a whole smoked ham in a paper bag

We’ve got a holiday to celebrate! When it comes to my family’s Christmas and Easter menu, we don’t change things up too much from year to year. There’s always Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole in the morning, followed by a feast including Party Potatoes Deluxe or Gluten Free Scalloped Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Wild Rice Stuffing, plus Fruit and Marshmallow Holiday Saladand Brown Bag Baked Ham.

Now THIS is a holiday staple if I’ve ever met one!

sliced baked ham on a plate

What is Brown Bag Baked Ham?

Brown Bag Baked Ham is as simple as the name implies – throw a ham in a brown paper bag then bake it. HA! My Mom, and her Mom before her have been making our holiday hams using this method for decades and it yields the most delicious, juicy ham you’ll ever slice into.

Plus, like I said, it’s a no-brainer: bag + ham + bake. No glazing, no broiling, no brushing – just ham in all its juicy, porky glory. Amen.

I recognize that cooking a big hunk of meat can be intimidating, and I was in the same boat until my Mom taught me her paper bag baking ways. If you’re hesitant too, baking a fully-cooked smoked ham is a great way to dive into the world of big meaty meats because all you’re doing is warming it up. You get all the glory of pulling a piping hot ham out of the oven, but none of the pressure that comes along with making sure an entire turkey is cooked through, for example!

Whole Ham vs Spiral Cut

One of the most common questions I get about this recipe is: Can I use a spiral cut ham? 

We always use a whole, uncut ham for brown bag baked ham, which results in the juicy results you see in these photos. I’ve had many people use spiral cut hams and get the same results, though a small handful have reached out to say theirs turned out dry. Since I haven’t personally tested this method using a spiral cut ham, I can’t guess as to why that might be.

For a fool proof, super juicy, brown bag baked ham, I recommend using a whole, uncut ham.

The Elephant in the Room

Now, I just have to put this out there – as soon as Ben found out I sharing our recipe for baking a ham in a paper bag here on IGE he said “you know that’s incredibly dangerous, don’t you?” Honestly, the thought never occurred to me because brown bag baked ham is just what my family does. Stepping back, SURE I recognize the fact that putting paper into a hot oven could be risky, but my Mom’s been baking our hams using this method as long as I’ve been alive without incident. Plus the bag doesn’t come anywhere near the sides, bottom, or top of the oven.

That said, if you don’t feel comfortable baking a ham in a bag in your oven then of course, don’t.

We have used these parchment paper roasting bags over the past few years and you get the same results. Delicious. Juicy. Tender. Mouthwatering ham.

You in? LET’S DO THIS!

sliced ham on a plate with vegetables

How to Make Brown Bag Baked Ham

Start with a bone-in smoked ham. My family has always used Amana hams, made in Amana, IA, and boy are they delicious! Plan on 1/2lb ham per person which sounds like a lot, but that’s figuring in the weight of the bone plus any fat that will be trimmed away.

a smoked amana ham on a cutting board

Next, cut the handles off a brown paper grocery bag. Then, wait for it….

Put the ham in the bag. Told you it was easy! If you don’t care to use a recycled bag with ink, again, you can use an “oven ready” baking bag.

Fold the top of the bag down then place it on a cooling rack set atop a 9×13″ baking pan and press the bag down around the ham.

a whole smoked ham in a paper bag

Move the oven racks to the very top and very bottom of your oven (you can remove the top rack entirely if you have a place to store it,) then place the ham inside and bake for 18 minutes per pound at 325 degrees.

So, for example, you will bake a 2lb ham for 36 minutes. Be sure the bag isn’t touching the racks, back of the oven, or oven door.

Ta da!

a juicy baked amana ham

As soon as you press the ham, the juices start flowing. Truly, the brown bag baking method makes The. Best. Ham. EVER. You’ve got to try it!

juice running down a baked amana ham

Slice the ham then serve it up with your choice of sides. Like I said, we usually go the party potatoes and green bean casserole route, but the ham will be the star.

Don’t forget to save the ham bone to include in Ham and Bean Soup!

From our family to yours – enjoy!

sliced baked ham on a plate

What to Make with Leftover Ham

Brown Bag Baked Ham

5/5 (6 REVIEWS)


Brown Bag Baked Ham produces an unbelievably juicy ham that's holiday-table ready. All you need is a ham and a bag!


  • Smoked, bone-in ham (1/2lb per person)
  • Parchment Paper Baking Bag or large paper bag.


  1. Place oven racks in the lowest and highest positions (remove top rack entirely if you have a place to store it) then preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a cooling rack on top of a 9x13" baking dish then set aside. Cut the handles off a paper grocery bag, or open a parchment paper baking bag, then place the ham inside. Roll the opening of the bag down then press the bag around the ham and place on top of the cooling rack. Bake for 18 minutes per pound (bake a 2lb ham for 36 minutes, for example) then remove ham from bag, slice and serve.


  • Be sure the paper bag is not touching the sides of the oven, back of the oven, or baking racks.
  • If you aren't comfortable using a paper sack with ink on it, these bags also work perfectly.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.

photo collage of brown bag baked ham