June 15, 2024


Food & Travel Enthusiast

Bourbon-molasses glaze recipe gives ham big flavor and a little shine

Bourbon-Molasses Glazed Ham

Total time:1 hour 45 mins

Servings:12 to 16

Total time:1 hour 45 mins

Servings:12 to 16


If you’re looking for an easy main to serve for a holiday, a celebration or a crowd of people any day of the week, ham is it. Most of the hams you see at the store are ready to eat, so you could simply heat, slice and go on your merry way, but adding a glaze during the warming stage is an easy way to give the meat a boost of flavor and a gorgeous sheen. With Easter on the horizon, here’s a bourbon-molasses glaze that will do just that.

In the past, I’ve found ham to be hit or miss, which I now can attribute to two things: the quality of the ham and whether the preparer used a store-bought or homemade glaze.

Ham quality largely comes down to water content, which can be determined by the labels “ham,” “ham with natural juices,” “ham, water added” and “ham and water product,” indicating the amount of water in increasing order. Pure “ham” is your best bet in terms of flavor and texture, but “ham with natural juices” is less expensive if you’re on a budget. If you can, avoid the other two categories.

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Next, you need to decide if you want a bone-in or boneless ham. Ham with the bone is slightly more flavorful (plus you can use the bone to make stocks and soups), but the ease of carving boneless hams might be worth the sacrifice. A third option is bone-in, spiral-cut ham if you want the best of both worlds.

In terms of glazes, the store-bought jars my parents foisted upon me have always tasted artificial. Or perhaps it was the red dye they often included that made them look artificial that turned me off. Regardless, all you really need to make a ham glaze at home is a sweetener — to balance the saltiness of the meat — and flavorings.

This glaze — featuring bourbon, molasses, brown sugar, Dijon mustard and spices — came to me when I threw it together for a Christmas dinner potluck. It’s been stuck in my head ever since.

Bourbon tends to have a hint of sweetness. Molasses has a bitter, earthy, rich sugariness that I love, and I pair it with brown sugar (which already contains some molasses) to play up the bourbon’s flavor. Last, mustard, herbs and spices add savory notes to round out the glaze and make you want to eat it by the spoonful. (You can replace the bourbon with apple cider or a fruit juice, such as orange or pineapple, if you prefer a nonalcoholic glaze.)

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While there are a few different methods when it comes to heating and glazing a ham, my go-to is to place it in a moderate oven, uncovered, and brush it with the glaze every 15 to 20 minutes until the meat is warmed through and has a glossy, lacquer-like coating.

The key to success is adding water to the bottom of the pan to keep the sugars in the glaze from burning (which helps with cleanup) and to prevent the ham from drying out (nobody likes a dry ham). Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful centerpiece worthy of any dinner table.

Bourbon-Molasses Glazed Ham

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.

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  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch fine salt
  • One (4-pound) cooked ham
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the bourbon, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, thyme, garlic powder, black pepper and salt and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring regularly, until the sugar has dissolved and the glaze has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.

Using a sharp paring knife, score the ham by making crosshatch cuts all over the surface about 1/2 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart, creating a square or diamond pattern. Place the ham cut side up in a baking pan, add the water to the bottom of the pan and brush the ham all over with about a quarter of the glaze.

Bake the ham, brushing with more glaze every 15 to 20 minutes until all of it is used up and adding more water to the pan if it gets dry, to prevent the glaze from burning, about 1 hour 30 minutes total, or until the ham is nicely browned and caramelized.

Remove the ham from the oven and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Per serving (4 ounces), based on 16 with a boneless ham

Calories: 225; Total Fat: 9 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 65 mg; Sodium: 1,614 mg; Carbohydrates: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 25 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Recipe from staff writer Aaron Hutcherson.

Tested by Aaron Hutcherson; email questions to [email protected].

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