go to basket

Cornmeal-Crusted Smoked Ham

Succulent smoked ham in crunchy cornmeal armor.

6 servings


About 1 hour, start to finish


We’ve never been jazzed by the prospect of a ham at the center of the holiday table. Even an above-average ham is dowdy, grandmotherly, and just waiting for postprandial exile in the fridge and a loaf of bread to save its reputation the next day. But we’ve found a terrific boneless ham (details below) and a really tasty treatment for it. By treatment, we mean a cornmeal crust requiring none of its own cooking—just stir the cornmeal with boiling water to form a slurry, then spackle it on the ham over a veil of honey and mustard and let the oven do the rest. The cornmeal bakes to a crunchy—but in no way tough—finish, soaking up ham drippings and ripping with corn flavor. It doesn’t fall off when the ham is sliced, either.

Because baking a cooked ham is really nothing more than warming it through, this recipe is super low-maintenance on every level. It frees you to focus on the side dishes. We think scalloped or mashed potatoes, a purée of sweet potatoes, mac ’n’ cheese, or homemade spätzle are perfect companions. So are two slices of bread and some mayo and mustard.

Cooking Remarks

We purchased our ham—produced by Snake River Farms in Idaho—through Goldbelly, a curator and online purveyor of artisan foods, though Snake River Farms does sell its meats directly through its website. Their hams are moist and tender, not too sweet, not too smoky, not too salty. Absolutely delicious!

An electric knife, as inelegant as it is, makes the very best tool for slicing the ham. Use it in the kitchen where no one can see, not at the holiday table like dad used to do.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a small bowl and a medium heatproof bowl; a rimmed baking sheet and a flat wire rack that fits inside the baking sheet; a whisk; a teakettle or small saucepan; a liquid measuring cup; a pastry brush; a sturdy, wide metal spatula; a sharp carving knife or an electric knife; and a warmed serving platter. 


    Distribute the cornmeal in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the cornmeal in the oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes, stirring once about halfway through; the cornmeal will not darken significantly in color. Carefully pour it into a medium heatproof bowl, then whisk in the salt and pepper; set aside. Place a flat wire rack in the now-empty baking sheet.


    Adjust a rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together the honey and mustard; set aside.


    Remove the ham from its wrapping and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the ham cut side-down on the prepared baking sheet. Using your hands, coat the entire surface of the ham with the honey-mustard mixture. Place the ham in the oven for 5 minutes to allow the surface to dry slightly and become tacky. Meanwhile, bring a couple cups of water to a boil in a teakettle or small saucepan.


    After it’s spent 5 minutes warming, remove the ham from the oven. Measure 1 cup of the boiling water into a liquid measuring cup, then whisk the water into the cornmeal to create a smooth, fluid slurry. Immediately brush the slurry onto the ham, evenly coating all surfaces. Return the ham to the oven and bake until the cornmeal crust sets, about 30 minutes.


    Remove the ham once again and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Gently brush the cornmeal crust with the melted butter. Continue to bake until the crust has browned and crisped, about 10 minutes.


    Remove the ham from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Slide a sturdy, wide metal spatula under the ham and transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp carving knife or an electric knife if you have one, cut the ham in half from top to bottom. Carefully turn each piece onto its newly cut side, then cut each piece into half-round slices. Arrange the slices on a warmed serving platter and serve hot.