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There was a time when the smoky, juicy flavor of baked ham was exclusive to special occasions and holiday dinners. But today, more than half of the consumers in the U.S. serve this versatile, delicious meat at least twice a month for everyday meals, too, according to marketing research. Hams are available at your local grocery store in a variety of sizes, making it a great choice for smaller households or large gatherings. Understanding how to cook a ham isn’t difficult. With a few basic instructions, you can prepare an eye-pleasing, succulent ham every time.

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1. Ham Basics

A majority of the hams sold in grocery stores are smoked and fully cooked, but read the label to make sure. A fully-cooked ham makes it easier to prepare because you’re just reheating it rather than cooking it from a raw version. Hams are typically the hind-leg section. You’ll find both boneless and bone-in options, with whole, pre-sliced, and spiral-cut versions available. The two highest grades of ham are the butt half and the shank half. The butt half is the upper part of the ham and the shank half is the lower part. The butt half tends to be more tender and more flavorful than the shank half.

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