The top supermarket hams to buy and 4 essential prep tips

Our judges tried 10 baked supermarket hams; three are good enough to pig out on for Easter. Find out which below. First, find out how to serve it:

Essential Ham Heating and Serving Tips

1. If you're not serving the ham right away, make a point to keep it covered with foil in a roasting pan filled with about a quarter-inch of water to prevent the meat from drying out. Keep the roasting pan in a warm oven until it's time for your holiday feast.

2. If slicing the ham before serving, place each piece on your serving platter so that the edges overlap, then garnish the middle of the plate with one of your side dishes, or try one of Colin Cowie's many Easter entertaining suggestions for seasonal centerpieces.

3. If you are glazing an uncooked ham, add the glaze toward the end of the cooking process so that it doesn't burn.

4. Technically, a fully-cooked ham can't ever be undercooked and therefore there's no need to take its internal temperature. Remember, you're simply baking the ham to warm it up for serving.

Check out Yahoo! Shine's amazing holiday ham recipes.

Supermarket Ham Taste Test

Easter's culinary traditions are about more than egg hunts (and leftovers), jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. When families gather to celebrate, oftentimes a baked ham takes center stage on the table. As usual, prior to our testing, we invested time researching the world of hams; you may want to put your concentration cap on for this one. Our ham selections took into consideration the most important factors:

-bone-in, semi-boneless, or boneless
-spiral cut or not; half or whole sizes
-meat grade:
Supermarket hams can be sold uncooked yet cured with salt and sugar (country style) or brined (injected with solution) and smoked and cooked (city style). The grade of the pork reflects the amount of water it contains; the more water, the lower the grade. The ham can be labeled as just ham (meaning it's the highest grade and no water has been added). It can be brined in its natural juices (water has been added and the ham is 10 percent water). It can be labeled as "ham, water added" (15 percent water), and/or it can be injected with ham and water product (50 percent water).

Find out which store-bought chocolate Easter bunny won Epicurious's taste test here

All judges agreed that the perfect ham should not be rubbery, taste like a salt lick, nor feel slimy, but should rather be tender, moist, and chewy. Most importantly, in terms of flavor, it should contain a combination of the three S's: sweet, salty, and smoky. Three hams fit the bill.

Best Baked Ham Overall

Winner: Carando Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Bone-In Ham
($1.89 per pound)

Pros: The judges unanimously agreed that Carando had the right balance of smokiness and saltiness. "It is tender and meaty, not flobbery-floppy and rubbery-like some of the others!" stated one judge. Another taster said, "I am not a big ham fan, but I would actually eat this variety again." This ham was also noted for its family-friendly size and easy-to-serve presentation.

Cons: Not as moist as a non-spiral-sliced ham.

Baked Ham, First Runner-Up

Winner: Cook's Half Bone-In Shank Ham brined with ham and water product
($1.79 per pound)

Pros: "I like the nice rosy color and the mild, smoky, maple-sweet flavor; it makes me think this one is fresh and more natural," declared one editor.

Cons: Somewhat rubbery.

Baked Ham, Second Runner-Up

Winner: Niman Ranch Uncured Boneless Ham brined with natural juices
($10.99 per pound)

Pros: Nitrite-free and mild in flavor, with a hint of smokiness. "This one is pleasantly thick and moist," one editor observed.

Cons: Slightly spongy.

For beautiful Easter sides, click here.
For the prettiest spring desserts, here.

The Bottom Three

Boar's Head Black Forest Ham had several tasters concerned. Not only did a fluorescent pink tint permeate its surface, but it tasted fairly processed. "Perhaps this brand should always be eaten between two slices of bread," suggested one taster. Jones Dainty Ham was described as rather tough and rubbery. One editor compared it to "water with salt." Lastly, Thumann's Spiral Sliced Ham was greasy, flavorless, and "flobbery."

Additional Taste Test Details

The ten varieties of hams we tasted are available nationwide and include the following, listed from highest to lowest score in our taste test: Carando Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Bone-In, Cook's Traditional Half Bone-In Shank, Niman Ranch Uncured Boneless, Boar's Head Sweet Slice Smoked Boneless, Hormel Spiral Sliced Bone-In,* Smithfield Hickory Smoked Bone-In,* Hormel Cure 81 Boneless, Boar's Head Black Forest Smoked Boneless, Jones Naturally Smoked Dainty Ham Boneless, Thumann's Spiral Sliced Bone-In. (*Asterisked brands received the same score.)

Methodology: In a blind taste test, seven judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of baked ham. All varieties were cooked according to the directions on the packaging, which most often meant reheating the hams for 15 or 20 minutes per pound. (Glaze packets were included in the packaging but were not used in our testing.) We ranked the hams according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system, four being the best.

Not sure how best to cook and serve a ham? Below are four essential tips.

Prices and availability subject to change.

See More Epicurious Taste Tests:

By Carolina Santos-Neves


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