There’s a ham for every occasion, even if that occasion is just tonight’s dinner. But when it comes to satisfying appetites and putting smiles on faces, all hams are not created equal. We’re pleased to draw on more than a century in the meat business to offer a little inside info on what to look for when you hit the grocery store in search of the perfect ham.

How Much Ham Do You Need?

The answer to this question comes down to the size of the appetites in question and the number of people you need to feed. Since that first part tends to vary, here are a few examples that’ll get you in the ballpark:

A whole bone-in ham (19lbs average weight) serves up to 40 people. Definitely the right choice for family reunions and other big get-togethers.

A whole boneless ham (8lbs average weight) serves up to 30 people. Same basic idea, plus a boneless ham is a little easier to carve.

A portion bone-in ham (7.5lbs average weight) serves 10 people. Great for dinner parties, or a family dinner with plenty left over for sandwiches and such.

A quarter ham (2lbs average weight) serves 6-8 people. The way to go for a satisfying family dinner or a week of great sandwiches.

If nothing else, all you need to remember is that a half-pound of ham serves one adult. Might take a little math to figure out, but it’s the tasty kind of math.

What Should You Look For In A Ham?

In terms of ingredients, the fewer and simpler, the better. Our hams are cured with real brown sugar, where others use corn syrup or dextrose. Corn syrup and dextrose are half as sweet as sugar, and require more non-meat “filler” ingredients to help bind the extra water needed to dilute them.

Our hams are “natural juice hams,” as opposed to “ham and water” (containing up to 23% non-meat ingredients) or “water added” (containing up to 10% non-meat ingredients).

When it comes to flavor, fat is your friend — especially when you’re baking a fully cooked ham for several hours. Fat also absorbs more of the hardwood smoke we use during the smoking process, which adds to the flavor. Cooking tip: Cook your ham with the fat side up in a covered dish with a tight seal to keep the moisture in. This’ll make sure you get full flavor in every bite.

Make sure your ham has never been frozen. Freezing creates muscle separation and unwanted moisture in the package, which affects the texture. Frick’s hams have the best texture because we never freeze them.

Real hardwood makes all the difference. Our hams are hardwood smoked and slowly cooked to lock in the juiciness and flavor. Also, our hams are fully cooked, which is superior to partially cooked or “ready to cook” hams from a food safety standpoint. Don’t settle for a “liquid smoked” ham.

What’s The Difference Between Bone-In Hams & Boneless Hams?

As you might’ve guessed, the biggest difference is the bone. A bone-in ham makes for a great visual presentation on the table, and is perfect for carving. And it’s not just there for show — a ham bone is an excellent starter for flavorful soups and stocks. Boneless hams are easier to carve, and better suited for sandwiches. There’s no real difference in flavor or texture. Every Frick’s ham is cured with pure cane sugar and slowly smoked over real American hardwoods, and many of our Boneless Hams are cured with natural juices and 97% fat free.

What Flavor Does Hardwood Smoking Add To Ham?

Different hardwoods add different flavors to ham. Here’s a quick guide to the hardwoods we use:

Apple: A mild and subtly sweet flavor that will definitely remind you of the fruit.

Beech: More mellow and mild than hickory for a smooth, smoky flavor.

Cherry: Like apple, a sweet, mild and fruity smoke flavor.

Hickory: The granddaddy of all smoking hardwoods. A sweet, strong flavor and aroma that will probably remind you of bacon. Which is always a good thing.

Pecan: A stronger flavor and aroma than fruitwoods like apple and cherry, but with a more subtle character than hickory.