How to Cook a Half Shank Smoked Ham

Hams are often hung in a smokehouse to absorb smoky flavor from smoldering fires.
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Start to Finish: 3 hours Servings: 6 to 8 Difficulty: Moderate

The shank half is the bone-in lower portion of pork leg used for ham. The half shank may be both cured and smoked, cooked or uncooked. All hams certified by the USDA have labels stating whether the ham needs cooking and for how long. If you are purchasing from your butcher, be sure to ask whether your ham is fully cooked or requires cooking. Although fully cooked smoked hams are ready to eat, baking releases the juices, crisps the skin and adds flavor. This recipe was adapted from a decade-old clipping from Bon Appetit magazine.


  • 2 pounds white pearl onions (or substitute peeled turnips)
  • 1 cup golden brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 generous tablespoons Dijon or brown spicy mustard
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • One 8- to 10-pound smoked, cooked ham half shank
  • Whole cloves (optional)

Prep Onions, Make Glaze

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the onions for 2 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain the onions, trim the root ends and peel. Transfer onions to an 11-inch-by-7-inch glass baking pan. Alternately, trim and peel raw onions, place in pan, glaze as directed.

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, vinegar and mustard to create a glaze. Pour 1/2 the glaze over onions. Add butter, salt, pepper and water. Toss to coat the onions. Cover pan with foil.

Score and Roast

Score the top of the ham in a crisscross diamond pattern. This helps the skin to crisp. Poke cloves, if using, into openings where cuts intersect. Place ham into a large, foil-lined roasting pan and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Place pan with glaze-coated onions in oven. Roast ham and onions for 45 minutes. Roasting ham and onions in separate pans preserves the distinct flavor of each dish. The added butter, salt and pepper create a smoother glaze for the onions than that for the ham.

Uncover the onions and stir to distribute the glaze. Add more water if necessary. Return onions to oven and continue roasting ham and onions for another 50 minutes.

Glaze the Ham

Brush ham with a thin layer of glaze.

Roast both ham and onions another 30 minutes, basting ham every 10 minutes with remaining glaze. Stir onions each time you baste the ham to prevent sticking.

Check with instant-read meat thermometer to ensure the minimum internal temperature is 145 F.

Cover onions to keep warm and allow the ham to rest for at least 3 minutes to seal in the juices.

Dinner Is Served

Place ham on a large platter and arrange the onions around it. Alternatively, transfer onions to a bowl and serve separately.

Remove cloves before plating slices of ham.

Serve with a spring salad, scalloped potatoes or your favorite vegetable. Grilled pineapple rings add a colorful and sweet touch.

Temperature Guide

Temperatures are for bone-in shanks cooked in a 325 F oven. Internal temperature for both cook-before-eating and ready-to-eat smoked hams should be 145 F. Temperature will rise slightly while ham is resting.

Fully cooked ham smoked shanks require 20 minutes per pound.

Cook-before-eating smoked shanks require 22 minutes per pound.

Fresh ham is uncooked, unsmoked pork. Cook 30 minutes per pound, until internal temperature reaches 160 F.

Country ham shanks are smoked, brine-cured and very salty. Soak overnight, drain; boil in unsalted water 25 minutes per pound. Drain, glaze and brown at 400 F for 15 to 20 minutes.