Ham is a cut of meat from the thigh of the hind leg of an animal, especially pigs. Nearly all hams sold today are fully cooked or cured.

Hams are sold in several forms including boneless (with the hip, thigh and shank bones removed), partially boned (with the hip and/or shank bones removed) and bone-in. Since bone contributes flavor to the meat during cooking, most gourmet-ham producers leave some bone in. Hams are marketed in several sizes, the most popular being whole, halves (shank or butt ends only), shank, butt and center-cut slices or steaks ranging in thickness from 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Whole hams usually weigh from 8 to 18 pounds.

Uncooked and partially cooked hams must be cooked prior to serving. Fully cooked hams, sometimes labeled “heat-and-serve” or “ready-to-eat,” do not require additional cooking and may be eaten cold or heated until warm. Carefully check the label for instructions.

Cook-before-eating hams or fresh hams must reach 160°F to be safely cooked before serving. Cook in an oven set no lower than 325°F. Hams can also be safely cooked in a microwave oven, other counter-top appliances, and on the stove.

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