Since the ancient days of the Roman empire, ham has always been a special component of any feast. In many homes this is a must-have for family Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations (for those non-turkey fans).
But we think ham should be cooked more often, turning any night into a special dinner — plus the leftovers are so versatile! There’s just something about its succulent juices and tantalizing taste that makes it stand out every time.
Of all the roasted meats out there, ham is one of the easiest to prepare. With a little patience and a few ingredients, you will have everyone scrambling for a piece at the dinner table. In this post, we will guide you on how to cook the best ham in a slow cooker.
For extra flavor and irresistible taste, we’ve incorporated honey to achieve a crispy glaze that will blow your mind away.
Let’s get cooking, shall we?
Why Cook Ham in a Slow Cooker?
Good things take time, right? The same can be said when cooking ham.
By using a slow cooker, you will give this special cut enough time to braise and cook in its juices. While smoking or baking ham is usually the most common way to cook it, the taste achieved isn’t anywhere close to what a slow cooker delivers.
After mastering this slow cooker ham recipe, this meal will melt in your mouth and become a favorite in every feast.
Related: Best Slow Cooker Reviews
Picking the Right Ham for the Slow Cooker
To achieve exemplary results, go for whole spiral-cut ham. Such cuts are readily available from any whole food grocery store or your favorite butcher.
When using a slow cooker, you can use either a boneless or bone-in ham. Either will work, but the bone-in ham will take a bit longer to cook and heat all the way through. Just about any ham will work, as long as you get one that is fully cooked — it must be labeled as such.
If you are going for a butt-end ham, pick one that will fit nicely into your slow cooker (depending upon the shape, you may need to trim it some).
Rule of Thumb: For a 6-quart slow cooker, the maximum size of a ham you can comfortably cook is 10 pounds. If you have a larger crockpot, you can get a bigger ham. And of course, if your crock pot is smaller, you will need a ham that weighs less. Or you can cut it to fit.
Preparing a Glaze for the Ham
Nobody hates a flavor-filled piece of meat. What better way to achieve this rich flavor than by using a glaze? There are two ways to go about this: you can either prepare your own or buy a glazing pocket.
These days many spiral hams come with packet of glaze, but they will never taste as good as one you make yourself. And with this recipe it’s so easy and it’s highly likely you have most of the ingredients on hand already!
To make your own tasty ham glaze, use honey, mustard, brown sugar, and cloves. The combination will help you achieve a sweet yet tangy flavor that goes well with ham. Better yet, these ingredients thicken while cooking creating a sweet sauce perfect for serving with your juicy ham slices. It’s also good over rice.
Cooking Honey-Glazed Ham in a Slow Cooker
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Serves: 10 to 12 people
Cooking Time: 4 to 5 hours
- 10 lbs spiral-cut ham
- ¾ cup light brown sugar (packed)
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup water, pineapple juice or orange juice
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 10 cloves
You Will Also Need:
- Measuring cups
- 6-Quart slow cooker
- Meat thermometer
- Basting brush or bulb baster
Note about Basting Brushes: If you don’t have one yet, we recommend getting a silicone basting brush. They are so much easier to clean (most are dishwasher safe), don’t retain flavors or odors and you never have to worry about loose bristles falling out into your foods!
Making the Glaze
- Place the saucepan on medium to high heat and add the brown sugar, honey, water, Dijon mustard, and cloves.
- Let them simmer for about 5 minutes or until the glaze is thickened and fragrant.
- Switch off the heat and remove all the cloves using a spoon.
Preparing the Ham
- Place the ham in the 6-Quart slow cooker. Make sure you are able to cover it with the lid. If the ham is a bit big, turn it to the side or trim some of its edges.
- Remove the cloves from the glaze and discard.
- Pour on the glaze, separating the ham slices gently and try to cover the entire ham.
Cooking the Ham
- Set the slow cooker on low heat for 4 hours.
- Once an hour, baste the ham using the glaze. It is okay if you don’t time this perfectly or need to skip a few bastings (we know one of the reasons for using a slow cooker is so you can set it and forget it). The reason for the basting is to get more flavor and glaze in between all the slices.
- If you so desire, you can flip the ham after 2 hours. Doing this will allow you to baste the slices from the opposite side.
- Once the ham reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, it’s ready for serving. Start checking the temperature at the 4-hour mark. Make sure the meat thermometer is placed at the center of the ham, but not actually touching the bone.
- You can prepare the glaze three days before cooking the ham and store it in the fridge. Doing so allows the flavors to infuse fully and burst in your mouth.
- If you are using a smaller ham than 10 pounds, start checking the temperature at the 3-hour mark. For larger hams, 5 hours is probably still going to be long enough, but it may take a little bit more time. This is why having a meat thermometer is so important.
- For a different flavor variation, use maple syrup instead of honey.
- Store the leftover ham in its juices in the refrigerator (see below for safe storage tips).
Recipe Variation: Glazed Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham
In this recipe, we left out the use of the traditional pineapples. If you are after extra flavor, by all means use them. The classic baked ham uses sliced pineapples on top of a whole ham so that they get a carmelized taste to them.
With a spiral ham in a slow cooker, you can still use pineapple slices, but it is likely they will slide down while cooking and you may have to put them back on top at each basting. You could also use toothpicks to hold them in place.
Alternatively, you can use pineapple chunks, tidbits or crushed pineapple — it all depends upon how much of that tropical flavor you want with each bite. Toss these into the crock pot when you add the glaze. If you use the crushed pineapple and want the pieces between the ham slices, spoon them over the top when you do the basting and they will fall down inside the ham.
Whichever type of pineapple you use, make sure to drain the pineapple thoroughly otherwise you are going to end up with too much juices and your glaze will be thinner (you can use ½ cup for the glaze instead of water). And avoid using pineapples that have been canned using heavy syrup because combined with the honey, it will be way too sweet.
You can also toss in some well-drained maraschino cherries if that’s your style!
What To Do with Leftover Ham
Once everyone has devoured their tasty ham meal, don’t throw away any leftovers. There’s a ton of things you can create besides the obvious sandwiches, salads or ham and eggs.
For example, you can use the leftover ham to make potato soup, split pea soup, ham pockets or a ham pot pie. Another simple use for ham is to toss it into your favorite scalloped potato recipe. Yum!
When storing your leftovers, place the ham in an airtight container/bag or wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. The ham can stay in the fridge for three to four days. However, if the ham has stayed out on the table or counter for more than two hours, discard it.
For easy use, we recommend cutting the ham into easy to use pieces before storing, depending on how you plan on using the leftovers. You can put slices for snacking and sandwiches in one container, and smaller chunks or cubes that will be used in your favorite recipes into another.
How to Freeze Cooked Ham
If you are using a bone-in ham and want to save it for making stock (or have more ham than you can use within the next few days), you can store it in the freezer, but there are a few extra steps.
First, you need to dry off as much moisture as possible before placing it into a freezer bag. If you used pineapples, cherries, or other fruits, these can not be frozen so place them in a separate container in the refrigerator.
Do your best to remove as much air from the bag before sealing. Next, wrap the bag tightly with aluminum foil and place this into another freezer bag. The extra layers will add the protection needed to avoid freezer burn.
TIP: Since the outer bag never comes into contact with any food, you can save it for another use. Just keep it on the door of your freezer so you always know where it is.
Cooked ham needs to be completely cold before going into the freezer, so it should be placed into the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Ham leftovers can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Make sure you label it with the date and contents — use tape if you are going to be saving the outer bag.
Another great option for freezing ham: Investing in a vacuum food sealer will save you money in the long run, not just because you will use fewer bags and less aluminum foil. With a vacuum bag food last longer because all the air is removed.
Slow-cooked ham will always be a hit with your loved ones.
Invest in a quality slow cooker or crock pot and you’ll have the most delicious, and easy to make glazed ham — no holiday feast will be complete without this delicacy.