As an experienced cook who loves exploring new cooking methods, I’ve discovered that an air fryer is a fantastic way to cook country ham slices. With its fast, high-heat circulation, the air fryer perfectly crisps and warms these salty, preserved pork slices in minutes.
But how long it takes exactly? Well, depending on your cooking method, it can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes or slightly more.
What is Country Ham
Country ham is a specialty of the Southern United States, like Virginia or Kentucky. It’s made from pork legs that are cured with salt for extended periods, giving country ham its characteristic salty flavor and firm, dry texture. The curing process also cooks the meat, so country ham is fully cooked even when sold pre-sliced.
Country ham is typically served in thin slices as an appetizer or in addition to biscuits, sandwiches, and more. It ranges from robustly salty to subtly cured depending on how long it aged. When shopping, look for high-quality, artisanal country ham with deep red meat and plenty of fat marbling for flavor.
How Long to Cook Country Ham Slices
The cooking time for country ham slices in an air fryer depends on the thickness of the slices. Here’s a general guideline:
- Thin slices (1/2 inch or less): 5-7 minutes
- Medium slices (1/2-1 inch): 7-10 minutes
- Thick slices (1 inch or more): 10-12 minutes
Always preheat your air fryer to 360°F (180°C) before cooking. Arrange the ham slices in a single layer in the air fryer basket, making sure they don’t overlap. For even cooking, flip the slices halfway through the cooking time.
Why an Air Fryer Works Well
Air fryers are ideal for quickly cooking or reheating small, thin cuts of pre-cooked meats like country ham slices. The convection heat of an air fryer rapidly warms and crisps the exterior while keeping the interior moist.
Compared to pan frying, the air fryer doesn’t require closely monitoring the slices in pooled grease. And it gives better texture than simply microwaving. Just a few minutes in the air fryer is all it takes to beautifully finish a country ham.
Step-by-Step Guide to Air Frying Country Ham
Based on my experience, here is a simple, foolproof method for cooking country ham slices in an air fryer:
1. Select Thinly Sliced Ham
Look for quality country ham cut into slices no thicker than 1/4 inch. Thinner slices will cook faster with maximum crisping. If you only have thick slices, cut them in half horizontally first.
2. Preheat Air Fryer to 400°F
This high heat quickly crisps and warms the ham without overcooking it.
3. Cook for 5-8 Minutes, Flipping Halfway
Thinner slices need about 4-6 minutes while thicker cuts can go up to 8 minutes. Always flip halfway through for even cooking.
4. Optional Glazing
For flavor, brush slices with maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey about halfway through cooking.
5. Check Internal Temp
Ensure cooked to 140°F for food safety. Continue cooking if needed.
6. Enjoy Immediately
Serve the hot crispy ham slices on biscuits, in sandwiches, or as a snack.
Handy Tips and Troubleshooting
After many rounds of testing, I’ve picked up some helpful tips for foolproof air-fried country ham:
- Watch cooking time as air fryers can vary. Undercooking leaves ham too firm while overcooking dries it out.
- Use a meat thermometer to confirm safe internal temperature.
- Try different glazes like bourbon, mustard, or chili sauce.
- Don’t overcrowd – cook slices in a single layer for best results.
- Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days and reheat in the air fryer or microwave.
Delicious Ways to Serve Air-Fried Country Ham
While excellent on its own, air-fried country ham also shines in fun recipes:
- On biscuits with red-eye gravy for a classic Southern breakfast
- In a sandwich with Brie, arugula, and fig jam
- Wrapped around melon chunks or pickled okra for an appetizer
- Crumbled into rich scrambles or omelets
- Diced and tossed with roasted Brussels sprouts
So next time you have country ham, ditch the frying pan and let your air fryer bring out its best crispy, salty flavors. It’s the easiest route to authentic Southern-style ham.