How To Smoke A Ham
Smoking is a delicious yet often underutilized way to imbue your foods with additional flavor. Sure, you could cut corners and use something like liquid smoke or some magic combination of spices that your buddy swears is "just like real smoke flavor", but we all know it's not the same. If you're jonesing for some smoked meat, there's no other choice but to get out there and smoke some meat.
Smoked ham is a great meat to try out when you're first getting into the swing of things, especially if you don't really know how smoking works. How do you smoke? What do you smoke with? What are the best techniques for smoking? Should you check the meat often? These questions and more are about to be answered as we cover how to perfectly smoke a ham.
What You Need
The kind of wood you will use for smoking will depend on the area you live in and your taste preference. Hickory is a popular option, as is cherry wood. There are plenty of guides online that can give you an idea of what a particular kind of wood smoke will taste like on your meat, letting you plan what kind you'd like to try and give you ideas for mixing different types of wood. We also have an article on 5 Things You Must Know To Use Wood Chips For smoking.
With supplies gathered, we'll finally be able to move on to the process of smoking your ham.
Step 1: Prep Work
What you put in your spice rub will depend on personal tastes. Salt, sugar, onion powder, and paprika are all popular options. Any kind of barbecue spice mix could work, as well. Here's a great and quick recipe for a rub you could try if you don't feel like experimenting on your own.
Step 2: Seasoning the Ham
Once the rub is assembled and mixed together, take a sharp knife and cut perpendicular lines through just the skin on your ham (it should look like a checker board by the time you're done). Coat your ham in the rub and pat it firmly against all sides, making sure the rub gets into the cuts you made. Place your ham on a metal baking sheet and cover it with plastic wrap, placing it in the refrigerator for at least four hours and up to fourteen to allow the meat to absorb the flavor.
Step 3: Starting the Smoker
This step can change depending on what you use to smoke with. For the purposes of this list, though, we'll be using a wood fired smoker, though these same steps can be applied regardless of the smoker you choose to use. Simply light a few chunks of charcoal and your wood chips (or log if you prefer) and allow the smoker to come to temperature, somewhere between 230 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 4: Smoking the Ham
Take the ham out of the fridge and remove the plastic wrap, letting it warm up slightly for half an hour (to save time, you could do this part right before you start up your smoker). After the ham has come up to temperature, place it directly onto the smoker grate, flat side down. Avoid placing it too close to the firebox, as this could cause the sugars on the outside of the ham to burn rather than caramelize.
You'll want to smoke your ham for at least three hours, though you should only go longer at your own peril. Keep the heat at a consistent temperature for the entire time. If the heat starts to drop down, adjust the temperature as needed and check to see if you need to add more charcoal or wood to keep the firing burning hot and the smoke cloud dense.
While your ham smokes, try to avoid messing with it as much as possible. The only exception to this is when you're adding flavor to it mid-smoke. While these steps are optional, they make your meat that much more succulent and delicious and are more than worth the effort.
Every half hour, thoroughly spritz your ham with apple juice in a spray bottle. This helps the meat to retain its moisture and caramelizes on the outside. After around two and half hours of smoking, you can apply barbecue sauce to the outside of the ham, coating liberally. You can either make your own or use your favorite store brand. Additionally, you could mix around 1/4 of a cup of honey into your sauce for extra sweetness and to add a marvelous shine to the outside of your ham once it's finished.
Step 5: Serving It Up
Once you've reached your desired level of smokiness, take your ham out of the smoker and serve it however you like. As the ham was already cooked before you started the smoking process, you won't need to let it rest before digging in. This also means you're not really shooting for any specific internal temperature; as long as the meat is hot, it's ready to eat. Though you could go through the trouble of slicing it up into portions, it's much easier and a lot more fun to just plate it up on a serving platter and let people hack off however much they want from the sides.
Do you want to impress your guests even more? We have a perfect recipe for Best Honey Glazed Ham, check it out!
With these simple tips and the right materials on hand, you should be ready to smoke your ham like a pro. How'd you like this guide? Have any tips or tricks on smoking meat you'd like to tell us about? What's your favorite way to eat ham? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Ham?
A good rule of thumb is to allow 15 to 20 minutes per pound of ham. Most hams weigh about 8 pounds, so it should take about 2 to 3 hours. Since the ham is already cooked before smoking it, you don’t need to use a meat thermometer to know when it is done. Smoking your ham for longer than 3 hours will not add extra smoke flavor and can cause the ham to dry out.
How Do you Make a Glaze for Ham?
Glazes for ham are usually made with brown sugar or honey. Dissolve the sugar or honey into water or a sweet mixture (like apple juice or apple cider). This mixture can be spritzed on the ham every hour using a spray bottle, or you can mop it on using a brush. As the ham cooks, the mixture will create a glaze over the surface of the ham.
How Do You Smoke a Ham in a Smoker?
Using a smoker is the easiest way to smoke a ham. Place the ham, fat side up, into the smoker and close the lid. Closing the lid will both keep the heat in and also allow the maximum amount of smoke to penetrate the ham. The ham is done as soon as it's heated through, although you can smoke it for 2 to 3 hours for a full smoky flavor.
What Temperature Should You Smoke a Ham?
To prevent it from drying out, ham should be smoked at a low temperature, somewhere between 230 and 250 degrees F.
Is a Cured Ham Fully Cooked?
Cured hams are often labeled “cooked.” They have been brined and pre-cooked and can be eaten out of the bag, but they taste better when they are heated. Heating them at too high temperatures can cause them to dry out, so it is best to cook these hams at low temperatures.