We know what it's like - you pull your gorgeous glazed ham from the oven on Christmas day, your guests mouths are watering and everyone is desperate to finally sink their teeth into Christmas dinner. It can be tempting in that moment to take to the glistening leg with a big knife and hope for the best, but you run the risk of cutting uneven slices, drying out your ham, or worse - giving yourself a nasty cut (ouch!). That's why our Test Kitchen experts have put together this guide for how to carve a Christmas ham - so you can make the most of your delicious centrepiece.
The first step to carving your hot Christmas ham is to wait. When a ham comes out of the oven it's just like any other roast, and needs time to rest before serving. Hams can be very large pieces of meat, so resting the ham for at least 15 minutes before carving is ideal. A rested ham is a lot easier to carve than one straight out of the oven.
Not everyone serves a hot Christmas ham, especially in Australia where a Christmas dinner of cold cut ham is practically a staple. If you're carving a cold ham it's important to allow the ham to come to room temperature for about an hour before carving, this will make it easier to slice into and it will be more tasty.
Once your ham is rested it's time to get the carving started!
How to carve a Christmas ham
First, place the ham on a chopping board and steady it with a carving fork. Then, using a large sharp knife, make a vertical cut toward the bone at the shank (narrow) end of the ham. Next, make a cut at an angle to the first to remove a small wedge of ham. This creates a greater surface area for carving your first proper slice. Also, that first wedge is your treat for creating this masterpiece to begin with.
Continue to carve toward the ham bone, taking long sweeps with the knife to create lovely thin slices the full width of the ham. The pieces will increase in size as you carve your way up the bone. If your knife isn't long enough, you can start to make slices from the sides of the ham to the middle, alternating sides as you move along the bone.
It's best to carve only as much as you need at any one time because the meat will dry out.
The deliciously glazed slices from the top of the ham might be the first to get served, but there is still a lot of carving yet to do!
To carve the underside of the ham flip it over, and cut long, flat slices parallel to the ham bone.
What to do with leftover Christmas ham?
As much as we think our appetites will easily take care of an entire Christmas ham, more often than not we hit our limit earlier than expected and end up with a lot of Christmas ham leftovers sitting in the fridge (bizarrely this doesn't seem to happen with Christmas cakes and desserts?)
Thankfully there is a lot you can do with a Christmas ham leftovers after Christmas.
First of all, once all the meat is carved off of the ham the bone can be kept (and frozen for up to three months) to make delicious ham stock or soup.
As for the meat, there are all sorts of recipes for leftover Christmas ham to make including a classic pea and ham soup, delicious summer spaghetti with pea and ham and this stunning baked pasta with ham, blue cheese and fennel.