Freshly smoked ham is one of the best meats to cook slowly and slowly. This Christmas Ham recipe shows you exactly how to recreate the perfect cut of BBQ pork.
Smoked ham has a delicious flavor and texture that cannot be surpassed by many other cuts of meat. Whilst meat IS often thought of as a holiday recipe, I firmly believe that it can be prepared all year round.
It’s easy, it’s delicious…what’s stopping us?
Fresh ham takes about 5 hours to smoke at 250°F(120°C) or for its internal temperature to reach 165°F(75°C). Smoking ham can be broken down into three simple steps: curing, glazing and smoking. Each stage helps infuse the pork with rich flavor and moisture.
You can cook this recipe on a charcoal grill set to 2-zone grilling, but I prefer it on my offset smoker .
You can cook this recipe on a charcoal grill set to 2-zone grilling, but I prefer it on my offset smoker. It’s the best way to cook meat over low, slow heat, and it’s super easy to make oven-cooked versions.
Don’t forget to read our smoked ham guide twice.
Smoking pork requires a learning curve and skill, so take it easy if this is your first time. Different cuts of meat require different approaches, so be aware of how much wood and charcoal you use.
Too much of either can completely overwhelm the flavor of your pork. Remember that too little is better than too much.
Here are my 8 easy steps to show you how to grill a ham.
How to choose the best ham to smoke?
The best cured ham comes from the thigh of the pig and should be bought boneless, uncured and halved.
Most cuts of ham come from the back of the pig’s leg or thigh and, when purchased from the supermarket, are usually smoked or cured.
Cheaper to buy directly from the butcher. This would give you the best chance of getting a piece of prosciutto, which is best for this recipe. If you can’t die, it’s okay to buy a whole or half prosciutto.
Pay close attention to the size of the ham. Ham halves are always best for frying. One reason IS that its smaller size makes the grilling handler. It is also better to expose surface for cooking.
If you’re feeding a large group, buy a whole ham, but ask your butcher to cut it in half. Alternatively, YOU can do this yourself with a good household meat slicer.
When choosing your ham, avoid the following:
Low-sodium ham tastes best
salted. Basting or smoking pork naturally releases a large amount of salt. Low-sodium hams tend to be tasteless and have very little salt.
This might seem like an obvious thing to avoid, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. They are often pre-roasted over low heat or even injected with a smoke-flavored liquid. Grill a pre-smoked ham because it will be smoked twice, leaving unpleasant results.
How to Cure Raw Ham
Healing is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but in my experience it’s more of a word that relatives people really know.
In most cases, brining refers to dry curing, in which meat IS dried to give it a longer shelf life. However, in the case of fumigation, we would like to wet cure it. While this doesn’t dry out the meat, it does help prevent warmer temperatures from encouraging bacterial growth in the meat. When it comes to grilling, that’s of course exactly what we want. It also gives the pork its unique pink color.
In reality, curing isn’t always strictly necessary, so don’t worry if you don’t have the time or resources to do it. However, to get the best flavor from the meat, I highly recommend it.
We start curing by making a curing brine.
Instead of dry-curing the ham with salt or sodium nitrite, we wet-cure the meat with brine. This process can actually take about a week, also be prepared to play the long game here. However, I promise you that the results will be worth it.
With a sea, the liquid seeps into the meat and keeps it moist, while its sodium salt and nitrite content ripens the meat. This not only gives the meat a nice pink color, but also kills offending bacteria.
Make the pickle
In a large saucepan, bring a gallon of water to a boil and mix the following ingredients:
- 1½ cups of salt
- 2 cups of brown sugar
- ½ cup spices for pickling
- 8 tea spoons of pink salt
Once brought to a boil, let cool completely. Now we have our sole.
How to cure a fresh ham for smoking
Brine meat requires wrapping the ham in a bag, but obviously a freezer bag isn’t big enough for our large half ham, so we specifically need a brine bag( You Can Get One On Amazon Here ).
Place your meat in the salt bag and add the brine(make sure it’s completely cold). Also, add between a half and a full gallon of cold water. This will help thin the brine and ensure the mixture coats the ham.
Mix the entire contents of the sachet with a long-handled spoon, making sure the brine ingredients don’t pool at one end of the packet.
Place the brine bag with its contents in your fridge. Salting time is largely determined by the amount of meat in a cut, but a helpful guideline is one day for every two pounds of ham.
Once or twice while the ham is in your fridge, use a marinade injector to squirt some of the brine into the meat. Do this on different parts of the ham. This helps the brine, and especially its salt, penetrate deep into the meat and make it as tasty as possible.
Check out my full guide on injecting meat for roasting
Get ready to cook
Once your ham has finished curing, take it out of the fridge. Carefully remove the brine bag. Rinse the meat with cold water to remove crystallized or residual salt on its surface.
Place the ham on a cooking grate to drain for a few hours. It is recommended to use a fly cover to protect the meat as it drains.
After draining any brine or liquid, wipe off the meat with a paper towel. Place the ham back in the fridge until ready to cook.
Choose walnut wood shavings
If you have grilled before, then you know how important the right choice of wood is.
Brining, brining and basting all contribute greatly, but IF YOU pick the wrong wood, the meat will taste… bad.
Different chips have different flavors and aromas, giving you fantastic flexibility when it comes to the final flavor profile of your ham.
Many grilling and smoking enthusiasts have their own favorite wood chips, and certain woods pair perfectly with certain types of meat.
There are options like apple, oak and peach. However, what I recommend for cured ham is the walnut.
Pecan wood offers a subtle nutty flavor that exudes a lovely aroma without overpowering the star of the show: the ham. This quality makes it one of the best woods for smoking ham.
Prepare a glaze of sugar and honey.
All smoked hams are finished with a delicious glaze. A good glaze adds a nice touch of extra flavor to the outer covering of the meat while calculating some of the smoke.
I recommend a sugar based glaze as it perfectly removes the salt from the meat and sea.
Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and mix:
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1 honey cup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup whole wheat mustard
Stir constantly as the butter melts and the other ingredients dissolve. Normal white 3-4 minutes. Properly improve and prevent from the heat.
Fry your ham
When grilling, it’s best to place half of the drumstick on the top rack of the smoker and half of the cob underneath on the bottom rack.
We’ll start slowly, so preheat your smoker to around 120°C. Place the meat in the smoker, fat-side up. Close the lid and cook for two hours.
In two hours increase the heat to 160°C/325°F and cook for another 1-2 hours.
Check the internal temperature of the ham regularly with a meat thermometer. At no time do we want to exceed an internal temperature of 75°C.
Once in the last hour of cooking, apply the glaze to the ham. Spread the frosting generously and repeat every 15 minutes, making a total of four layers of frosting.
Make sure you don’t spend more than an hour on the frosting or it will likely burn.
Once the internal temperature of the ham has reached 75°C, remove it from the smoker.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to smoke cured ham?
Smoking a fresh ham takes 30 minutes per pound of meat. This does not include the time needed for salting or pickling. That might not sound like a lot, but most half cuts of ham weigh around 10 pounds, while whole hams can weigh up to 20 pounds. This means that the average smoke duration can range from 5 to 10 hours.
Can you smoke a ham that has already been cooked?
You can smoke a whole par-cooked ham, but shorter than a raw ham. The goal WILL be to bring it up to temperature, but YOU must be careful not to let it dry out and ruin the flavor of the meat.
What is the recommended internal temperature for smoked ham?
The best internal temperature for smoked ham is 70 to 75 °C. You can remove the meat from the smoker when it is slightly below this range, as the ham will continue to cook for a few minutes after it is removed from the kitchen.
Should I soak the ham in brine before cooking?
You should salt the ham to keep it from losing moisture as it cooks. It makes the meat juicy and improves the taste. You can buy some cured hams, and some experienced smokers prefer not to cured the meat.
Should I use aluminum foil to fry a ham?
Wrapping the meat for the final hour of smoking helps retain moisture and enhance flavor. Protects meat from direct exposure to smoke and high temperatures in the smoker, which can help prevent it from drying out during cooking.