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How to fry country ham

Fry up some country ham that’s crispy, salty and perfect with a dip in red eye gravy. Truly southern at its roots, it happens to be keto and paleo friendly plus it’s gluten free. Get all the easy steps to bring this simple supper or breakfast to life in under 10 minutes.

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country ham slices in a cast iron skillet

What is country ham?

Country ham is preserved by curing with a blend of salt, spices and (sometimes) sugar to make what some people say is an “unpalatable” salty, crispy result. Country hams can be found whole in the south–often wrapped in the netting used for smoking–or you can buy it sliced and ready to fry.

Is country ham cooked?

It’s preserved and cured, so it’s not raw if that has you concerned. When frying country ham you only need to render the fat and get it crispy.

Should it be soaked to take out some of the salt?

If you’re not used to how salty it is, then maybe so. I’ve never seen too many southerners soak slices (whole hams are almost ALWAYS soaked though–that’s a whole different ballgame). If you felt like you just had to soak the slices, you can put them in some water or even a shallow bowl with some milk for a couple of hours before cooking. Remember to pat them dry really well before frying so they don’t splatter and will get crispy in the pan.

Is it keto?

Yes it should be. You’ll want to watch to make sure your brand wasn’t cured or treated with extra sugar that might wreck your diet plans though. My particular brand comes from Clifty Farms and has zero sugar and zero carbs according to the label–it would be perfect for a keto diet. Most country hams do have nitrates and nitrites in them as well–keep that in mind if that’s a no-no for your diet.

Tips for frying:

  1. Start with thinly sliced country ham. I’m using center cut slices here, but you can get “biscuit” cuts which are smaller as well. Keep them very thin–less than 1/4″ thick if possible. Feel free to soak yours for a couple of hours if you’d like it less salty.
country ham slices out of the package

2. Add coconut oil or other frying oil to your skillet. As your ham cooks, it will shrink, soften and release a bit of liquid. That’s fine. Just keep frying.

country ham slices in a frying pan

3. After 8 to 10 minutes, your country ham slices should be crispy and golden. Add additional frying oil of your choice (I use refined coconut oil) if the pan looks dry and to encourage browning.

cooked golden brown country ham cooking in a skillet

What to serve with fried country ham

You’ll want something to offset its saltiness. I always serve very thinly sliced pieces of ham (a little goes a very, very long way) with fried apples, buttermilk biscuits, and homemade grits that have been lightly seasoned. Of course red eye gravy is also a must if you want the full experience.

country ham slices in a cast iron skillet

How to Fry Country Ham

Salty, crispy and just right for a southern meal, learn how to fry country ham the classic way.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 134kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard



  • In a 10" cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet, heat half the coconut oil over high heat until just melted.
  • Add the ham slices, and reduce heat to medium. The ham will release some liquid initially and look soft and floppy like bacon. Continue cooking on medium, turning occasionally (every couple of minutes) until golden and crispy on both sides and any fat has rendered–about 10 minutes total. If the skillet starts to look too dry while the ham is frying, add the remaining coconut oil if needed.


Calories: 134kcal | Protein: 9g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 505mg | Potassium: 122mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
Recipe Rating

Jaime Frankenberry

Wednesday 19th of February 2020

Thanks for the tips. I am married to a southerner (I'm a northern so I didn't know how to com country ham.) This article helped a lot! Thank you ?

Brent Ross

Sunday 20th of December 2020

@Jaime Frankenberry, some time I use Dr Pepper to fry mine down with a little olive oil

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 20th of February 2020

Very good luck Jaime!

Kim Honeycutt

Monday 19th of August 2019

Hey Rachel, hope you're doing much better! We are huge country ham lovers in this house!

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 20th of August 2019

Yes Kim thank you I'm getting better. I love ham too!

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