Ham is classic for a reason — it pairs exceptionally well with dozens of ingredients, it’s easy to cook, and its salty, smoky flavor tastes divine no matter when or where it’s eaten.
While the pros enjoy baking it in a warm, fragrant oven to get that perfect outer texture and gooey inner core, some people either don’t have access to an oven or prefer a faster process.
Fortunately, there’s more than one way to cook ham — here’s how you can do it in the microwave.
Can You Microwave Ham?
Yes, you can microwave ham. Ham is one of those foods ideal for the microwave because most hams are already cooked and therefore require only heating to the serving temperature.
One thing you need to be aware of when microwaving ham is the weight of the ham.
Although it is possible to microwave whole hams, the results are usually better if you microwave half hams or portions like ham steak or ham slice. If you don’t slice or carve the ham first before microwaving, the outside of the ham can become dry and tough before the inside is adequately heated. This especially holds true if your ham is more than 3 pounds.
Because ham is meat that has a compact and dense structure, it has a more difficult time heating all the way through in a microwave than other types of meat such as chicken.
When whole hams more than 3 pounds are microwaved, the muscles may pull apart while being heated, so the outside of the ham becomes dry and tough by the time the center is hot (1). Slicing or carving it first will help reduce this problem.
Is It Safe To Microwave Ham?
It is safe to microwave pre-cooked or cooked ham. To be certain, it is recommended to heat the ham to an internal temperature of 140°F before serving it. You can easily check the internal temperature by using a meat thermometer.
According to the USDA, if you reheat the ham for the first time straight out of the original packaging, you only need to heat it until the internal temperature of the meat is 140°F.
But for a leftover ham that has been refrigerated, you need to heat it until the internal temperature reaches at least 165°F before serving to kill any food-borne bacteria that may have grown since it was originally cooked.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s important not to leave microwaved ham sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If you do, it could lead to the ham harboring bacteria and becoming unsafe for consumption.
How Long Does It Take to Microwave Ham?
It is impossible to provide one definite time for microwaving ham because too many variables are involved, such as the type (cooked or uncooked), shape, size, and weight of the ham, plus your microwave oven power.
But generally speaking, 12 to 15 minutes a pound is required for a ham that is not pre-cooked. If the ham has been thoroughly cooked and weighs more than 3 pounds, it should be microwaved for about 10 to 12 minutes a pound.
How to Microwave Ham
Now, let’s delve into the specifics of how you can microwave a ham. The methods that I will be describing works for different cured ham varieties such as fresh, city, and country.
What you will need:
- Aluminum foil or parchment paper
- Microwave cooking bag
- Plastic wrap
- Microwave safe baking dish
- Food thermometer
- Oven mitts
Note: before using foil, read your microwave’s user manual first to check whether or not you can use it for cooking or reheating foods. Do not use aluminum foil if the manufacturer doesn’t recommend it. Instead, use parchment paper.
Uncooked Ham or Portion With Bone-In
- Cover the outer cut edge of the ham with a thin strip of foil or parchment paper to protect it from charring or overcooking.
- Place the ham into the microwave cooking bag with the cut side up.
- Close the bag carefully so as to leave a little space for air to escape, then put it in a microwave-safe baking dish. Slit the top of the bag open a little bit for the steam to escape.
- Microwave on high for 12 to 15 minutes per pound. Rotate and flip the ham over halfway through the cooking time.
- Remove the ham carefully from the microwave when it’s done cooking and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing or serving. The internal temperature of the meat should be at least 160°F.
Fully Cooked Ham Half or Portion With Bone-In
Cover the outer cut edge of the ham loosely with a thin strip of foil. Use parchment paper if your microwave doesn’t allow aluminum foil.
Place the ham on a microwavable dish.
Cover the dish with a microwavable vented plastic wrap or lid, then microwaves on 50% power for about 10 to 12 minutes per pound. Turn and rotate the ham over halfway through the cooking time.
Remove the ham carefully from the microwave and check to see if it’s done by inserting the food thermometer into the center of the ham. The internal temperature should be at least 135°F before resting.
Let the ham rest for 15 minutes before serving or slicing.
Fully Cooked Ham Half or Portion Boneless
The third method can be used to microwave ham steak or slices. I usually use an 8-ounce ham steak.
- Cover the top of the ham loosely with aluminum foil.
- Place the ham in a microwavable plate with 1/4 cup of water.
- Microwave on medium for 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate and flip the meat over halfway through.
- Remove the ham from the microwave after 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 135 to 140 °F.
- Let the meat sit for 15 minutes before serving.
How to Microwave Ham Hocks
Ham mocks are a bit more tricky to the microwave because it takes more time to cook. They are more boney, which makes them more flavourful but at the same time harder to work with.
To microwave ham hocks in the microwave, you’ll need to use a convection microwave. I won’t recommend using a regular microwave for this method because you’ll need to use a roasting mode for it to be done right.
What you’ll need:
- 2-quart casserole dish
- glass lid or plastic wrap
- your favorite ingredients
Here’s the way I do it:
- Put the ham hocks in a 2-quart casserole dish.
- Cover the dish with a glass lid or plastic wrap.
- Cook on Roast for about 30 minutes.
- Add seasonings and ingredients according to the recipe you’re using.
- Cover the dish again, then cook on roast for about 25 minutes or until tender. Stab the ham hocks with a fork to test them. If the fork can go through easily, then that means that the meat is tender enough.
- Remove from the microwave and let it sit stand covered for 5 minutes before serving.
How to Reheat Leftover Store-Bought Ham
If you have store-bought ham (such as Honey Baked ham or Taylor ham) as I do, you might be left with more leftovers than you care to eat at once. While, technically, you can eat cold ham from the refrigerator within 5 days, it’s better if you reheat the leftover ham before serving.
But here comes another problem; how to reheat a slice of store-bought ham?
The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure that your ham slice doesn’t go bad, and second, you want to read the manufacturers’ instructions first for the best and safest way to reheat the ham.
That said, most store-bought hams can be reheated in the microwave following these steps:
- Place the ham slices on a microwavable dish. Arrange them in a way that they’re not overlapping any other slices.
- Cover the dish with a damp paper towel. If you use a microwave-safe container with sides, you can also put 1 tablespoon of water in it. These will help keep the ham moist and prevent it from drying.
- Microwave on medium heat for 30 seconds at a time. Flip the ham over and continue microwaving for another 30 seconds. Continue until the ham has heated through completely.
- Remove from the microwave and let it stand for 4 minutes. Be careful when removing the ham from the microwave, as the plate will be hot. Use hot pads to protect your hands. If you added water to the container, be careful not to touch it as it will be very hot.
Why Do You Re-Cook a Ham If It’s Already Cooked?
Actually, you don’t always need to reheat ham before eating it since most ham sold in the US is already cured and fully cooked.
However, it won’t taste as good, and the texture will not be as tender when eaten cold, particularly if you eat ham steak. Nobody likes eating a cold slice of ham steak. Reheating a ham allows you to eat it at its best.
Can Ham Go Bad?
Like any other meat, Ham can go bad unless it’s country ham that can last for weeks a long time if it’s prepared and stored properly.
Before you put the ham into the microwave, it’s always a good idea to check the ham first for any signs of spoilage.
A spoiled ham will begin to emit a foul odor even before it begins to rot. The meat itself will also become slimy and feel sticky when you touch it with your hands.
Of course, even if the ham seems fine, but it tastes off, err on the side of caution and throw it out. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people have been surprised at eating ham that tastes bad simply because they feel guilty about throwing out food.
Ham is ideal meat to put in the microwave. It’s already cooked and can be cooked and reheated with ease. If you bought a store-bought ham, you might want to read the manufacturers’ instructions first for the best and safest way to reheat it.
But for most hams, it’s safe to say that you can cook and reheat it in the microwave following the steps that I shared above.