How to Cook a Canned Ham

How to Cook a Canned Ham. (Image: jreika/iStock/GettyImages)

Canned foods aren't necessarily the things that are going to impress your Instagram followers, but they're still handy to keep in your pantry. If you're pressed for time or haven't had the chance to get out for groceries in a while, you can build a pretty good meal around something as simple as a canned ham. They're fully cooked already, so you don't have to "cook" one as such. You just have to heat it up.

Different Kinds of Canned Ham

There are a few different kinds of canned ham that you'll find in a supermarket. One kind is shelf stable and is what you'll see sitting out on regular shelves along with all the other canned goods. The other type requires refrigeration, so you'll find it in the coolers of a store's meat section. Either kind can be perfectly acceptable, though they vary pretty widely in quality.

The better canned hams are simply made by cutting can-sized portions from a full ham or by taking a small number of intact pieces of muscle and bonding them together. Lower-quality specimens are made by compressing many smaller pieces or scraps of ham, which results in more of a lunch meat texture. The brands you find in your local stores will vary along that spectrum, with some offering better flavor and texture than others. If you like the idea of keeping a canned ham or two on hand for quick meals, try a few and see which you like best.

Bake the Ham

One obvious option is to simply bake your ham as you would with one that's bought fresh from the meat counter. Brush the ham with your favorite glaze and bake it until the glaze is caramelized and the ham is warmed all the way through.

If your ham comes with a glaze or sauce, you have the option of using that. If not, try to pick a glaze that works with the ham's seasoning. If you buy a hickory honey ham in a can, for example, it's already sweet and smoky, so you won't need those flavors in your glaze as well.

For an interestingly different twist, wrap your ham in prepared crescent roll dough or bread dough before baking it. Canned hams contain lots of juices that will soak into the dough, making a flavorful accompaniment to the meal.

Turn it Into Steaks

If you have a decent-quality canned ham, another option is to slice it into small steaks. You can fry them up very simply as an accompaniment for breakfast or brunch dishes or in place of bacon, sausage or conventional ham. For a more elaborate meal, you can prepare them with a sweet or savory glaze or make a creamy white sauce with cheese, herbs or mustard. If your ham is the higher-quality kind made up from whole pieces of muscle, be sure to slice it across the grain so your steaks will be tender.

Use it as an Ingredient

The lower-cost, lower-quality hams are a perfectly useful ingredient in their own right, even when their texture or flavor isn't good enough to be the focal point of your entire meal. There are plenty of cheap ham recipes that treat the ham as a flavoring ingredient instead, and they're usually easy to prepare as well as being economical.

Dice the ham with plenty of crunchy vegetables, for example, and then stir in enough mayo to hold it all together, and you have a ham salad. Do the same with finely chopped onion and celery, and you have sandwich filling.

For brunches, stir diced canned ham into scrambled eggs or bake it with eggs and cheese to make quiches and frittatas. As a dinnertime entree, mix canned ham and diced vegetables with leftover pasta or cooked potatoes and bake it in a casserole with your favorite white sauce or cheese sauce. If you're really pressed for time, frozen hash browns will work just fine.

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