How to Carve a Ham

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Big celebrations call for impressive mains, but slicing up a whole ham can be tricky. Learn how to carve a ham with our easy step-by-step guide.

A big, succulent ham is a festive supper many families enjoy on special occasions and holidays. And while it’s easy to get out of practice, a proper carving ensures that everyone gets a meaty slice and that you don’t leave too much meat on the bone. Follow along with our handy guide to how to carve a ham.

Before you start: Buy the right ham.

What’s the Easiest Ham to Carve?

Look for semi-boneless hams, which only include the center femur bone (it’s easy to work around).

What’s the Best Ham for Your Buck?

The butt half is large, with just a small amount of connective tissue. It yields large, meaty slices. If you’re shopping on a budget, look for a shank half. These are less expensive, but also less meaty. Either way, make sure you look for a ham listed as “half,” which includes the desirable center slices. Avoid hams labeled as “portions.” Psst! These are the secrets for the best baked ham.

How to Carve a Ham

You’ll need:

  • A cooked, semi-boneless ham
  • A sharp knife, preferably one with a long, thin blade you feel comfortable controlling (you don’t need a meat cleaver to carve your ham)
  • A carving fork, which you’ll use to stabilize your ham as you cut

Step 1: Set up your slicing station

One of the most common mistakes is crowding yourself into a too-small area to carve. You’ll only make it hard for yourself if you have too small a cutting board, no place to shift your slices, or not enough room to maneuver your arms. We suggest setting up a large cutting board at a normal working height (don’t hunch over the table to carve in front of your guests). You’ll need some elbow room.

Set the ham on your board, and bring out the sharp knife and fork. These are the must-have knives every cook needs in the kitchen.

person cutting into the center of a half of ham

Step 2: Carve off a boneless section

Your semi-boneless ham has just one bone running through it. Arrange the ham on your board so the pre-cut side is down. The bone should be perpendicular to the board. Pierce your fork into the top corner of the meat. (It should be out of the way of your cutting knife, but it should be sufficiently deep in the meat to hold it still as you cut.) Carve along the bone to remove the boneless section of meat.

person cutting slices from the cushion of the meat

Step 3: Slice it

Carve this section into vertical slices. Set these slices on a serving plate, tenting them with foil to keep them warm.

person cuts horizontally on half the ham to remove the bone

Step 4: Carve horizontally around the bone

Insert a fork into the meat next to the bone. First, make horizontal cuts through the meat up to the bone.

person cutting into the center of a cushion of ham meat with a fork embedded in the thickest part

Step 5: Carve vertically

Then, slice vertically along the bone. This will cut off your horizontal slices, which will fall neatly onto the board. Transfer them to the serving plate.

Step 6: Arrange and serve

That’s it! Don’t forget to save your leftovers for a delicious second meal. (We’re partial to this ham casserole).

What to do with the bone?

You’ll probably find yourself with a decent amount of meat remaining on your bone. While it’s not enough to slice and present to guests, don’t throw it out!

We like to carve this meat away in pieces as large as possible. They might be a bit uneven or small—perfect for sandwiches or salads, we say. Save your bone to add flavor to a pea soup or a pot of beans.

Our Favorite Leftover Ham Recipes
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Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.