How to Make Brown Sugar Ham Glaze

Baked ham How to Make Brown Sugar Ham Glaze. Image Credit: MargoeEdwards/iStock/GettyImages

A baked potato with butter, a burger with cheese, a taco with salsa, waffles with maple syrup – some foods just need to get dressed up with a little something extra in order to seem truly complete. A ham is one of those things that just feels naked without a glaze, and when it comes to the best glaze for ham, brown sugar is king.

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Whether you're making an Easter or Christmas ham, trying to make something special for your Hawaiian dinner party or just baking one for the heck of it, a nice brown sugar glaze can mean the difference between a ham that's just "good" and one that is truly memorable.

Total Time: 3 1/2 hours | Prep Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 10


  • 1 ham (bone in, boneless, fully cooked, cook before eatingor spiral cut are all fine)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice or pineapple juice or apple cidervinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • 1 ounce whole cloves (optional)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans sliced pineapple (optional)
  • 1 jar maraschino cherries (optional)


  1. Remove the ham from the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before cooking toallow it to reach room temperature.
  2. Determine the flavor profile you want in your ham. A goodbase recipe uses brown sugar, orange juice, honey, cinnamon and cloves, but you can add Dijon mustard if you like amustard flavor in your ham glaze. You can use pineapple juice in place of orangejuice for a tropical taste or maple syrup in place of honey for a mapleflavor. For a little holiday spice, replace the orange juice with apple cidervinegar and add nutmeg and allspice to the blend.
  3. Heat your oven to 325F or 275F if you are cookinga spiral-cut ham.
  4. In a large roasting pan, place the ham cut-side down. You may puttin foil down first if you want to make cleanup easier later on. With a knife, score thesides of the ham about 1/2-inch deep in sections about 1-inch wide andthen cut additional scores at a 90-degree angle to create squares on the surfaceof the ham. This will not only make your ham look more memorable, but it will giveyour glaze more surface area to which it can stick, allowing more flavor to penetrateyour ham. If using a spiral ham, do not score the sides, as it is essentiallyalready scored.
  5. For a brown sugar, pineapple ham with the classic pineapple andcherry decorations, use toothpicks or cloves to secure pineapple slices to thesides of the ham. Then, use toothpicks to secure cherries in the center of thepineapple rings. You can also use cloves on the intersections of the scoremarks without the pineapple and cherries to add a little more decorationwithout the fruity flavors of pineapple and cherry. Do not secure anything tothe side of a spiral ham, as the toothpicks and cloves will not properly secureto the small slices of meat.
  6. Determine how long to cook your ham based on the type. Iflabeled "cook before eating," cook until the internal temperature reaches160F. This takes around 18 to 20 minutes per pound for a whole ham(these usually weigh 10 to 15 pounds), 20 minutes per pound for a half ham(these usually weigh 5 to 7 pounds) or 35 minutes per pound for a shank orbutt portion (these generally are around 3 to 4 pounds). Fully-cooked hams only need to reach 140F internally before serving. This takes about 15 to 18 minutes per poundin whole hams, 18 to 20 minutes per pound in half hams, 15 minutes per poundfor boneless hams or 13 minutes per pound for spiral-cut hams.
  7. Place the ham in the oven and set the timer based on the determined cooking time.
  8. When the ham has about 40 minutes left, prepare your glaze in a medium saucepan bycombining your choice of ingredients. Cook at mediumheat until boiling and cook 3 to 4 minutes until the glaze begins to thicken.
  9. When the ham has 30 minutes left on the timer, brush warm glaze allover the side of the ham and over the tops of the pineapples, cherries and/orcloves, if using. Tent it with tin foil and then put the ham back in the oven.
  10. 10 minutes before the ham is done, reapply the glaze. Do notreapply the tin foil. Turn the temperature up to 400F. Put the ham back in the ovenfor the remaining 10 minutes.
  11. If you have any additional glaze left when the ham is donecooking, mix it with the drippings from the pan and brush it over the ham and on thepineapples, cherries and/or cloves, if using. Reapply the tin-foil tent.
  12. Allow the ham to rest with tin foil on top for at least 15minutes before serving.
  13. You may want to show guests the whole ham before carving ifyou applied pineapple or cloves, but you'll need to remove them before carving.If you did decorate the ham with pineapples or cloves, remove the cloves and/ortoothpicks and set any removed fruit aside to be served beside the meat afterit is carved.


The size of the ham doesn't really matter for this recipe, as it should make enough glaze for most hams. You should ideally have a minimum of 3/4 pounds of bone-in ham or 1/2 pound of boneless ham per person, ideally with a little left over for sandwiches the next day. For a particularly large ham (more than 15 pounds), double the amount of glaze you make.

Some ham recipes call for adding glaze before cooking, but this does not result in the glaze penetrating the meat any more than it does when added in the last half hour of cooking time. It's best to avoid applying glaze before cooking because at best it won't add any additional flavor and at worst the sugars may caramelize too much, creating a strange flavor and overly crunchy edges. In some cases, the sugars may even burn, and you'll have to trim off all the burned outer meat and serve scraps of ham that don't taste particularly great.

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