Food & Drink

User guide to Easter: Your ham and egg questions answered

What’s Easter without a little ham and eggs? Here are answers to a few questions about cooking each one.

Ham Handling

Q: Should I buy a whole or a half ham? How much ham will I need per person?

A: A whole ham typically weighs more than 10 pounds. That’s a large hunk to wrestle with in a roasting pan. But if you’re feeding a lot of people, you might consider it. With a bone-in ham, plan on 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person (or 2 to 3 servings per pound) or more if you want leftovers. For a boneless ham, figure about 1/4 pound per person, or more for leftovers.

Q: Butt or shank portion of ham?

A: It’s a matter of preference, but there are taste and cost factors. A ham labeled “butt end” comes from the upper thigh, closer to the hip. It costs a bit more, is fattier and meatier. Carving can be an issue because of its irregularly shaped aitch bone. A ham labeled “shank end” is larger, easier to carve, has less fat and costs less.

Q: Bone-in or boneless?

A: A boneless ham costs more than shank and butt portions, but there’s less waste and you get more servings. Boneless will have a binder that holds it together in one piece. As for flavor, a bone-in ham provides more flavor and you can use the bone to make soup.

Q: Spiral-sliced or not?

A: Spiral-sliced hams are sliced around the bone, making serving easy. But they can dry out when reheated. Allow 10 to 18 minutes per pound reheating time for a whole or half spiral-sliced ham and place them cut-side down in the roasting pan to keep in moisture.

Q: How long should I cook it?

A: Ham labeled “fully cooked” needs a gentle rewarming in the oven, usually at 325 degrees. Set it out at room temperature for about an hour before placing in the oven so it warms more quickly and evenly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the center of the ham needs to reach 140 degrees. Figure 18 to 24 minutes per pound for half, bone-in hams, 15 to 18 minutes per pound for a whole ham and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for boneless.

Q: Glaze or not?

A: Glazes contain a lot of sugar, which can burn, so many recipes call for adding them toward the end of cooking. But they also keep the ham moist. You can apply some at the beginning of cooking, then cover the ham with foil. Remove the foil and apply more glaze after it reaches the 135-degree mark.

Cracking the egg codes

Q: Do you have any tricks for cooking great eggs?

A: For sunny side-up eggs with no crisp edges, try “blindfolding” them: Cook just until the whites are set, about 1 minute, then add one or two ice cubes to the pan, cover, and cook 2 minutes until they film over. For really creamy scrambled eggs, use 1 to 2 tablespoons diced butter and a double boiler or a pan fitted over a pot of barely bubbling water. Slowly stir the eggs, stirring in a cube of butter every few minutes, until they form big, moist curds. It can take up to 20 minutes, but it’s worth the wait.

Q. How can you tell if an egg is fresh?

A. The best way to test an egg is to crack it: A slightly cloudy white is a sign the egg is very fresh. A clear egg white is an indication the egg is aging. Easily broken or flat yolks signal older eggs or poor nutrition in the hens.

Q: What do the labels on egg cartons mean?

A. “Cage-free” means the birds are not in battery cages, but they still might be crowded in barns with limited or no outdoor access. “Free range” means the chickens have some outdoor access, but there’s no guarantee about how much or for how long. “Pastured” or “pasture raised” are not legally regulated terms, but many farmers use them to mean the chickens were raised on pasture with access to shelter. For chickens raised according to the highest animal welfare standards, look for the label “Animal Welfare Approved,” which, among other things, prohibits facilities from cutting chicken’s beaks.

Q. What do the egg grades mean?

A. Eggs are graded by quality, not freshness or nutritional value. “AA” means the yolks are rounded and the whites are compact. Grade “A” means the yolks are a bit flatter and the whites are slightly thinner.

Q. What’s the best way to store eggs?

A. While eggs will keep at room temperature; they’ll keep longer refrigerated. Always store eggs in their original carton, not in egg holders on the door. Opening and closing the door causes the whites to loosen and deteriorate faster.