Kitchen Confidence 101

“Kitchen Confidence 101”

By Sandra Reames,

Carefree Catering,

Branson, MO


                 Hams, Hams and More Hams

Ham, Shank Portion


Here a traditional item for sure!  All year long we use hams, but durring the next 9 months we will celebrate with them every month.


Starting with Easter and contuning through Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and any picnic, family reunion or get together through Sept.  Nov. thanksgiving side kick to the turkey and what is Christmas without ham.  Any time you have a group together from the main course to the appetizer, it is ham, ham, ham.


They will show up in all forms and many different varieties and brands of ham.  You will also find hams sprinkled on the shelves all over the grocery store.  You ask what are all these extra hams about and what’s the difference.

Hopefully this articles will help you sort through the maze of Hams.


Virginia, Sugar cured, fully cooked, smoked:  (all the same ham) This ham that I am referring to, are a bone-in variety.  Now don’t let bone-in scare you, in fact this is my favorite ham of all, especially for baking for dinner.  To me they need some adjustments for flavor and texture.  One thing fully cooked is an opinion and mine is different.  These hams have been cooked enough to ship them and maybe slice for a sandwich, but the flavor and texture has not been brought to its best until it is seasoned and cooked some more, much more.

(See recipe at end of article.)


These hams are in the refrigerated section of your meat department.  They come as Whole hams, Butt Portions of Shank Portions and are wrapped in plastic.   What is the difference?  The shank and the butt portions have had the center more perfect slices removed. They will be put one sale allot more often than other hams. There is nothing the matter with these they taste just as good, but the yield (how much you can get from this cut or how little waste) is lower.

Often I buy the shank and save the end piece (the hock) to season green beans, navy or great northern beans or soups.  You can ask your butcher to cut it off for you.


Country Hams:  I haven’t seen them as available here as in more Southern areas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, etc. You will find these hanging on racks in the grocery.  Just a plain wooden display rack, with no refrigeration used or necessary, they look a little dried out and will not be in plastic but in a cloth bag.   They have quite a salty taste even when they are prepared properly.  Everyone does not like them.   I say that, but when you find people that like them they will fight for them.  I can prove that statement from looking at how much that they are willing to pay for them.  This is the type of ham I was talking about serving with red eye gravy with or coffee gravy. These hams are not for baking, but for frying.  If your butcher ends up with one cut up, it will be in his specialty area of the butcher shop.  We will talk about that preparation another day.


Spiral Baked Hams:  These hams in the grocery store are already fully cooked and have been cut. They are cut in spiral slices, like “Honey Baked Hams”. They are also packed with a sauce of seasoning packet in them.  These are great hams if you have never cooked one before, you want to be careful. and really  take your time.  The price has come down on them in recent years.  When they were first introduced 20 years ago these hams were so expensive, you had to sell the dog to buy one, so to speak.

The only problem with this ham is it is already cooked; you are just heating, not cooking.  When you are heating up meat for any type you do not want to over do it, because it dries the meat out.  So go by the package instruction and do not cook it any more, unless for some reason it says too.  It will also cook better if cooked over water and tented well with foil.

Picnic Ham:

Not really a true ham (which comes from the pig’s back leg), the picnic ham is taken from the upper part of the foreleg and includes a portion of the shoulder. This cut is also more accurately referred to as the picnic shoulder or pork shoulder. The picnic ham is smoked, which gives it a very ham like flavor. It often has the bone removed. Though it’s slightly tougher (requiring longer cooking) and has more waste because of the bone structure, picnic ham is a good, inexpensive substitute for regular ham, but it is hard to find consistently.  A Pork Shoulder (which is raw) slow cooked makes terrific Barbeque. This is where pulled pork comes from in Barbeque language.


Fresh Hams:  These hams are found in the fresh meat section.  These hams are Not Cooked, Not Cured, Not Smoked in any way.  They ARE RAW and must be handled with all the respect that you do raw meat.  When cooked they will not taste like other hams, because the smoking cooking and curing is what gives the hams we have grown to love the taste of ham.

Pit Ham Boneless:  This Ham is usually more of the type of ham that you would get in a restaurant.  It is more expensive because of no bone.  The flavor is not that of a Virginia or Sugar Cured Ham, because it doesn’t have as much fat nor bone.  Fat and Bone add flavor.  But in the boneless realm of ham it is not one of the better hams.   No waste!

Generally it is bought as a whole ham.  Can be sliced easily and only warm it, or it will dry out quickly.  You can warm it in an oven or slice it and warm in water as on some buffets.




SPAM:   Here it is our old stand by  Spam.  This is a form ham that was the first canned ham.   Used by our men in the armed forces.  You may turn your nose up at it now, but they thought it was tasty and it is still popular.   Use it any way that you would any other ham.  It is found in the canned meat section.


Other Boneless hams: Canned or formed boneless hams, these are generally small under 5 pound hams.  These hams are scrap parts (that’s not all bad) that are mixed together and pressed into shape.  They vary in fat, from brand to brand and are best (in my opinion) served cold or room temperature.  I have never successfully warmed one or seasoned it more.  They make good sandwiches and may warm up best sliced and in a skillet


Pressed Ham:  This is a luncheon meat style ham.  It is on the lower end of the price point of ham.  It is made from scrape from pork and may not be made from the ham part of the pig, but is pork.  Its fat continent is higher than any above.

It is very economical and works in a pinch.


Deviled HamIs found in the canned meats department of your supermarket.  This has been around for decades.  This is a finely ground pork, has a higher fat content, works great in lunches.  My mom made a deviled ham salad out of it, by adding chopped hard-boiled eggs and a little pickle relish to it, along with a little mayo.  Then used it as a sandwich spread.  It has a lot of flavor, but surprising many people has never tried it.


There are more and more hams it seems every day as our manufactures try to come out with something different.  Not all are good, but try a different one occasionally, but wait until you are not having everyone over for a special dinner.


The best one for my Traditional dinner is the first one.

The Virginia bone-in, smoked, sugar cured ham, fully cooked, these are all the same ham or close enough to where they are used the same way.

Same recipe for the Whole, Spanked or Butt Portions of ham.



Use a roasting pan with sides at least 2 inches deep and large enough to hold the ham without falling over the edge.  Line with foil for easy clean up.

(I don’t like scrubbing pans either)


To keep the Ham from over browning.  I wrapping it in foil for baking and then bake it slow at 325 degrees, until it is fork tender.  The fork that I use to test is a 2-pronged large meat fork (like what you would use to turn steaks on the grill or a little smaller.) when the fork is inserted in the largest part of the ham, it will go in easily, if it does you know that it is done.

You can figure about 15 min a pound, but this could vary depending on how large of a piece that you use.

Remember a large whole ham is going to take much longer than a smaller whole ham or a small portion of the ham.  If a portion of a ham weighs 10 pounds

Check it in 150 minutes or 2 1/2 hours.


Math: 10 lbs X 15 minutes=150 minutes

(60 minutes to an hour)  150 divided by 60= 2 hours and 30 minutes

If you don’t have enough time to cook your ham so slow.  Try cooking it at 350 or 375 degrees, but check it sooner then the timetable shown above.  The foil will keep it from getting brown while cooking at a higher temperature.


Always check on the early side of cooking to make sure everything is doing fine and not over cooking.   On this particular time I would be checking for degree of tenderness: before the 2 hours is up. When the ham is getting close to ready open up the foil and let it brown to your liking.


Hams are simple.

There are 12 millions ways of seasoning them from using Coke (Soda) cloves, black pepper to what ever.


Here is my recipe!

Put out your foil as above, making sure you have long enough sheets to wrap up the ham well to keep the steam from escaping.

I use pineapple rings to cover the top of the ham (one can will do a good sized ham)


Then take a few handfuls of brown sugar and put on top of the pineapple rings.  Gently pour some of the pineapple juice from the can over the ham.  Trying not to wash away the brown sugar.

Seal the foil and bake as above.

He ham will baste itself.


I told you it was simple


Hams can be served hot or warm or room temperature or cold, so don’t try to get it to the table the way your Aunt Margaret did and make yourself upset while trying to do it perfectly.  Hams are good no matter what temperature they are when you get them to the table, so relax, start it early and keep it covered while cooling to keep it from drying out.  It is also best not to cut a hot ham, because it will really dry out quickly.



Confucius says: (and Sandra too) Remember any time, but especially for the Holidays if the recipe doesn’t come out exactly.  Don’t tell every one that it failed, just rename it and say it is a new recipe, which it is.  The only way that you can get in to problems with saying this is, if they like it so much they want it again and again.                       Then you are on your own.!!

Speaking of HAM.  Here are 2 more types


Those seen on Hwy 76 and

Ham as seen on Hyw76

And those on the radio.

Pig (ham) on radio

Listen to Sandra and Scott MC Caulley on the radio every Tuesday Morning on KRZK FM  106.3 @ 9:06.  We hope that you will listen and call in to help others and to share your experiences, good and bad!

Sandra has been a professional cook and caterer for 15 years.

Scott is a radio professional for over 23 years.

Both in the Branson, MO area.

The articles and show are to help you find confidence in the kitchen where you can provided good tasting and  “better for you” meals to your family and friends even if you are an accomplished cook or a beginner, we all share those moments when we need help!  We both show how we need to laugh at our selves.


Any comments or information can be e-mailed to

Sandra at

Sandra’s  Phone 417-335-5655


To listen to the show on line go to