Baking used to be a messy project. Oven splatters, spills and baked-on food stuck to the baking pan are now things of the past since the introduction of heat-resistant, nylon oven bags. If you are a glazer who likes to indulge her senses in honey maple, orange marmalade or even cherry port-glazed hams, baking in a bag may seem like a hindrance. But sit back and imagine the possibilities. The bag helps seal in the ham's juices. Combined with the tenderness of bagged ham, your favorite glaze will thrill the taste buds.
To Glaze or Not to Glaze
While cooking ham in a bag is sure to make it moist and juicy, it will not develop a crust along the outer edge. If you prefer the crust, you will need to slice open the bag when cooking is complete. Once the bag is open, sliding it back into the oven -- rotating every 10 minutes or so -- will give the ham that crispy crust. If you want to enhance the flavor of the ham during crisping, brush on a glaze.
Whether you decide to glaze the ham or not, the preparations for cooking in a bag are the same. Soaking the ham, in its original packaging, in a large container of hot water from the tap for 45 minutes before cooking reduces baking time by about two minutes per pound, but this step is optional. Preheat the oven to a temperature between 250 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. While some recipes may call for cooking temperatures as high as 350 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter is not always better. The lower the temperature, the longer the ham will take to cook -- but the juicier it will be. After preheating, remove the ham from its original packaging and place it in the oven bag. Set it in a roasting pan; quarter and half hams rest face down, whole hams on their side. Cut three or four slits in the oven bag with a knife to prevent the bag from bursting during baking and pop the ham in the oven.
When to Glaze
If you decide to glaze the bagged ham, do so once the inside of the ham reaches a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Press a meat thermometer into one of the slits that you made in the bag. It usually takes about 10 minutes per pound for the internal temperature to heat to the desired temperature in an oven set at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. When the thermometer registers 100 degrees F, remove the roasting pan from the oven with oven mitts and cut the bag open with a pair of scissors. It's time to apply the glaze.
Once the bag is open, roll it down to expose as much of the ham as possible. Brush the glaze onto all of the exposed areas. Don't be shy. Slather it on. After glazing, turn the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and set the roasting pan back inside -- with the bag rolled wide open. Close the oven door and give the glaze 15 minutes to work its magic. After glazing, remove the roasting pan from the oven, grasp the bag with your oven mitts and transfer the ham to a carving board. Unroll the bag and cover the ham loosely. Allow the ham to rest for 15 minutes before removing the bag completely and carving.
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