Should I Cook the Ham or Turkey First? A Helpful Holiday Guide

The holidays are a time for feasting, and ham and turkey are classic centerpiece dishes But a common question arises – which one should you cook first? There’s no definitive right or wrong answer, but some key factors to consider In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over the pros and cons of cooking ham vs. turkey first, along with helpful tips and tricks for pulling off both successfully.

Factors to Consider When Deciding Which to Cook First

Here are some things to think about when choosing whether to cook the ham or turkey first

Cooking Time – Hams generally take less time to cook than turkeys. A fully cooked ham may only need to be heated through while a large turkey requires hours in the oven. If you’re pressed for time, start with the ham.

Oven Space – Your oven size may dictate which you cook first. If oven space is limited, cook the longest cooking item first.

Personal Preference – Some people find starting with ham yields better turkey flavor as it can absorb ham drippings. Others prefer cooking turkey first to prevent it from drying out. Go with your personal taste.

Other Dishes – If you need to free up oven space for side dishes, do the lengthier turkey cook first. Or start ham first to time sides together.

Serving Order – Cook the item you want to serve first so it rests while finishing up the second meat.

Pro Tips for Cooking Ham and Turkey Together

If oven space allows, you can cook your ham and turkey together:

  • Place turkey on lower rack to catch ham drippings for added flavor.

  • Use a roasting pan with rack to elevate the turkey above the ham.

  • Cook ham at 325°F and turkey at 350°F if your oven allows dual temperatures.

  • Reduce ham temp to 250°F once done to keep warm while turkey finishes.

  • Cover ham in foil and let rest in a warm oven or insulated cooler.

Step-by-Step Guide for Cooking Ham Then Turkey

If you opt to cook the ham first, follow this simple process:

  1. Prep the fully cooked ham according to packaging directions. Place ham in a roasting pan and cover.

  2. Cook ham at 325°F until warmed through, about 10-15 minutes per pound.

  3. When ham is finished, tent with foil and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

  4. While ham rests, prep turkey for roasting. Place in pan on middle rack.

  5. Roast turkey at 350°F to internal temp of 165°F, about 15 minutes per pound.

  6. Once turkey is done, remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest 15-20 minutes.

  7. Slice ham and turkey, arrange on platters, and serve!

Step-by-Step Guide for Cooking Turkey Then Ham

If you prefer to cook the turkey first, follow these simple steps:

  1. Prep turkey and place in roasting pan on a middle oven rack.

  2. Roast turkey at 350°F until internal temp reaches 165°F, about 15 minutes per pound.

  3. When finished, remove turkey from oven, tent with foil and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

  4. While turkey rests, prep ham according to package directions.

  5. Place ham in roasting pan on a lower rack to catch turkey drippings.

  6. Cook ham at 325°F until heated through, about 10-15 minutes per pound.

  7. Remove ham from oven, tent with foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

  8. Carve turkey and ham, arrange on platters, and serve.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When cooking ham and turkey, avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Undercooking – use a meat thermometer and cook to full recommended internal temperature.

  • Overcooking – stick to approximate cook times based on weight.

  • Forgetting to let meat rest – resting allows juices to redistribute for tender, flavorful meat.

  • Not tenting with foil – foil keeps meat moist and hot while resting.

  • Cooking on too high heat – lower temperatures allow even cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions? Here are some commonly asked queries:

What if I only have time to cook one, not both? In a time crunch, cook the ham since it takes less time. You can skip the turkey or pick up a cooked breast.

Should I cook bone-in or boneless ham? Boneless is faster, but bone-in may have more flavor. Cook based on your preference and timeframe.

What about baking ham and turkey? Baking uses less oven space but may take longer without the convection of roasting. Adjust bake temps and times as needed.

Can I prep ham and turkey the night before? Yes, you can prep the meats in advance but wait to cook until right before serving. Refrigerate until ready to roast.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider cook times, oven space, preferences, and other dishes when deciding which to cook first.
  • Cook turkey on the lower rack to catch ham drippings.
  • Let meats rest 15-20 minutes before carving for juicy results.
  • Use a thermometer; cook ham to 140°F and turkey to 165°F.
  • Avoid over/undercooking and let rest before serving.

With these handy tips, you can achieve ham and turkey perfection! May your holiday feasts be both merry and delicious.

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