Glaze Your Holiday Ham With Guinness For A Malty, Caramel-Like Crust

A glistening brown ham is a classic centerpiece for a festive dinner or holiday brunch, but it's not difficult to overshoot in the direction of cloyingly sweet. Adding toasty Guinness brings a flavorful balance that will be far more than just a shiny sugar coat. The inspiration behind using Guinness beer for the glaze is rooted in its robust and malty profile, a perfect contrast to the sweetness of the sugar and the richness of the pork. As one of the most iconic Irish stouts, Guinness' recipe of yeasted hops and barley produces deep undertones of coffee and chocolate, which contribute complex flavors to the glaze.

The basting mixture still needs some sugar to counterbalance the beer's bitterness, and the dark, molasses flavors in brown sugar are a great choice. As for color, the stout and sugar combine to create an ever-deeper brown crust for a visually stunning color contrast with carved slices. Further, the brown sugar will caramelize during the cooking process, forming that glossy, sticky exterior that will make it a handsome addition to the spread.

Glazing a glistening ham

To prepare the glaze, simply combine your favorite Guinness beer with brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. As the mixture simmers, the brown sugar dissolves into the beer, and the glaze will thicken slightly. Taste a bit of the glaze to make sure the sweetness level is correct — remember this will cook more on the ham, so you want a not-too-bitter starting flavor. This glaze is then generously brushed onto the ham before roasting and then again during the cooking process, starting when the ham reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the flavors to penetrate the meat thoroughly but not be scorched by overcooking.

The oven heat and fat from the ham transform the glaze into a sticky, caramelized coating that becomes slightly crispy, creating that satisfying crunch that gives way to the tender, juicy ham beneath. The pan drippings make a great finishing sauce, just simmer for a few minutes to reduce them to a syrup, swirling in a pat of butter at the end for richness.