IGA’s ‘delicious and budget-friendly’ Christmas ham tops Choice taste test

<span>Photograph: Choice</span>
Photograph: Choice

A consumer group has found a small Christmas miracle for those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis – one of the cheapest Christmas hams is in fact the best.

IGA’s Christmas ham half-leg, which is just $8 a kilo, scored first place in Choice’s Christmas ham taste test, which weighed up the aroma, flavour, and appearance of eight hams.

“If you’re looking for the perfect ham to add to your Christmas shopping list, look no further,” said Choice’s editorial director, Mark Serrels. “IGA has delivered a delicious and budget-friendly product.”

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The ham, which was judged to have a mild but pleasant taste and even fat distribution, scored 73%. Runner-up was Woolworths’ Gold triple smoked leg ham – the most expensive of the eight tested. At $16 a kilo, the ham rated 72% and was praised for its smokiness and sweetness.

The worst rated of the eight was Coles’ Finest Gold triple smoked free-range quarter leg ham. The $15-a-kilo ham scored just 21%.

“Not only did our judges describe it as unpleasant and dry, it also costs a whopping $15.00 per kilo! It’s safe to say this Coles product’s price did not equal performance,” Serrels said.

A cheaper Coles option – the $8-a-kilo Christmas beechwood smoked half leg ham – will leave you more satisfied, according to Choice. It was rated third-worst out of the eight, beating the supermarket’s more expensive offering with a score of 56%.

A spokesperson from Coles said the cheaper ham had won a gold medal at the Royal Tasmanian Fine Food awards last year and was also made from carbon-neutral pork, while the more expensive option, which Choice rated worst, placed second in the 2023 Good Food Guide to supermarket Christmas hams.

The spokesperson said customers were loving Coles’ own-brand Christmas hams – of which there are 14 – with sales ahead compared with the same time last year.

“Choice is entitled to its opinion, but the most important feedback we receive is from our customers,” the spokesperson said.

If you’re shopping at Aldi, budget-friendly does not always equal tasty. Aldi’s $13.99 Specially Selected triple smoked half leg ham was rated third-best out of the eight, scoring 63%. Meanwhile, its $7.99-a-kilo ham – Aldi Festive Selection Australian half leg ham – scored 49%.

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Choice acknowledged that the supermarket hams were unlikely to be as tasty as ham bought from a butcher, which can cost upwards of $20-25. But there are some tricks to bring the flavour up a notch.

The organisation’s kitchen expert, Fiona Mair, suggested keeping the layer of fat on the ham to help it stay moist during cooking, glazing and dressing the fat to add sweetness and being careful to avoid overcooking it.

“I recommend placing the ham on a rack in a baking tray, adding water to the baking pan then covering it with foil for most of the cooking time. Remove the foil for the last 40 mins to caramelise the fat,” Mair said.

If you do accidentally overcook it, Mair suggests serving it with a gravy or sauce such as mustard or cranberry.

• This article was amended on 8 December 2023 to correct the price of the winning ham. It was $8 a kilo not $5.99 a kilo.