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Prepare the Perfect Ham

Get recipes and cooking tips to bake the best ham yet!

The Country Ham and the City Ham


There are three basic varieties: city hams, country hams, and fresh hams.

  • The one you are most likely to see in the grocery store is city ham. These have been soaked in brine and then either smoked or boiled. City hams are moist and tender. Their flavor ranges from mild and salty to rich and smoky, depending on how they have been cooked.
  • Country-cured hams are made from pigs that have been fed fruits and nuts to produce more flavorful meat. The hams are dry-cured by packing them in salt, then smoked over fragrant hardwoods and aged. Some are aged seven years! Country-cured hams have a more intense flavor, but are drier than brined hams, since the longer they are aged, the more water evaporates from the tissue.
  • Rarely you will encounter a fresh ham. This type is uncured, raw. and must be fully cooked before eating.

    See how to make Baked Ham.


Cooking


Almost all hams have either been partially or fully cooked before they are packaged. A partially cooked ham has been brought to an internal temperature of 137 degrees F, which kills any bacteria. To make it more tender and delicious, you'll want to cook it a little bit more. A fully cooked ham is one that has been brought to an internal temperature of 148 degrees F.


The Hambone

  • Hams with the bone left in tend to be more flavorful than boneless hams. Bone-in hams are also more decorative, and make for a more ceremonious presentation on special occasions.
  • Many brands of bone-in ham are spiral-cut. This means that the ham has been cut in a continuous spiral all the way around the bone, producing thin slices that easily peel away, making the ham very easy to serve.
  • A bone-in ham will have less meat per pound than a boneless one. When buying bone-in ham, figure at least 3/4 pound for each person who will be at dinner. For boneless ham, at least 1/4 pound per person.


Baking Your Ham


The most traditional way to prepare a whole ham is to bake it.

Although ham is perfectly delicious all by itself, you can make it extra-special by using a glaze. The most popular glaze recipes contain combinations of fruit juice, wine or whiskey, honey, mustard, brown sugar, fruit preserves, and spices. Brush some of the glaze over the surface of the ham before placing it in the oven.

  • For a ham that has only been partially cooked, you will need to allow about 20 minutes per pound in a moderate (350 degrees F/175 degrees C) oven.
  • A fully cooked ham will require about 10 minutes per pound in order to be heated all the way through.

    See how to make Honey-Glazed Ham

To help keep your ham moist and juicy:

  • Place the ham cut-side down in a baking pan. If it's going to be in the oven for more than an hour, you also may want to place a foil "tent" over your ham in order to keep it from drying out.
  • Continue to brush the ham with glaze and baste it with the pan juices every 20 minutes or so, until it is heated through.
  • To finish the ham and give it a deliciously caramelized coating, remove the foil tent, brush it with glaze and pan juices one more time, then turn your oven to the broiler setting. Allow the outside of the ham to get nice and browned-this should only take about 5 minutes, but watch it closely so it doesn't get too dark.
  • When the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F (80 degrees C), the ham is ready for serving.


Leftover Ham: Second Time's a Charm

The only thing better than baked ham for dinner is leftover baked ham for a midnight snack. Your surplus ham is also a perfect candidate for sandwiches, soups, casseroles, hash, quiche, salads and pasta dishes. You can keep your ham in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to a week.


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Comments
Dec. 4, 2009 10:51 am
This article was EXACTLY what I was looking for! Thank You!!
 
Dwight 
Dec. 14, 2009 2:38 pm
I, personally don't like sweet with meat. I love ham and other pork, but almost never find recipes that aren't sickening sweet. The closest is one that used coke. Does any one know of a good baked ham recipe that doesn't have sugar of any sort?
 
Deona 
Dec. 21, 2009 11:57 am
Dwight, I use a mixture of thawed orange juice conentrate and canned pineapple juice to glaze my hams. This keeps it moist but not too sweet.
 
SHARON'S SISTER 
Dec. 22, 2009 6:41 am
Dwight... Use a cooking bag, follow the directions for the size of your ham. It will be nothing but ham....and moist and delicious. the bags are made by Reynolds can be found in the aisle where you see plastic wraps, and foils. Inside the box you will find a direction sheet, for cooking your ham. the outside of the box just says use for turkey. ENJOY...
 
MaryY 
Dec. 22, 2009 11:00 am
I have had hams that have been cooked in boiling water and not done in the oven. They have been very good and I wondered if that wouldn't reduce the saltiness. I also have no idea how long to cook it that way. Any help would be appreciated.
 
wlla23bella 
Dec. 23, 2009 5:51 pm
I cooked a whole ham (tented with foil; no glaze, no basting) with quartered potatoes (white) - it was well received. People said they liked that the potatoes seemed to soak up the saltiness of the ham and that you really got to taste the ham.
 
Dec. 25, 2009 6:42 am
Thank you for the information. As you can see I'm on here late today, I should have looked this up several days ago.
 
Brenda 
Jan. 31, 2010 6:33 pm
For two generations our family has baked a city ham in a brown paper sack with nothing added. I like the butt portion. Place flat side down in the grocery sack and roll top down tightly. Line a baking pan with foil to make clean up easier and place a shallow rack in the pan before putting the ham in. Remove middle oven rack or place as low as possible in the oven and bake for 45 min. per pound at 325 degrees. The outside 1/4 in will be real brown but delicious to munch on and the rest is so tender it will melt in your mouth! Be sure the paper is not touching the upper unit. We have never had a bag to burn.
 
Mar. 19, 2010 4:43 pm
Just wondering if anyone has ever made ham gravy. My mom never ever used any kind of glaze or spices on her Easter Ham. Just simply heated it in the oven and then made gravy with the juices to serve over mashed potatoes. (We were never fams of "sweet" meat.) This is how I do my Easter ham now also. I've very rarely heard of others who have made ham gravy though and am curious to see if this is common with any other cooks.
 
Pattyd 
Mar. 24, 2010 1:46 am
Poutbaby- my mom also made ham gravy- I loved it!
 
Anna E. 
Mar. 25, 2010 11:24 am
One is never to old to learn,how other people cook/bake their ham. I do not like the ham to be sweet. Cooking bag,never thought of that. I use ground cloves,ground mustard dusted on,and, put parsley and rosemary on ham. Final baking: dribble some corn syrup over the ham. Leaves a nice crust and not to sweet. I bake the ham in a roaster with tight lid.(note)--I take the fat off the ham,most of it; rinse the ham with spring(bottled) water and put the rest onto the ham. Cannot have too much salt. Thanks for your help,Happy Easter to all.
 
Anna E. 
Mar. 25, 2010 11:39 am
Gravy: We use a gravy called: raisin sauce/gravy: 3 tablespoons cornstarch,2 cups apple cider, 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 cup of raisins. Measure cornstarch into small or med saucepan. Gradually stir in apple cider. Add butter or margarine and raisins. Cook over medium heat,stirring constantly,until sauce thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Serve warm makes about 2 1/2 cups. Very good for ham. I have used this for my ham about 40-45 yrs. now. Also, if, you go to the grocery store, they have a gravy mix. White one, I use that too. I mix water with it and cook it, directions on bag. Two types of gravy and sauce sits with the ham at my table. Hopes this helps.
 
John W 
Mar. 31, 2010 6:35 am
To anyone who buys a ham the best one i found is Honey Glazed Sprial Slice Hams they are full cooked just need to warm them up. And with the left overs make many types of meals or a cold ham sandwich. Been using these types of hams for the past 25 years now so i regamend them to all and they have the bone in them for making a soup at a later date just freeze until your ready to use it. Just take the bone with much meat on it out of freezer put in slow cooker with dried peas and let cook until done for a hardy soup for the winter months let cook for about 6 or so hours. If you have not tryed one yet go to your store and buy one you will be happy you did.
 
Tony 
Mar. 31, 2010 8:46 pm
I use beer and liquid smoke to cook my ham to baste,spiral ham has been very good to me,I cook it slow heat to warm up slowly and watch it like a hawk and baste it every 10 min,and have plenty of horsedash on hand to serve
 
indra 
Apr. 1, 2010 2:19 am
I make a mean pot-roasted ham. As large a chunk of (usually boneless, as it is easier to slice it with the slicer when cooked) pork. Poke it all over with a double-edged knife, and rub thoroughly with a mixture of salt, red chilly powder, mustard powder (tenderizer), "garam masala" (mix of powdered cloves, cinnamon and large black cardamom), saltpetre, and vinegar. Let sit in this for a few days, turning daily. Then, in a pressure cooker (cooks faster) a spoonful of cooking oil and a little sugar. Let caramelize. add the chunk of meat, turn it all over to coat, sear for a few minutes, add some water and COOK!! Can either allow it to dry or cook potatoes in the liquid or thicken to make a sauce. It has never failed!!! If you like it slightly sweet use jaggery in the marinade. If the meat is not a suitable shape, spread it out and slash it and then roll it tightly end tie with string. Can use more than one piece for this.
 
indra 
Apr. 1, 2010 2:21 am
Oh! and pounded garlic (must) and ginger (if you like).
 
Tysonchick 
Apr. 4, 2010 6:19 am
I'm guessing that your hams are partially cooked. (Smoking is a form of cooking.) I would stick to the 20-23 minutes per pound, but make sure to use a meat thermometer to be sure. 50 people...better you than me! Good luck!
 
Apr. 4, 2010 11:11 am
I wonder if dr. pepper would be a good glaze?
 
WOODKITTEN 
Apr. 5, 2010 10:31 am
The best gravy from ham is "RED EYE GRAVY". You just can't beat it for taste, and ease of making. My mouth is watering just thinking of it now. I am preparing to bake a ham this afternoon. Bourbon makes an excellent glaze. Mix with anything that sounds good as a 'go-together'. Such as O.j. etc.....
 
Gretchen Savage 
Sep. 30, 2010 8:07 am
I have two ways to cook a good ham. The best and most festive is to score the fat side of the ham into diamonds, squeeze 1/2 dozen fresh lemons, or 1 cup of lemon juice over the ham and the pack the top with brown sugar. Cover and bake at 325 until beautifully browned and hot throughout. Second is to place a ham in a brown paper bag and then into a roasting pan and bake for 3-4 hours on 300 degrees. Not sweet, tender and delicious.
 
msden75243 
Nov. 9, 2010 12:44 pm
I am going to try pineapple juice, brown sugar, honey, and orange juice,
 
jab456 
Nov. 18, 2010 7:51 am
great tips, thank you...
 
jan 
Nov. 24, 2010 3:06 am
depending on how much gravy you wanting to make, but for the gravy I make a sweet ham gravy that my family wows for. I take about 1/2 cup of drippings, put into med size saucepan, turn heat up to med. I use a small jar putting in about 2 T of flour w/1 cup of water, with lid on jar I shake until mixed, I pour into hot saucepan, stirring until thickened, I put in a handful of brown sugar, a little left over pineapple juice from can (when I baked the ham) and stir, adding water It will thicken, I add water as needed and keep stirring. You now have a sweet ham gravy. You should end up with over 2 cups of gravy. You can also store the left over ham drippings and freeze and use at a later date, when you want to make a sweet gravy.
 
TRM10 
Nov. 25, 2010 5:19 am
We have been using this recipe for generations now! -Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees (LOW AND SLOW) -Rise and dry a fully smoked ham. (Not spiral sliced-too dry!) -Place ham in your cooking vessel. Personally I used a very large roaster pan with a vented lid. -Score very gently with a pairing knife. -Coat the ham with a generous amount of each: cinnamon, clove (whole cloves can be used to puncture the meat itself), ginger, freshly ground nutmeg, -Cover spices with a layer of honey. -Cover honey with a one inch (if not more) thick coat of light and dark brown sugar. (Not all of the sugar will want to stick thats ok!) -Next drizzle a layer of REAL maple syrup and more honey! -Cover the ham with pineapple. I personally like to use sliced and cored in natural juice. Other members of my family make this ham for their family and used Crushed pineapple. They drain it and pack it on top as tightly as possible. TIME TO COOK! -Cover ham with vented roaster lid. -Place in oven -B
 
sharilou 
Nov. 28, 2010 3:24 pm
I am doing a ham for a buffet dinner. I would like some advice on what type of ham is the best one to use: shank, butt, spiral or whole. Alo I am concerned that it will dry out while it sits out on the buffet table. Does anyone have any suggestions?
 
Aunt Lala 
Dec. 14, 2010 7:55 am
Would like to try the paper bag ham but are the bags safe to use as so many are made from recycled materials these days?
 
Dec. 15, 2010 10:45 am
8lb ham. Dark brown sugar and dry strong mustard powder made into a thick glaze by adding some hot water. Baste generously all over, cover entirely in foil, cook for 2.5 hrs in 325 degree oven. Baste half way through then again after cooking time. Amazing.
 
Dec. 23, 2010 10:02 pm
I have a 24 pound whole ham I need to cook for christmas. I usuall get the half ham spiraled so I'm not sure how long I need to cook this one for. Help! I think it is partially cooked but now its at my parents so not sure if its partially or fully cooke.
 
ALICE JEAN NORRIS 
Dec. 24, 2010 5:35 am
The best glazed ham I ever tasted, didn't make myself, was glazed with just beer!
 
friartuck 
Dec. 24, 2010 9:46 am
I love a "candied fresh ham" with cloves and brown sugar. But don't forget the pinapple juice. (Also, be sure to liberally toothpick sliced pineapple all over before cooking.
 
Tanya 
Dec. 24, 2010 12:21 pm
dholstay I have a 12# fully cooked farm ham that is encased in the mesh from smoking. in the past, I've cooked it with it on, but really had trouble extracting it right before eating while it was hot. Does anyone know if it is okay to remove it while it is cold?
 
Dec. 24, 2010 12:32 pm
Thank you for putting this on here, my husband didn't believe me. So I let him read the correct way (what I was telling him) on your site. Thanks again.
 
Dec. 25, 2010 4:22 am
This article helped my husband and I to prepare our Christmas Ham and was exactly what we were searching for! Thanks so much!
 
boo73001 
Dec. 25, 2010 5:30 am
thanks for the help a new way too make my ham very good tips.
 
captkirk2 
Dec. 25, 2010 6:09 am
"Preparing the Perfect Ham" was right on! the tag on my ham was illegible and I had a good idea on what 2 do and your tips confirmed what I thought.Thanx! Have a good Xmas! CaptKirk.
 
KANEKO 
Apr. 13, 2011 11:43 am
What is the difference in the 'cuts' of hams? Shank vs Butt vs whatever other type there might be?
 
Jan loves to cook 
Apr. 23, 2011 9:52 am
Girls and Guys! Baking a ham does not have to be work...If you want it nice, moist, tender and not too sweet ...lay a large sheet of foil on counter then lay another large sheet of foil across the first one (like making a large plus sign). Set your ham on the middle, coat the ham with grape or strawberry jam. Then pat on your brown sugar - top and sides. Pull the 2 pieces of foil up to meet each other, fold and close all openings of foil by patting it against the ham. Bake as usual and you will not be disappointed. I've been doing this for years and get many rave reviews. If you want to use the juices, poke a hole in the bottom of the foil and let the juices flow to the bottom of your pan. Enjoy!
 
Jan loves to cook 
Apr. 23, 2011 9:54 am
Nancy, I always use the butt - meat is more tender with less waste and easier to handle.
 
marion 
Apr. 24, 2011 9:40 pm
another good cooking liquid for ham is a can of ginger ale. I add just a pinch of ground cloves,(not crazy about cloves) and a generous spoonful of extra ginger. can also add brown sugar, but doesn't need it. I pour that in the bottom of the pan, put down a shallow trivet, place ham on it fat side up and seal the pan with foil. bake 15 - 18 min per pound,leet rest 15 min. before slicing. Meanwhile, pour drippings into a fat seperator and use only the drippings, not all that fat, can be thickened a little, or just serve "au jus" at the table..yummy!
 
roz sandage 
Apr. 30, 2011 12:37 pm
can leftover ham be frozen..and for how long?
 
Jake 
May 8, 2011 1:52 pm
I see hundreds of recipes for dinner items but few and far between are found side dishes to accompany the main item. Sure, baked potatos and green beans go well with steak, but what would complement a baked ham? You should consider suggestions for side dishes with your recipes. Thank you, Jake
 
Aug. 6, 2011 6:40 am
I too, hate sweet with meat, but for ham, its almost destiny. I use ginger ale. Its sweet-ish, but not nearly the sugar of Coke or Dr Pepper. It takes the edge off of the saltiness. Baste it every 15-20 minutes. Now for gravy, my Mom would pan-fry ham steaks. And, just as always, make a pan gravy from the drippings. YUM! Not sweet at all! I dont care for redeye gravy, as it has coffee in it. I guess you could use decaf, but, flavor is lost. Finally, I've been looking for a soup recipe, with ham, potatoes, and green beans. Had it long ago. It had a clear gravy/broth. Mom forgets it. There is also a version with cabbage, instead of green beans. And, last, but not least, There are good soup bases out there now. Mind the salt, but would help the pan-fried steaks, to make more of the previously mentioned, not sweet gravy. Enjoy!
 
justin77 
Aug. 29, 2011 8:33 pm
I love these recipes haven't tried them yet but will next shopping day. Was really happy to see if I used Recipe Box that I could also see the suggestions made for alternatives. Again this is a special place to have thank you.
 
Oct. 2, 2011 10:14 am
I have never tried Coke or Strawberry Jam/Grape Jam. So not sure which I'm going to try but I love Coke and also love Strawberry Jam. I made homemade Strawberry jelly this year and I believe this will be my choice. I will comment back after it is done to let you all know how this turned out for me. I was planning on making for one of my sides Strawberry Jello Salad. SO i guess we will have a little "Ham" with our Strawberries today. LOL
 
robertdrobert 
Oct. 9, 2011 5:23 pm
with the ham flatside down score skin and fat in diamond pattern squirt yellow mustard all over ham and rub in by hand pat light coating ofbrown sugar on ham and moisten with spritzer bottle of burbon whiskey and pat on coating of crushed gingersnap cookies and bake in 300 degree oven15min per pound rest ham 30 min before carving absolutly delicious and worth 30 minute prep time enjoy
 
Marion6392 
Oct. 23, 2011 5:52 pm
Bought Fresh Ham Filet and don't know how to cook it. Please help...
 
Marie 
Nov. 10, 2011 8:25 am
Someone told me they cooked a ham in the crock pot and it was better than honey baked ham,but she can't find the recipe, Anyone know how to do this
 
Debbie 
Nov. 14, 2011 6:01 am
I like the bone in ham it has more flavor and. I like to use pineapples. And coke it carmilize good Thay come back four seconds
 
Jenny 
Nov. 17, 2011 12:03 pm
Our family loves sweet ham. I baste my hams with a very sweet marinade made of Dr. Pepper, Pineapple juice, light brown sugar and ground clove. I place sliced pineapples and whole cloves all over the ham and pour the mixture over it and bake covered with a foil tent. I am making a 10 lb ham right now...I'll be lucky to have leftovers.
 
Nov. 21, 2011 3:31 pm
been confused which ham, shank or butt, want nice bone for soup later too...see somebody liked butt ham as it was moist..need a little education! Thanks...
 
FoodloverZA 
Dec. 15, 2011 10:56 pm
Help! I bought a wonderful bottle of orange preserve (thin slices) at a Christmas market. Would look so nice on the outside of a ham or gammon. Please tell me how to use it, at what stage to put it on, etc. Many thanks!
 
Dec. 24, 2011 5:42 am
I have made Ham Gravy and wow it is good! First off taste your ham broth to see if it is too salty. If so simmer broth for 15 min with a peeled potato in it as the potato will absorb any unwanted salt!!!
 
ljcarneiro 
Dec. 24, 2011 7:46 am
I am looking for a recipe to make a ham in a crock pot. (I using my oven for the turkey) It is a spiral cut ham (fully cooked) so I am thinking all I need to do is baste it and place flat side down, but how long? On low heat for 4-6 hours? Any suggestions welcome!
 
LoosyGoosy 
Dec. 24, 2011 9:37 am
Charlene, good tip on the salt and it's nice that you made a great ham gravy, but where's the recipe?
 
LoosyGoosy 
Dec. 24, 2011 9:37 am
Charlene, good tip on the salt and it's nice that you made a great ham gravy, but where's the recipe?
 
Luv 
Dec. 25, 2011 2:33 pm
You saved the day! This article contained answers to all my questions and some I had not thought of!
 
Feb. 23, 2012 1:55 pm
I use to have the best recipe for ham and then I met my husband who is allergic to anything pinapple. Almost every recipe I am find calls for either pinapple or pinapple juice. I am very disappointed in not being able to find a recipe that doesn't use pinapple. If any one knows of a great recipe, please let me know.
 
Iron Man 
Apr. 5, 2012 10:29 am
I have a 17lb. whole shoked ham. Can it be made in a large dutch oven with the lid on?
 
AGMCK 
Apr. 6, 2012 12:09 pm
I have an 18QT Nesco Roaster and an 18lb. fully cooked bone in ham. How long do I reheat it and at what temperature?
 
AZBryants 
Apr. 8, 2012 6:50 am
325 in the oven for 10 mins per pound, or until thoroughly heated at 160 on your thermometer.
 
Hockeymom 
Apr. 8, 2012 1:50 pm
The cooking time was way off for a 4 pound boneless half ham. It took 3 times the time called for. Very diss appointed and regret looking here first.
 
jackie_va6 
Apr. 10, 2012 2:54 pm
I heat the smoked ham that has been studded with cloves in the oven and the last 20-30 minutes I glaze with a thick paste of yellow mustard, dark brown sugar & some ground cloves...yum. Sometimes when I buy a ham slice for dinner I coat with a little of the same paste and that turns out great too.
 
cookin-4-12 
Apr. 10, 2012 5:03 pm
I am making dinner for 65 people and was wondering if anyone ever sliced their fully cooked ham ahead of time {without cooking} and then heated it. I would be greatful for any tips.
 
jerseygirl 
Jul. 22, 2012 8:44 am
So many good ideas. Thanks for posting. I am making a ham for a brunch this Sunday.
 
Goosiekins 
Aug. 20, 2012 12:54 am
Forgive me, I live overseas (in a rather remote place), and buying a whole ham (cooked or uncooked) is next to impossible. If I went to my butcher (who might think I am crazy) and asked for a specific piece of raw "ham" what part of the pig should I ask for? Pork is common here, but not the baked ham's that I am used to from the US. Next (supposing I can find such a piece of meat) I should cure it in brine and cook? or smoke first? then cook again with some of the above mentioned glazes? Ahhh, help! I miss those honey baked hams. I'm starving now, I think i'll eat some chicken feet...oh joy :-(
 
daradorno 
Nov. 19, 2012 7:05 am
I like to soak my ham in brine (my favorite recipe is at: foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/brined-fresh-ham-recipe/index.html) before I cook it (shank or butt works particularly well)and use a honey glaze (allrecipes.com/recipe/honey-glazed-ham)while in oven. I know my ham is usually brined and cooked already, but the family always requests my ham for the holidays, marvels at the fact that you can taste the honey (but not too sweet)throughout the ham and the recipes are easy. Enjoy!
 
ReneeLynn717 
Dec. 17, 2012 2:15 pm
I am so happy I read the comments. I am a diabetic, so a lot of ham glazes are way too sweet for me. And I have been looking for weeks for a ham recipe that did not require a glaze. I didn't find anything until now. Thanks!
 
SweetBasilBlue 
Dec. 24, 2012 10:40 am
Dwight, my Mom was known for her flavorful hams. She used 2 ingredients! gingerale and cloves. Powdered cloves are fine...score the ham & give it a good 20 minutes per pound. It's not sickly sweet, the cloves pump a lot of flavor and the texture becomes fabulous. One last hint - if you have Daisyfield Hams in your area - spend the money and try one. A little more expensive - but no waste and little fat. They are totally unlike your standard (often fatty) hams. No shrinkage during cooking either. Good Luck!
 
MsAlalineus 
Apr. 27, 2013 10:21 am
We like the flavor of mixing together a jar of apricot jam and a jar of Dijon mustard and painting the ham with that combination. Cover the ham with foil and bake at 325 for 20 minutes per pound.
 
kathymum 
Nov. 28, 2013 8:12 pm
The nice lady that suggested her KISS method was right on...I used her suggestion and rubbed grape jelly all over my smoked ham and then patted brown sugar over it, wrapped tightly in foil, put some water in the bottom of the pan, baked it, and was the best ham I have eaten. So simple!!!! Thanks
 
 
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