How to Cook Country Ham

country ham cooking guide

As someone who has spent years perfecting the art of cooking country ham, I can attest that the key to a truly exceptional dish lies in striking the perfect balance of flavors and textures. Picture the joy of serving a plate that marries crispy edges with tender, flavorful meat, all seasoned to perfection.

With each step in this culinary journey, I have come to appreciate the secrets of Southern comfort food, leaving me yearning for more with every bite. My experience has taught me that mastering the timeless tradition of country ham is a true delight for the senses.

I believe in sharing this culinary treasure with others to savor and enjoy.

Key Takeaways

  • Select well-marbled, deep red slices
  • Soak in lukewarm water to remove salt
  • Fry slowly for crispy texture
  • Pair with biscuits or grits for a hearty meal

Selecting the Best Country Ham

When choosing the best country ham, opt for country ham slices that are well-marbled with a deep red color. This marbling indicates a higher fat content, enhancing the juiciness and flavor of the ham.

To mellow the taste, soak slices in lukewarm water to remove excess salt and intensify the ham's natural flavors. Trimming excess fat from the slices can also result in a milder flavor profile.

Consider adding brown sugar when frying country ham for a sweet and savory contrast. Use a sharp knife to slice the dry-cured country ham thinly, allowing for even cooking and a more tender texture.

Ensure the ham reaches the recommended internal temperature for safe consumption.

Preparing the Ham for Cooking

To prepare the ham for cooking properly, ensure that you thoroughly soak uncooked country ham for 12-24 hours in water or milk to reduce its saltiness. Before frying, make sure to wash and dry the ham slices thoroughly for optimal crispiness. Some Southerners skip the soaking step, but it can help balance the saltiness, especially for those not accustomed to it. Genuine Smithfield Hams might require a longer soak of 24-36 hours to achieve the desired flavor profile. Mold on aged hams is natural and doesn't affect quality or taste. Remember to trim excess fat from the slices to avoid excessive greasiness. Below is a table summarizing key points for preparing country ham slices:

Key PointsDetails
Soak slices in water12-24 hours to reduce saltiness
Washing and dryingBefore frying for crispiness
Mold on aged hamsNatural occurrence, doesn't affect quality or taste

Cooking Techniques for Country Ham

country ham cooking guide

After preparing your country ham slices by soaking them in lukewarm water to reduce saltiness and washing them for optimal crispiness, it's time to explore various cooking techniques to enhance their flavors and textures.

When frying country ham, ensure your slices are thinly cut, trim any excess fat, and fry slowly in a pan until they turn crispy and golden.

Baking country ham involves wrapping it in foil and cooking at a low temperature for a tender outcome.

Grilling country ham on a grill placed 3 inches from the coals can provide a smoky flavor with a quick cooking time.

Serving Suggestions for Country Ham

For an authentic Southern dining experience, consider pairing thinly sliced country ham with buttermilk biscuits for a classic combination that never disappoints. When serving country ham, there are several delicious options to enhance its salty flavor and create a satisfying meal:

  • Fried Country Ham: Enjoy the crispy texture and intense flavor of fried country ham.
  • Red Eye Gravy: Drizzle this traditional gravy over the ham to elevate its taste.
  • Paired with Biscuits: Serve the ham alongside warm buttermilk biscuits for a perfect match.
  • Serve with Grits: Accompany the ham with creamy grits for a hearty and delicious meal.
  • Dressed Side: Add fried apples as a side dish to balance out the saltiness of the ham.

Tips for Cooking Perfect Country Ham

cooking country ham perfectly

Enhance the flavor of your country ham by soaking the slices in lukewarm water before frying to achieve the perfect level of saltiness. If your ham seems too salty, this method helps in obtaining a milder flavor. When frying, consider using a frying pan and cook the lean part of the ham slowly for 4 to 8 minutes. Ensure to turn the slices frequently for even cooking. For a more enhanced taste, try using a carbonated beverage or apple juice while frying. Be cautious not to overfry the ham to maintain its texture and flavor. Always place the ham in a clean frying pan to avoid any surface mold.

Tips for Cooking Perfect Country Ham
Soak slices in lukewarm waterLean partFrying panObtaining milder flavor

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Way to Cook Country Ham?

When cooking country ham, start with thinly sliced pieces for optimal crispiness. Adjust frying time to achieve desired browning. Soak in water or milk to reduce saltiness. Glaze options are available for added flavor.

Is Country Ham Already Cooked?

If you're wondering if country ham is already cooked, it's essential to check the packaging. When in doubt, assume it's uncooked and needs cooking. Always prioritize safety by following proper preparation instructions.

Can You Eat Country Ham Without Cooking It?

Yes, you can eat country ham without cooking it. It's safe to eat as it's cured and preserved. Slicing it thinly is key for the best taste and texture. Enjoy this Southern cuisine tradition as is!

What Is the Difference Between Ham and Country Ham?

Country ham differs from traditional ham in its dry-curing process, resulting in a firmer texture and intense flavor. While regular ham is pink, moist, and ready-to-eat, country ham is red, dense, and requires cooking before consumption.


Now that you know how to cook country ham, you can impress your friends and family with a delicious Southern meal.

Whether you fry it up in a skillet or simmer it slowly with a carbonated beverage, the key is to savor the rich, salty flavor of the ham.

Serve it with classic sides like fried apples or buttermilk biscuits, and don't forget to try it with red eye gravy for an authentic taste of the South.