How to spiral-carve ham

DIY ham carving

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Spiral-cut ham is one of the highlights of the Christmas season. If you're stuck with a whole ham, we'll show you how to spiral-cut it yourself.

Spiral-sliced hams may not be that expensive given that all the work is done for you, but many of us prefer a thicker cut than those provided at the supermarket. Another good reason to DIY is to control the ingredients and flavor. If you prefer yummy, old-fashioned country ham to the sweet, glazed stuff you usually find spiral-sliced.

Before you read these instructions, we recommend you take a look at how they do it in the factory, which will make these instructions more clear. At the conclusion of our instructions, we'll show you how to cut the ham from the bone once you're ready to serve.

Obviously, we don't expect you to buy an industrial spiral-cutting machine, but you do need some special equipment, much of which you probably already have in your house.

Spiral cutting and serving ham


  • Bone-in ham shank
  • Clean, sturdy carving board
  • Clean, dry kitchen towel
  • Large, sharp knife (knife should be long enough to cut the width of the ham at the largest part)
  • Smaller sharp serrated knife
  • 2 carving forks (1 will do, but 2 are best)
  • Blowtorch (optional)

How to spiral-cut a ham


  1. Pre-cook your ham according to recipe directions. If your recipe calls for a sticky glaze, you'll want to do that after the ham is spiral-carved. You can use a blowtorch to brown and crisp after it's reheated. Reserve the pan drippings. Let it rest until it's cool enough to touch (at least 30 minutes to allow the juices to settle).
  2. Place your cutting board on top of the kitchen towel to prevent slipping.
  3. Transfer your cooled ham to the cutting board, lying it flat with the bone parallel to the cutting board.
  4. Using your carving fork to hold it steady, begin cutting with the large knife at the larger end of the ham. The cut should be slightly angled, rather than parallel to the edge of the ham. If you screw up the first angle, don't panic, as you learn how to angle the knife to get the thickness you want, you can correct it. As necessary, you can use the serrated knife to cut particularly stubborn spots.
  5. Turn the cutting board as necessary to give yourself the right angle. Use the 2 carving forks to flip the ham as necessary. As you go, remember to cut all the way to the bone. Continue until you've reached the end.
  6. To reheat your ham, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and place it cut-side down in a roasting pan lined loosely with a large sheet of foil (big enough to cover the ham). Cover the ham with the reserved drippings and wrap it with the foil completely. Warm it for 8 to 12 minutes per pound, making sure you don't overheat it (use a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches an internal temperature of 150 to 160 degrees F; make sure the thermometer is sunk into the meatiest part of the ham at least an inch away from the bone). Remove the heated ham from the oven and apply any glaze. Let it sit for 30 minutes to rest and let the glaze melt in, or use a blowtorch to carefully melt and crisp the glaze.

How to carve a spiral-cut ham


  1. Using the carving forks, place the ham back on your cutting board on the flatter of the sides with the bone facing you.
  2. Use the large knife to cut around the center bone. Don't try to go further than is necessary to avoid cutting yourself.
  3. Locate the fatty seams that go from the outside of the ham toward the bone and cut along them to release the spirals.

More carving techniques

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How to clean and fillet a fish
How to shuck an oyster

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.