How to Smoke a Ham (The Complete Guide)
Ham is a pork cut that covers the entire rear side of the pig. Ham is usually sold as either cured or fresh. The type of ham that you purchase will directly impact its taste.
But once you’ve decided on the type of ham that you want, it is time to smoke it. Here is a stepwise manner on how to proceed.
How to Choose the Best Ham to Smoke
Fresh Ham: Fresh ham is one of the most popular types of ham that people buy to make a smoked ham.
It is easy to control the final flavor using fresh ham, and this type of ham is also a bit cheaper as well.
However, the fresh ham may not be as tender as a cured ham and requires more work to cook properly.
Cured Ham: Most of the time, cured ham is ham that has been partially baked. This partial baking allows the ham to smoke more easily and faster.
The main problem with cured ham is that it can have a salty taste from the baking process.
What You Will Need to Smoke a Ham
8 lbs Fresh or Cured Ham: Depending on your preference or budget, you will need either an 8 lbs fresh or cured ham to feed at most 8 people.
Charcoal Smoker: For the most traditional smoke ham taste, it is best to use a charcoal smoker with wood chips. It takes a little more time to heat up, but the result is well worth the wait.
Wood Chips: You can purchase dry wood chips for barbecue in any local shop. Alternatively, you can cut your own wood chunks from firewood using an axe.
1/4 Cup Seasoning: The seasoning that you use will depend on your personal taste. You can buy premade seasoning for smoked ham. Of course, you can also prepare your own seasoning as well.
A popular spicy seasoning recipe for smoke ham is a mixture of paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and onion powder.
1/4 Cup Yellow Mustard: You will need yellow mustard to rub on top of your ham during seasoning. This ingredient is cheap and readily available anywhere.
Meat Thermometer: A meat thermometer is a vital tool when smoking a ham. It will allow you to get the exact temperature of the ham to get the right taste.
1-quart Apple Juice or Water: You can use apple juice to get a little extra flavor. However, you can also use water as well.
Spray Bottle: A spray bottle will help keep the ham moist with apple juice or water.
1 Cup Brown Sugar: Brown sugar is used to caramelize the smoked ham.
How to Smoke Your Ham
Step 1 - Prepare the Smoker
The first step is to start your smoker. Light up your charcoal and let it preheat.
Vent the hot charcoal with a fan for a few minutes and wait until all the wood chips are red-hot. This will ensure a uniform temperature distribution on your ham.
Try to get the temperature between 220°F and 230°F. Keep in mind that the best temperature for smoking ham is 225°F.
Step 2 - Cut the Ham
If your butcher has not already cut your Ham to size, you need to do it with a large chef knife.
Furthermore, prepare the ham for the seasoning process. For this, lightly cut through the surface of the ham in a grind formation.
This will allow the seasoning to penetrate deeper to deliver a richer taste.
Step 3 - Season of the Ham
Apply a thin coat of yellow mustard on top of the ham. Then press the mustard with your hands to make it go deeper inside.
Once your mustard has been applied, go ahead and apply a generous layer of seasoning.
Let the ham sit in the open air for a few minutes. This will allow the mustard and seasoning to seep into the flesh naturally.
Step 4 - Smoke the Ham
Now comes the interesting part. You are ready to smoke your ham.
Bring the temperature of the grille to between 220°F and 230°F. Then place the ham on the grate and close the lid if your smoker has one.
It usually takes around 20 minutes per pound of ham to be smoked. Therefore, you need to calculate the total amount of time-based on the weight of your ham.
For example, an 8 lbs ham will need 2.5 hours to be fully smoked. Of course, it also depends on the type of ham you use. A cured ham will smoke faster than fresh ham as it has been pre-baked.
Regularly check the temperature of the ham using your meat thermometer. Ensure that it is close to 225°F. If not, you will need to adjust the temperature of the grille appropriately.
And to ensure your ham does not burn, check the smoking process every hour. Spray a fine mist of apple juice on top. It will help keep the ham moist and prevent the outer crust from charring.
Not to mention that the apple juice will provide some extra flavor to it. But if you don’t want this extra flavor, a fine mist of water will be just fine.
You will know that your ham has been fully smoked when the outer crust has darkened completely. Some partial black burnt spots are normal, and you can easily scratch it away.
Step 5 – Caramelize the Crust
Once your ham has been cooked, you can spread a brown sugar glaze on top. This will caramelize into a thick and crispy crust.
Let this crust set for at least 30 minutes. You can then remove this crust with a knife. The brown sugar crust will help sweeten the ham as well as remove any excessive smoke odor.
Step 6 - Ready to Serve
Let your ham rest in the open air for another 30 minutes. The meat fibers will tenderize, allowing the ham to retain its juices.
The ham is now ready to be served. Use a sharp knife to cut thin slices and use as many portions as necessary.
There you have it. By using those simple steps, you can now smoke a ham like a professional.
Go ahead and invite friends and family for your next barbecue. Good appetite.