” with an aluminum foil or an oven bag. You can remove the cover throughout the second main part of the cooking, which is the glazing process.

Another mistake you can make is cooking at too high of a temperature. Maybe you think the higher temperature will spare you several minutes, but instead, it will make the meat dry out. As per Lugo, you should “give the meat enough time and cook it at 275-300°F.(135-150°C)”

What is the best ham joint recipe according to Michelin Starred chef Jeff Baker?

Jeff Baker, from Farmison & Co, recommends an unusual but extremely delicious glaze for your Christmas ham. It includes black treacle (150ml), whiskey (4tbsp), mustard powder (2 tbsp), and vegetable oil. 

Here is the full recipe: 


  • 2.5kg unsmoked gammon joint
  • 300ml black treacle
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 10 cloves
  • 10 juniper berries

For the glaze:

  • 150ml black treacle
  • 4 tbsp whiskey
  • 2 tbsp mustard powder
  • Vegetable oil to grease
Credits: Farmison & Co


First, soak the gammon in cold water for a couple of hours pre-cooking. While cooking, use a pan that can hold the joint comfortably.

Dissolve 300ml of the black treacle with 700 ml freshly boiled water and stir. After that, pour the treacle mix over the gammon with the bay and spices. Top up with water to cover. Then, bring to a very gentle simmer and cook for around 2½-3 hours, until the middle of the ham reaches 65°C when tested with a digital thermometer & the meat is easy to pierce.

You can then leave to cool in the broth until you can handle it or leave to cool completely.

To glaze:

You will need to preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan assisted (gas mark 6). Then, with a sharp knife, cut the skin off the ham, leaving as much fat as possible, then score the fat into a diamond pattern. Next, insert the cloves on the cross point where the fat is scored.

After that, mix the remaining 150ml treacle with the whiskey and mustard powder. Brush the mixture generously over the fat. Then transfer the ham to a roasting tin double-lined with lightly oiled foil, then roast for about 30 minutes, basting with the glaze in the tin once or twice.

When the ham is glossy and sticky, remove from the oven & leave to cool for an hour or so. Lastly, when the meat is cool enough to handle, slice it into 5mm slices cutting against the grain of the meat.

What is your favorite Christmas Eve meal? Let us know in the comment section!

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