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Frying Sliced Ham

by Peter Mitchell

You don't have to condemn sliced ham to a cold, dry sandwich. Frying sliced ham helps crisp up the meat and makes it enticingly hot -- perfect to go inside doughy rolls, on top of a stack of waffles or anywhere you might usually include bacon. Most ham is pre-cooked, so frying can take seconds rather than minutes.

Fry Like You Mean It

Small- to medium-sized ham slices are the right size for frying. Use either a griddle pan or standard skillet. If the skillet has a non-stick coating, use only a small splash of oil and heat it up well before cooking. As the fat and moisture seep from the ham, trickle it out of the pan. If the ham has been recently boiled or cooked in stock, take care when frying; the extra moisture in the meat can cause it to spit when it touches the hot oil.

Frizzle, Not Frazzle

The rather fun-sounding "frizzled ham" makes a simple and tasty breakfast treat. It's also an ideal way to use up any thin-sliced ham, although you can also use thick slices. The key is adding a touch of vegetable oil to a skillet and getting it as hot as possible. Frizzled ham doesn't take long to fry; a half-minute on each side is usually enough, depending on slice thickness. The aim is to get a nice, crinkled piece of ham -- without burning the meat.

Flip the Flavor

Ham often contains a lot of salt, particularly smoked or honey-roast varieties. Soaking ham for a half-hour before you fry it helps reduce the saltiness. For a flavor twist, try adding a little maple syrup or applesauce to the pan a few seconds before the end of cooking. If you enjoy a little crunch to your ham, dip a thick slice in beaten egg and roll it in bread crumbs before frying.

Take the Red Eye

If you have a nice, fat-rich country ham, make some red-eye gravy, which involves frying thick slices of ham at medium heat with a little water or apple juice. When the ham is cooked, it's time to make the gravy. Mix a sprinkle of coffee and water into the pan to deglaze it. After 3 minutes at a boil, the gravy should be thick, rich and ready to pour.

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