How Much Water Do You Put In A Slow Cooker For Ham?

Everyone loves a delicious ham and what better way to cook it than in the crockpot. When it comes to how much water to use for slow cooker ham, how much is best?

Slow-cooked ham doesn’t need to be swimming in water or liquid, just aim for enough to cover around a third of the meat in the pot. This usually equates to approximately ½ a cup of liquid per pound of meat.

In this guide, I’m going to take you through some preparation and cooking tips and share clever ways to use the leftover cooking liquid (hint – don’t throw it away!). Let’s learn to slow-cook these tasty cuts of meat to perfection.

Does Ham Have To Be Fully Covered In Water?

The simple answer to this is no, you do not need to fully immerse your ham in water or any other liquid.

When it comes to slow-cooking a cut of ham, there’s no need to fully cover it in water. It needs just enough to keep things moist and tender and stop it drying out, that’s all.

The easy way to measure this is to make sure it’s about a third of the way up the sides (about ½ cup of water for every pound of meat).

So, why not fully immerse it? You can if you want but most slow cooked food isn’t fully immersed. Fully immersing it boils the meat so the whole thing is soggy, while only a little liquid allows the meat to “roast” in the slow cooker in a moist environment.

It’s all about finding that sweet spot – just enough water for a gentle simmer, but not too much to drown it out.

How To Prepare Slow Cooker Ham

Start with a quality cut that fits easily in your slow cooker. Next, check to see if you might need to soak it depending on how it’s been cured (check the label) and your personal tastes. Then just add the cooking liquid and you’re ready to go.

The key? Keep it simple. Let your slow cooker work its magic as it transforms your chosen cut into a tender, flavorful dish. This uncomplicated approach means pretty much any cook can make an amazing home-cooked ham.

What If It’s Too Big?

Size definitely matters when it comes to slow cookers. If your ham is too big for the pot, then you will need to trim it down so it fits comfortably. Don’t try to jam it in as this will not allow the hot moist air to circulate inside the crockpot.

Giving the meat plenty of room means it will cook more evenly so that all parts of the ham have the same texture.

Should It Be Soaked?

The age-old debate: to soak or not soak your ham before slow cooking?

While soaking will reduce a bit of saltiness, it’s not a must. If you prefer a milder flavor, a soak in cold water for a few hours is the way to go. But if you’re a fan of a more robust taste, feel free to skip this step although do check the label to see if it’s recommended.

It’s all about personal preference and checking how the ham has been produced and cured.

Are Slow Cooker Ham And Gammon The Same?

Gammon is a British term that is often used interchangeably with ham, particularly when it’s raw. It’s not found much in the U.S. but is the same thing so you can follow the same instructions when slow cooking ham or gammon.

What Liquids To Use For Slow Cooker Ham

Water is the classic go-to, providing a neutral base that lets the natural tastes shine. If you’re feeling adventurous, swap it out for a flavorful broth or stock – chicken or vegetable work great, or even cider or apple juice.

Choosing the right liquids for your slow-cooked ham is a secret ingredient to a flavor-packed piece of meat. 

For a hint of sweetness, consider fruit juices like apple or pineapple, which will add a delightful twist to your savory dish. 

Cola is also a firm favorite of some people as it gives the ham a sweet, caramel taste (perfect for Christmas). I personally find it a bit sweet for my tastes but lots enjoy it.

If you’re feeling bold try adding a glug of cider, this can infuse your ham with a completely different range of flavors. Whatever you choose, moderation is key. Aim for a balance so that your flavors complement each other.

When Is It Done And Can You Overcook It?

Generally, a low setting for 6-8 hours or more is ideal. Alternatively, cook on a high setting for 4-5 hours (depending on the size of your cut) if you’re short on time. 

Determining when your slow cooker ham is done is crucial to achieving that perfect tenderness, flavor, and the best texture. Patience is key when it comes to the slow cooker. 

How can you tell that it’s done to perfection? The meat should be fork-tender, but still able to hold its shape allowing you to slice the meat without it falling apart. 

Be cautious, though—overcooking is a real threat when cooking on high heat settings. While slow cooking is forgiving, too much time can turn your ham into a letdown. That’s why I always recommend you cook your ham low and slow.

What To Do With The Leftover Cooking Liquid

Don’t let that flavorful liquid go to waste – it’s a precious byproduct of your slow-cooking endeavors! Once your ham is perfectly done, using the cooking liquor as a base for gravies adds a depth to your sauces that store-bought stock can’t quite achieve.

Another simple yet brilliant option is repurposing the liquid into a homemade soup or stew. The rich, savory essence will infuse your dish with an extra layer of flavor. 

Feeling creative? Reduce some of the liquid down to a glaze – especially good if you’ve used something sweet. This concentrated essence becomes a tantalizing coating for your cooked meat, offering a glossy finish and a depth of flavor.


Hopefully, by now you’ve got a good idea of how much water to add to a slow cooker ham (or gammon if you live in the UK).

Just add enough to come about a third of the way up the sides for the best results. You can also try adding other liquids such as cider, stock, fruit juices, and even cola to make your finished dish into something special.

Remember the best way to cook your ham if you have the time is low and slow. But if you need to use the high setting, just make sure not to leave it too long or the meat could dry out.

Tom Hambly

Tom Hambly is the founder of Boss The Kitchen. With a background in cooking and building websites, he enjoys running this site to help other cooks improve. About Tom Hambly.

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