How to Smoke a Ham – Complete Recipe and Tips

Wondering how to smoke a ham? From choosing the right meat to adding the perfect flavors and adopting correct techniques, we have left no stone unturned to help you out with smoking a ham. 

So, search no more as the following post is all you need to become an expert in this iconic barbecuing recipe. 

How to Smoke a Ham – Pre-Requisites  

The Meat 

What exactly is ham? Which type of meat should you buy? What is the ideal size of ham? Here are the answers:  

  • A cut out of the rump and thigh areas of the pork is called ham.
  • Depending upon your personal choice, you can buy the meat either in fresh or cured form.
  • The cured ham is treated with wet or brine curing to kill bacteria. It is pink in color. With it, you can directly move to the smoking process.
  • The fresh or raw ham is untreated, has a beige color, and you can cure it by yourself (method mentioned in the article). This will give you full control over the flavors of your finished ham.
  • As for size, ask your butcher for a half bone-in ham (7 pounds). The half-sized ham fits well in all smokers and is best for spreading the flavors evenly throughout.
  • Pick the ham with its skin on to get a crunchy outside texture. 

Curing (for Fresh Ham) 

If you have chosen to start roasting from scratch, these are the two methods for curing ham:

1. Brine Curing 

Ingredients 

  • Brown sugar (2 cups) 
  • Kosher salt (1/2 cup) 
  • Pink Himalayan salt (8-10 teaspoons) 
  • 3/4 cup of any sweet fruit juices (preferably apple and pineapple)
  • Cola (1 can) 
  • Cloves/herbs and spices (to taste) 
  • Water (1 gallon) 

Add these or any of your personal favorite ingredients in water. Boil them and let the mixture rest until it cools down. Your brine has been prepared. 

Place the ham in the prepared brine and leave it for 7 days. This period will let the flavors penetrate fully into the ham. The moisture is also drawn out and the meat’s natural color will be retained. After that, take out the ham from the brine, pat it dry with a paper towel and leave it for around 1 to 2 hours before smoking. 

2. Dry Curing 

Though our personal favorite is brine curing, you may also like trying the dry curing method. Rub ham with a mixture of salt, black pepper, onion and chili powder or any other additional ingredient. 

The application of dry rub requires following the curve and pattern of ham. Try this method only if you are aware of this seasoning art. Otherwise, the flavors won’t infuse in the meat properly. 

Other Required Things 

  • A smoker 
  • Large size bowl
  • Woodchips (apple, oak or hickory) 
  • Oven or torch 
  • Trimming and carving knives
  • Meat thermometer

How Long Does Smoking a Ham Take? 

For every pound of cured meat, it takes around 20 minutes to smoke it. Instead of calculating time, it’s better to check the doneness by noting temperature through a meat thermometer. When the internal part of the ham reaches 140°F, it’s cooked and ready to be coated with a glaze. 

How to Smoke a Ham – Let’s Get Started! 

Step 1: Have a Quick Look at Your Ham and Brine 

Check if there is any tough or excess skin on the meat. Remove it with the help of a trimming knife but keep the trimming as little as possible. 

Step 2: Preheat Your Smoker   

Before starting to light up the smoker, soak the wood chips for around 30 minutes in water. During smoking, add a cup of them after every 45 minutes interval to add a strong smoking flavor. If you like a mild smoky aroma, add fewer wood chips.

For Electric Smoker 

  1. Fill a water pan with either water or fruit juices, or a mixture of both 
  2. Place wood chips and charcoal on the burner 
  3. Plug in the smoker and wait until it starts smoking 

For Traditional Smoker 

  1. Light charcoal for around 15 minutes 
  2. Add a new layer of unlit charcoal and wood chips. Mix them with the lit charcoal. 
  3. Move the burning charcoal at one side of the smoker while leaving the other end empty for “indirect heating” 

Pro Tip: Adding a water pan in the smoker helps control the temperature and maintain the required moisture level for perfect tenderness.  

Step 3: Place Ham in the Smoker 

Finally, the time is ripe and your ham is ready to get into the smoker. Make sure the temperature of the smoker is not more than 250°F or 121°C. Place the ham at the side of the smoker without any coals at the base. Let it cook on indirect heat for 4-5 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 130-140°F. 

Pro Tip: If the smoker has not attained the desired temperature, add some more charcoal. If the smoker has exceeded the needed temperature, limit the passing of air through the lower vent.

Step 4: Prepare the Glaze 

A watched pot never boils. So, don’t just wait around for the 5 hours to pass. We have an activity for you. Do you want your ham with a flavorful crunchy coating?  Engage yourself in making the glaze. 

You can follow any special recipe for the glaze. But if you have no clue, we will help you out in preparing the glaze as well. Just add 1 cup of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter to 1/4 cup of pineapple juice. You can also try adding some aromatic herbs like cloves for an exclusive aroma.  

After your ham reaches the optimum temperature (250°F), take it out of the smoker and let it cool down to 160°F. Coat the glaze mixture over it. You can keep the coating thickness as per your choice. The more you coat, the thicker the glaze will be. 

Next, line the baking pan with foil paper and put the ham on it. Set the oven to broil and pop in the ham for a short period. Don’t broil for too long or the meat will dry out. 

Step 5: Time to Cut and Serve 

Your ham is ready to serve. But, hold your horses, the carving job is left. Grab a large knife and slice the meat around the center bone following its ridges and curvatures. If you are not an expert in cutting, seek help from someone else or follow a detailed tutorial.

How to Serve a Smoked Ham 

The last step to make your smoked ham outright perfect is to add a side dish alongside.  While there are several options to do this, our personal favorite are: 

Roasted Broccolini 

Roasted broccolini is healthy yet one of simplest side dishes you can prepare within a span of 30 minutes. You just need to preheat your oven to 425°F. Toss some broccolini on a baking sheet, drizzle oil and season with some pepper and salt. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the broccolini is fork-tender. Your dish is ready to serve. 

Mashed Potatoes 

Who does not like the creamy, buttery perfectly mashed potatoes? Besides, if cooking them is easy, there’s no reason why you should skip adding this dish to the menu. All you need is to boil potatoes in saltwater and mesh them into a smooth paste. Pour over a mixture of milk & butter and stir until a creamy texture is formed. Transfer in the serving bowl and season with salt and pepper. That’s it, you are done!  

Black Eyed Peas

The tradition of eating black eyed peas on occasions like New Year never gets old. We suggest you follow the same way especially when it is almost effortless. Soak beans overnight or for around 6 hours. Rinse them and cook in chicken broth (6 cups for 1lb beans) on low flame. Wait until the beans are perfectly tender. Add some spinach at the end. Finish by seasoning with salt and pepper.  

How to Smoke a Ham – Wrap Up   

This guide contains everything you need to know about smoking a ham. Though the procedure is going to try your patience, the flavorful, juicy, crisp and aromatic ham you are going to have is worth all the effort.