How to Grill a Ham

grilled ham
Cristian Ruboni / Getty Images
  • 01 of 05

    Know Your Ham

    Grilling Ham Finished
    The Spruce / Sabrina Baksh

    Taking the ham outside to the grill is a great way to add flavor to this already delectable treat while freeing up space in the oven for other items. The trick is to keep the heat low and indirect and to heat the ham through without overcooking it or drying it out. 

    Putting a whole ham on the rotisserie allows the surface to roast nicely. Note, this can also be challenging, even with the most forgiving hams. Running a rotisserie skewer through a bone-in ham takes a delicate touch and a lot of patience (followed by a lot of counterbalancing). If you've picked up a spiral cut ham then the task becomes nearly impossible. If you do manage to get the whole thing on the rod and spinning on the grill, the chances are that the slices will fall apart as soon as the chill is off the meat.

    Since more hams seem to be falling off the assembly line these days, ​rather than coming out of smokehouses, your chances of finding an inexpensive uncut ham are slim. So for this "how-to" we went mass market and cooked up a bone-in, ready-to-eat, spiral-cut ham from one of the big stores.

    Since the rotisserie idea is going to tax even the patience of Job, we recommend placing this ham straight on the grill ​instead of slow roasting it over an indirect fire. But first, you need to examine your ham. Choose a ham with a seasoning packet and not one already rubbed down with sugar and spice. This way you can control the flavor and get the ham nice and hot without burning up the surface. Once you have the ham unpacked, make sure that the slices are stacked nicely and the ham is compact. Cut off any hanging pieces, but do little else to it (that includes excessive sampling).

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Use Indirect Heat

    Grilling Ham Placement
    The Spruce / Sabrina Baksh

    Keeping your ham moist is the most important part of cooking it. Dried-out ham gets tough and leathery. With a spiral-cut ham, keep the slices packed together as much as possible and protect the ham from direct heat. To keep the end from drying out, place the ham cut-side down on a sheet of aluminum foil. This will help hold in the moisture while exposing the skin to the heat and flavor of the grill.

    Remember to place the ham over indirect heat. This means the burners below the ham are not on, or that there is no burning charcoal underneath it if using a charcoal grill.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Use a Low Temperature

    Grilling Ham Temperature
    The Spruce / Sabrina Baksh

    Keep the ham moist and flavorful by keeping the temperature low. This is very important if you choose a sugar-based glaze for your ham. Sugar burns at 265 F and, if it burns, will ruin the crust on the surface of your ham. This is why we recommend setting your grill to a temperature of around 250 F.

    Since this type of ham is ready to eat out of the package, there is no need to hit a specific temperature to make it safe. We are talking a typical ham here, not a fresh ham (which is an uncooked, uncured pork roast). If you have a "cook-before-eating" ham, then you must cook it to a minimum temperature of 160 F before taking it off the grill.

    There are a few strategies you can use here to heat your ham. The traditional method is to roast the ham at 325 F for 15 to 20 minutes per pound for a whole ham and 18 to 25 minutes per pound for half hams. Keep this temperature lower and increase the time if you are heating a "ready-to-eat ham." If the ham is a "cook-before-eating," then it is best to start out with a higher temperature. At the lower temperature, the "ready-to-eat ham" will cook at about 20 minutes per pound.

    Spiral cut hams cook faster since the heat will get in through the slices. For this ham, the cooking time will be around 15 minutes per pound. In order to heat the ham through and get a good sugary crust on the outside, you should plan on sticking to the time, but don't be too concerned with the final internal temperature.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Baste the Ham

    Grilling Ham Basting
    The Spruce / Sabrina Baksh

    As the ham cooks, baste it to layer on flavor while creating the groundwork for the crusty surface. The one word of warning is to start conservatively with the sugar. If you are keeping the temperature below 265 F, then you won't need to worry. However, since sugar will burn at higher temperatures, you will need to either hold down the temperature or wait on the sugar until the end.

    Keeping the temperature low and slow; hold off on the sugar until the last 30 minutes but continue to baste in the meantime.

    You can baste your ham with jam, preserves, fruit juice, cola, wine or beer. Use 1 cup of orange juice mixed with 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground cloves, and 1 teaspoon nutmeg.

    Apply the baste several times during the cooking process, with the last coat going on 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Sugar the Ham

    Grilling Ham Sugaring
    The Spruce / Sabrina Baksh

    Basting the ham keeps the surface moist and sticky. Now it is time to apply the sugar directly to the skin of the ham. If you have been cooking the ham at a higher temperature, drop the grill to under 265 F. Applying a thick layer of sugar to a hot ham will melt the sugar creating the hard shell once the ham is removed from the heat. As such, pat the sugar onto the ham several times to form a crust. If you are not interested in the sweet surface, then cut back or simply avoid the sugar altogether.

    Try a good "raw" sugar like a Demerara or Turbinado sugar. The larger crystals of these sugars stick on and make a thick coating.

    With the sugar applied, let the ham continue cooking until done. It should have at least 15 minutes with the sugar on it to form the crust.

    Once the ham is done, gently remove it from the grill. The sugar will harden and adhere better as it cools, but while hot, it will wipe off easily. Let your ham rest for 15 minutes, carve, and serve.