The Reason You Should Always Buy More Ham Than You Think

Ham is a holiday favorite for many reasons. For starters, this meaty cut from the back leg of a pig is not only delicious, but big. As My Gourmet Connection notes, whole hams can weigh up to 18 pounds, and even the smaller sizes generally exceed 10 pounds.

The best flavor is typically found in bone-in varieties, and the bones from these hams can also be used to make soup. So assuming you take into account the proper amount of ham to buy for each person, whole bone-in hams should not only feed the whole family — contributing to the soup and main courses — but there should even be enough left over for next-day ham sandwiches.

Judging the right amount of ham to buy is not always easy, however. Generally speaking, buying a half-pound to three-quarters of a pound for each guest should be about right, according to Insider. But there are several issues to be aware of when buying ham, each of which makes calculating the amount needed for guest portions a little more difficult.

Factors that can affect ham weight and portion size

Although bone-in hams are a great option for their flavor, texture, and the utility of the bone in making soups, this variety does make it more difficult to determine how much ham you're getting relative to each guest. One reason for this, according to Insider, is the weight of the bone. Bone weights vary, but they're included in the total weight, so there's going to be a little less ham than you might think.

Hams sometimes have fillers, Insider notes, which is why it's important to pay attention to labeling. If a ham is labeled as just that — "ham" — then you're getting exactly what you want. But if phrases like "with natural juices" or "water added" are included, then extra brine has likely been injected, often to the detriment of the taste and texture of your ham.

A related consideration, explains Very Meaty, is that hams typically lose a certain percentage of their weight during the cooking process. This percentage can range from 15% to a little more than 20%, so it's not insignificant. The best policy, then, is always to buy more ham than you think you need. Instead of buying a half-pound per person, for instance, it's safer to buy three-quarters of a pound per person to allow for the bone, as well as the weight lost during cooking.