Most ham manufacturers are willing to report that their hams contain no gluten ingredients, but they're not willing to state that they necessarily meet the accepted definition of "gluten-free" (containing fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten).
However, there are a few ham makers that will guarantee their products are gluten-free, including two that are certified gluten-free: Dietz & Watson and Jones Dairy Farm. If you're particularly sensitive to trace gluten, you may want to stick with those.
• Learn more: How Much Trace Gluten Is In Your Food?
Regardless of your sensitivity level, always read the ingredients on any ham you buy — as I said, glaze packets frequently contain gluten (if in doubt, throw it out and make your own with the recipes I've included below the list). There's also a chance that the ham itself will include a problematic ingredient (see: How to Identify Gluten on Food Labels for more information).
Also, keep in mind this list only applies to the United States; ham sold in other countries (even by the same company or brand name) can have different ingredients and different manufacturing procedures.
Here's my comprehensive list of U.S. ham manufacturers and their gluten-free status:
- Armour. A division of the John Morrell Food Group, Armour sells more than a dozen different types of ham, ranging from deli-style ham to whole hams. A John Morrell spokesperson tells me that the company does not use ingredients with barley, rye or oats, but does use wheat in some products. The label will disclose if there are any wheat-based ingredients, she says. Shared lines may be a problem: even if a ham product appears gluten-free by ingredients, it may still be made on shared lines, she says, although the company follows cleaning protocols to minimize cross-contamination.
- Beeler's. Iowa-based Beeler's sells several different types of ham, including bone-in and boneless uncured varieties. Company spokesperson Julie Beeler says all Beeler products are made in a gluten-free facility with no gluten ingredients. The company prides itself on raising pigs naturally in an environment where they can socialize and have access to the outdoors, without antibiotics or growth hormones.
- Boar's Head. All Boar's Head deli meats, including its wide range of ham products, are gluten-free, according to the company. If you're looking for an overall Boar's Head gluten-free list, you can find it here.
- Bob Evans. The Bob Evans chain of restaurants (which isn't particularly gluten-free-friendly) does offer some options for us from its retail grocery line. Two types of ham — ham steaks and cubed/diced ham — appear on Bob Evans' "potentially acceptable retail products - celiac sprue" list. It's not clear to me what "potentially acceptable" means — it could indicate some risk of cross-contamination, or it could simply be legalize for "buyer beware." Regardless, you may want to exercise some caution if you're trying one of these for the first time.
- Broadbent's Hams. Broadbent's, which is based in Kentucky (the home of excellent ham, as some would say), makes both "country" and "city" hams. However, a company rep tells me that Broadbent's doesn't test for gluten or make any sort of gluten-free claims. It does make some products that contain gluten.
- Butterball. Butterball makes a lower-fat turkey ham that's usually sold in the deli section. The company's Frequently Asked Questions page states that only two Butterball products (one variety of meatballs and a frozen stuffed turkey) contain gluten.
- Cook's Ham. Cook's makes nothing but ham and beef briskets. According to the company's Frequently Asked Questions page, "the manufacturing objective for all Cook's branded meat products is that they be gluten-free." Cook's specifies that all ingredients used in its ham production be gluten-free, but the company still warns that its suppliers may change their formulations without telling Cook's ahead of time. Nonetheless, this company seems pretty diligent when it comes to crafting gluten-free hams.
- Dakin Farm. Vermont-based Dakin Farm features both bone-in and boneless hams, some of which are spiral-sliced. It also sells ham steaks and chops. However, a company spokesperson tells me that Dakin Farm does not have a list of gluten-free products.
- Dietz & Watson. Dietz & Watson is certified gluten-free by the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA), which requires products to test below 5 parts per million of gluten (currently the lowest level of commercial testing available). The company has plenty of gluten-free ham options available at both the deli counter and the meat department, including Honey Cured Ham, Black Forest Smoked Ham, Cajun Recipe Ham, Peppered Ham and Tomato & Basil Ham.
- Eckrich. This is another division of the John Morrell Food Group. Like Armour hams, Eckrich hams will disclose any added wheat on the label, although there may still be a risk of cross-contamination. The company does not use barley, rye or oats in its products.
- Farmer John. This brand, a division of Hormel, makes several different whole and half boneless hams. The hams themselves are included on Hormel's no gluten ingredients list (see the Hormel entry below for the link), but the glaze packets contain wheat.
- Farmland Foods. Farmland makes an extensive variety of hams and ham products. Occasionally, you may find one that's labeled "gluten-free" (the company doesn't yet maintain a list of gluten-free products). If the ham in question doesn't contain a gluten-free label designation but appears to use safe ingredients, that means the company considers it subject to cross-contamination. The dextrose used in Farmland's hams is from corn, according to a spokesperson.
- Gwaltney. Gwaltney makes several different spiral sliced whole hams,including honey glazed and brown sugar flavors. According to the company, any gluten ingredients used in producing the hams will be called out by name (wheat, rye, barley or oats) on the product's label. Gwaltney does not test for gluten.
- Hatfield. Hatfield's list of gluten-free products includes multiple deli hams, dinner hams and ham steaks. Some of these may be manufactured on the same lines as gluten-containing products (although the lines are cleaned thoroughly in between product runs), according to a company representative.
- Hillshire Farm. Hillshire Farm, a division of Hillshire Brands (which also owns Ball Park franks, Sara Lee cakes and Jimmy Dean sausages), sells several different kinds of smoked ham. Right now, Hillshire Brands only labels a small handful of products as gluten-free (none of them are from Hillshire Farm). "We do not promote or certify that any of our other products are gluten-free currently, as we do not test for gluten," says a company representative. However, Hillshire Brands is in the process of determining which of its products would qualify as gluten-free, and should be coming out with more labeling in the future.
- Holiday Ham. This company produces mail-order hams and turkey breasts that it ships throughout the U.S. According to a company spokesperson, none of Holiday Hams' products contain gluten ingredients. The hams are not tested for gluten.
- HoneyBaked Ham. This chain of franchise ham shops reformulated its glaze years ago to make it gluten-free. HoneyBaked Ham states on its Frequently Asked Questions page that its Signature meats — HoneyBaked Ham, Sliced & Glazed Turkey and Hickory Boneless Ham — all are considered gluten-free. However, be warned that many people report reactions to these products. Regardless of whether the culprit is the glaze (double-check the glaze ingredients — people have reported finding "wheat" listed even though the ham is supposed to be gluten-free), cross-contamination of the ingredients, or problems at the individual franchises, tread carefully when purchasing HoneyBaked Ham.
- Hormel. Hormel maintains this list of products "with formulas that do not contain gluten in the form of wheat, rye, oats, and barley" (note that even though it's labeled as a gluten-free list, it does not address cross-contamination). The list includes: Hormel Chunk Meat ham, DiLusso ham, Hormel Black Label canned hams, Hormel Cure 81 ham and ham steaks, Hormel ham patties, several ham varieties sold as lunch meats (Hormel Black Label chopped ham, Hormel diced ham, cubed ham and ham steaks, Hormel Natural Choice cooked deli ham, honey deli ham and smoked deli ham), and Jennie-O Turkey Store refrigerated turkey ham. Always check the label, as ingredients can change.
- Jones Dairy Farm. Jones Dairy Farm makes whole hams plus packaged ham slices and steaks. The company has been certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), which requires all products to contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten. Jones Dairy Farm also is a supporter of two other celiac organizations: the Celiac Sprue Association and the Celiac Disease Association. Check Jones' gluten-free list for the current ham options.
- Kentucky Legend. This company is a subsidiary of Specialty Foods Group Inc. Kentucky Legend will label foods it considers to be gluten-free; currently, the only ham options labeled gluten-free are the ham steaks and the field-cooked deli ham. The others (with similar ingredients) likely are subjected to some cross-contamination risk in processing.
- Nodine's Smokehouse. Nodine's makes "artisanal hams," with the options of bone-in, boneless, apple-smoked, spiral cut and ham steaks. These hams are free of gluten ingredients and are naturally smoked. Two Nodine's products (Irish and English bangers) do contain gluten.
- Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats. Nueske's, based in Wisconsin, sells smoked hams, party packs featuring ham and ham gift baskets. The company's Frequently Asked Questions page reports that everything Nueske makes itself (which would include the ham but possibly not other components of the company's party packs or gift baskets) is gluten-free.
- Smithfield. This is a huge producer of hams: most of the hams that are readily available in my local grocery store come from Smithfield. Ham flavors featured on Smithfield's website include Pecan Praline and Caramel Apple (not to mention Paula Deen's Crunchy Glaze). Smithfield does not maintain a gluten-free list, but a customer service representative says the company will clearly identify gluten ingredients on labels. In addition, Smithfield has been working to eliminate use of gluten and other allergens in its products, and most of its processing plants are now gluten-free. In cases where cross-contamination is a concern, Smithfield utilizes a program that includes full equipment washdowns and a change of personal protective equipment, with documented verification between allergenic and non-allergenic ingredients.
- Wellshire Farms. Wellshire Farms' gluten-free ham options (found on its searchable allergen database) include both deli products and dinner hams. The company specializes in allergen-free foods and avoids the use of nitrates/nitrites. It also sources humanely-raised pork.
- Wright. Wright, a Tyson Foods, Inc., subsidiary, sells hams under its own label and under the Corn King brand name. A Tyson representative tells me that the company will clearly indicate any gluten-containing ingredients on its labels. Products may be processed on shared production lines, but those are cleaned between runs, she says.
If you wind up skipping the pre-packaged glaze and want to make your own, here are a couple of good recipes from About.com's wonderful chefs:
- Maple and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham (just make sure to use gluten-free mustard and gluten-free spices)
- Baked Ham with Fruit Glaze (again, use gluten-free jam or preserves)
- Honey-Peach Ham Glaze and Sauce (another mustard-containing recipe)
Finally, if you want to try making your own ham (something I'd really like to experiment with), this recipe from About.com's Guide to German Cooking explains how it's done: Quick Black Forest Ham. Enjoy!