The Best Way to Cook a Shank Half Ham

by Natalie Smith
Cross-hatching the skin of the ham will help it crisp.

Cross-hatching the skin of the ham will help it crisp.

Half-shank hams are lean, bone-in hams that heat to savory perfection in the oven. Make the ham as-is, add a glaze or insert cloves into the skin. Although you can grill whole hams, the fastest and best way to prepare a half-shank ham is to bake it. Serve the ham for a family dinner, then slice up the leftovers for sandwiches the next day.


Half-shank hams come labeled "ready-to-eat" or "cook-before-eating," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you have four to six hours to finish cooking a cook-before-eating ham, this is a good choice because you have more flexibility to add seasonings as it cooks. Fully cooked half-shank hams are faster to prepare; add a glaze on top to make a sweet or savory crust. Half-shank hams have the bone in, so purchase a ham that has 5 to 8 ounces of total weight for each person you are serving to provide a 4- to 6-ounce serving for each person.

Baking a Cook-Before-Eating Ham

For a cook-before-eating ham, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, unless the directions on the ham direct you to do otherwise. Unwrap the ham and place it in the baking dish with the pointy end up. Wrap the ham loosely in foil and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes per pound for a cook-before-eating ham, according to the USDA. A cook-before-eating ham must register 165 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the ham, away from the bone.

Baking a Ready-To-Eat Ham

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the ham out of the package and wrap it in foil. Place it on the baking dish with the pointed end up. Bake the ham for 18 to 24 minutes per pound. A ready-to-eat ham packed in a USDA-inspected plant should register 145 degrees Fahrenheit when it is ready, or 165 degrees if the ham was repackaged or not cooked in a USDA-inspected plant. You should be able to find this information on the label, but when in doubt, heat the ham to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure it is fully cooked.

Serving Suggestions

Ham is a versatile main dish. Go traditional by baking it with pineapple slices. For a more elegant presentation, use a no-sugar-added cherry pie filling as a glaze. The liquid from the filling will bake onto the ham. For a sweet, crispy finish, use a traditional brown sugar or maple syrup glaze on your ham. Ham goes well with sweet potatoes, corn or a side of steamed vegetables. Lighten the meal with a generous green salad served with family-favorite dressings.


Cut cross-hatches into the skin of the ham at 1-inch intervals to allow the skin to crisp. Insert whole cloves into the center of each diamond, then cook with or without glaze. If you prefer a savory gravy with your ham, don't glaze it, and the pan drippings will create the basis for a richly flavorful gravy. If you find ham gravy too salty for your taste, white pepper gravy or red-eye gravy are traditional choices.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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