Cooking a whole ham is not only a rewarding feat, but can be a challenge if you are not quite sure how to cut the bone out of that big chunk of meat! I prefer to keep the bone in the ham when I cook it to provide extra flavor, but the process of deboning the ham, whether before or after cooking, remains the same. You can also ask your butcher to debone the ham; he will usually do so at no extra charge.
To debone a ham is very simple - you will need just a cutting board and a sharp carving knife, and a little bit of muscle.
Here is a simple step-by-step method for deboning a ham:
First you will place ham, fat side down, on a cutting board. Making note of both sides of the bone on either end.
Start at the large end of the ham (usually the end where you can see the bone sticking out). Cut a straight line all the way to the other side of the ham, from one end of the bone to the other. Following the bone line, be sure to cut deep enough to cut the ham away from the entire bone.
Next, turn the ham over and do the same to that side, making sure that you are cutting all the way down to the bone.
Then, take a sharp knife and go over any part of the bone that you have missed, making sure to expose the bone.
Finally, to remove the bone, simply push the bone through the center of the ham (the part you just cut). It won't exactly slip right out, but shouldn't be too hard of a struggle either, depending on how good a carving job you did!
Try to do your best to keep the skin and fatty layer intact, as this will serve the purpose of keeping the ham moist when you cook it. You can remove this layer later after cooking if desired. Another way to keep the ham moist during cooking is to seal the center cavity closed before cooking.
That completes the steps of deboning a ham. Don't forget to save that bone, though! It will make the base for some wonderful soups or stock. If you wish to freeze the bone for later, a bone will last two to four months in a sealed container.