Top tips to ensure your Xmas ham is a winner

PREP TIME: 10 mins
COOKING TIME: 2.5 – 3.5hrs – depends on the size of you gammon
DIFFICULTY: not too tricky
IDEAL FOR: Christmas, summer holiday, picnics

What’s the difference between ham and gammon?

Both gammon and ham are cuts from the hind legs of a pig.

Gammon is raw.

Ham is ready-to-eat (it’s cooked gammon).

Gammon has been cured in the same way as bacon.

Whereas ham has been dry-cured or cooked.

For a Christmas ‘ham’ you’ll need to buy a gammon – choose, smoked or unsmoked, on or off the bone, depending on your recipe.

Basic tips on cooking your gammon

You’ll sometimes read about soaking the gammon in water to remove saltiness.

Apparently, this is now a thing of the past.

But I’d advise you check with your butcher or make sure you read the pack instructions to double-check.

  • Calculating cooking times. Weigh your meat and you’ll need to cook for 20 mins per 450g plus 20 mins.
  • Put the meat in a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then back to a low simmer – see Tom Kerridge’s tips, below.
  • Add in any flavourings – Xmassy flavours like cinnamon, bay, peppercorns and onion.
  • Simmer while periodically skimming and getting rid of any white nasty froth that comes to the surface.
  • Drain and reserve the stock – tips below and leave to cool a little. 
  • Remove the top layer of skin, leaving a layer of fat around the meat.
  • Place in a roasting tin, bake for 10mins with no glaze to get the fat rendering, then take out and glaze and pop back in at 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
  • Keep basting every 10mins.

Tom Kerridge’s top tips for cooking ham

1. Go easy when simmering

Make sure you’re poaching it and not boiling the gammon. A gentle simmer, around 85 degrees – no hotter – as that helps to keep it moist.

2. Use the cooking liquor

Once the ham is cooked, keep the stock. Ham stock is great making soups, putting through casseroles or for braising, and it’s good for just cooking vegetables

Extra tip: cook your sprouts in ham stock instead of boiling water for a great flavour. Just make sure it’s not too salty or overwhelmingly smoky in flavour.’

3. Try a dry rub to add extra flavour

As well as a lush glaze, Tom Kerridge also uses a dry rub on the ham to get another flavour profile e.g. Xmassy spices like cinnamon, cloves or star anise.

4. Simplicity is key for a glaze

There are some fantastic ideas out there but Tom recommends simplicity.

Runny honey.

I did this last year and it’s fab.

Squirt it all over the top of the ham then roast it, all the juices come out and the honey cooks, reduces and caramelises.’

5. Baste regularly

Keep basting your ham every 10-15 mins and be careful not to burn the glaze.

6. Use bone-in ham

Get a leg of ham on the bone if possible, for slow cooking as it helps maintain shape and moisture.

If not rolled and boneless joints are fine, just keep an eye on the cooking process and ensure it doesn’t dry out.

7. Don’t bother studding the ham

Personally, I disagree with Tom Kerridge here.

But it’s interesting to know it doesn’t add anything in terms of flavour.

Apart from it makes it look the part… which I think is worth the bother.

8. Buy high-quality ham

Buy the best quality you can afford and go for British.

Smoked or unsmoked?

It’s your own preference.

Whiskey glazed ham

Course Main Course, Snack
Keyword christmas ham, gammon, glazed ham, hambruger
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Servings -4 people
Cost ££


  • 5 kg free-range unsmoked British gammon bone-in if possible but I used without
  • 300 g apricot jam
  • 150 ml runny honey
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 5 mace blades
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 3 – 4 tbsp of whiskey or spiced rum
  • 1 tbsp mustard powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Check the gammon instructions or ask your butcher if you need to soak your gammon overnight (these days it's not usually needed but check). If so, then soak in cold water, this helps remove any extra saltiness.
  • To cook: Place the gammon in a large pan that can hold it comfortably, and cover with cold water.
    Stir in the bay and spices, and most of the honey and apricot jam (keep a little back for glazing.)
    Bring to a gentle simmer (approx 85°C) to keep the ham moist and cook for2½-3½ hours (*depends on the weight so do 450g per 20mins + 20mins) until the middle of the ham reaches 65°C.
  • Skim off the scum that rises to the surface throughout.
    Once it's poached, remove and leave to cool. I let cool in the pot as there is a theory this keeps it moist.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan180°C/Gas 6.
  • Cut the skin off the ham, but leave the fat on and score into a diamond pattern.
    Place in a roasting tin and pop the ham into the oven for 10mins without glaze to get the fat to render a bit.
    Mix the rest of the apricot jam and honey with the whisky and mustard. Once the ham has had its first 10minin the oven, take out and spread 1/2 or more of the glaze, generously, over the fat. (If your gammon is large (mine was 5kg, I upped the honey and apricot a little for the glaze mix).
    *You can add stud cloves into the fat but this doesn't do anything in terms in flavour except make it look pretty and help the glaze stop from sliding off.
    Roast for about 10 mins, then bast and pour the rest of the glaze over. Bast again after approx 5 – 10mins and keep basting. When the ham is glossy and sticky and golden, remove from the oven.
    Leave to rest, then slice


Calculating cooking times. Weigh your meat and you’ll need to cook for 20 mins per 450g plus 20 mins.
Check my blog for some handy tips and alternative ideas.
Inspired by: Great British Food Awards