How to Smoke a Ham: A Step-by-Step Guide for Delicious Results

Smoking a ham is a delicious way to add flavor to this classic meat. Whether you’re using a pre-cooked ham or a fresh one, smoking it can elevate its taste to the next level. But if you’re new to smoking meat, the process can seem daunting. In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps of smoking a ham, from choosing the right type of ham to preparing and smoking it to perfection.

How to Smoke a Ham: A Step-by-Step Guide for Delicious Results

One of the first things to consider when smoking a ham is the type of ham you’ll be using. There are different types of hams available, including pre-cooked and fresh hams. Pre-cooked hams are already cooked and smoked, so they require less time in the smoker. Fresh hams, on the other hand, are raw and require more time to cook and smoke. We’ll discuss the differences between these types of hams and how to prepare them for smoking. Additionally, we’ll cover the tools and equipment you’ll need to smoke a ham, including smokers, thermometers, and wood chips. So, whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a beginner, follow our guide to smoking a ham and impress your friends and family with your delicious creation.

Choosing the Ham

When it comes to smoking ham, choosing the right ham is crucial to achieving the best results. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a ham:

Smoked Ham vs. Pre-Cooked Ham

There are two types of ham: smoked ham and pre-cooked ham. Smoked ham is uncooked and has been cured with smoke, while pre-cooked ham has been cooked and then smoked. Both types of ham can be smoked, but the cooking time and temperature will vary depending on the type of ham. Pre-cooked ham is often easier to work with since it has already been cooked and is ready to eat, but smoked ham offers a more authentic smoky flavor.

Size of the Ham

The size of the ham is also an important factor to consider. The larger the ham, the longer it will take to smoke. As a general rule, you should plan on smoking the ham for 10-15 minutes per pound. For example, a 10-pound ham will take approximately 2.5-4 hours to smoke.

Best Ham for Smoking

You can find smoked hams for sale in practically any supermarket in the United States. When selecting a ham for smoking, look for a ham that is sweet and has a good texture. The curing process involves nitrates and nitrites, salt, or sugar, which gives the ham its distinct flavor. Some of the best hams for smoking include:

  • Virginia ham
  • Country ham
  • Black Forest ham
  • Honey ham

Meat Selection

When selecting a ham, pay attention to the quality of the meat. Look for a ham that has a good amount of fat and marbling, as this will help keep the meat moist during smoking. Avoid hams that are too lean, as they can dry out quickly.

In summary, choosing the right ham is crucial to achieving the best results when smoking a ham. Consider the type of ham, size, texture, and meat quality when selecting a ham for smoking.

Preparing the Ham

Before smoking your ham, it is essential to prepare it properly to ensure that it is flavorful and juicy. This section will cover two crucial steps in preparing your ham: curing and brining, and injecting the ham.

Curing and Brining

Curing and brining are two methods of preparing your ham for smoking. Curing involves rubbing the ham with a mixture of salt, sugar, and other spices, while brining involves soaking the ham in a saltwater solution.

When curing your ham, it is essential to use the right curing salt, also known as pink salt or sodium nitrite. This salt is necessary to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and to give the ham its characteristic pink color. Curing time varies depending on the size of the ham, but a general rule of thumb is to cure for one day per pound of meat.

When brining your ham, use a brining bag or a container large enough to hold the ham and the brine solution. The brine solution should contain kosher salt, sugar, and pickling spices. Brining time varies depending on the size of the ham, but a general rule of thumb is to brine for one day per pound of meat.

Injecting the Ham

Injecting the ham with a marinade is an excellent way to add flavor and moisture to the meat. To inject the ham, use a marinade injector and inject the marinade into several spots throughout the ham. The marinade can contain a variety of ingredients, such as garlic, herbs, and fruit juices.

When injecting the ham, it is essential to use a table salt and avoid using a curing salt, as injecting a curing salt can be dangerous. Also, make sure to inject the ham just before smoking it to prevent the marinade from spoiling.

Overall, properly preparing your ham before smoking it is crucial to ensure that it is flavorful and juicy. Curing and brining are two excellent methods to prepare your ham, while injecting it with a marinade can add extra flavor and moisture to the meat.

Smoking the Ham

Preparing the Smoker

Before smoking the ham, it is important to prepare the smoker. Clean the smoker thoroughly and ensure that all the parts are working correctly. If you are using a charcoal smoker, light the charcoal and let it burn until it is covered with white ash. If you are using an electric smoker, plug it in and set the temperature to 250°F.

Setting the Temperature

The ideal temperature for smoking a ham is 250°F. This temperature allows the ham to cook low and slow, which results in a tender and juicy ham with a smoky flavor. Use a thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the ham. The ham is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 140°F.

Adding Wood Chips

To add smoke flavor to the ham, add wood chips to the smoker. Cherry, pecan, and apple wood chips are excellent choices for smoking ham. Soak the wood chips in beer or bourbon for added flavor. Add the wood chips to the smoker and let them smoke for about an hour before adding the ham.

Smoking Time

The smoking time for a ham varies depending on the size of the ham. As a general rule, allow for 10 to 15 minutes of smoking time per pound of ham. For example, a 10-pound ham will take about 2.5 to 3.5 hours to smoke.

For a twice smoked ham, smoke the ham for 2 to 3 hours, remove it from the smoker, and let it rest for 30 minutes. Then, slice the ham and place the slices back in the smoker for another hour. This process will give the ham a deeper smoky flavor.

In conclusion, smoking a ham requires proper preparation of the smoker, setting the temperature to 250°F, adding wood chips for smoke flavor, and smoking the ham for the appropriate amount of time. Use a thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the ham to ensure it is fully cooked. By following these steps, you can create a tender and juicy ham with a delicious smoky flavor.

Glazing the Ham

Glazing a ham is a simple yet effective way to add an extra layer of flavor and texture to your smoked ham. Glazes can be sweet, savory, or a combination of both, depending on your preference. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you glaze your ham like a pro:

Choosing the Glaze

When it comes to glazing a ham, the possibilities are endless. You can use your favorite glaze recipe or try something new. Here are a few popular glaze ingredients you might consider:

  • Brown sugar: adds sweetness and caramelization
  • Honey: adds sweetness and a sticky texture
  • Butter: adds richness and a smooth texture
  • Apple juice: adds sweetness and acidity
  • Garlic: adds savory flavor
  • Mustard: adds tanginess and depth of flavor
  • Spices: adds complexity and depth of flavor

Applying the Glaze

Once you have chosen your glaze, it’s time to apply it to your ham. Here’s how:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
  2. Place your smoked ham in a roasting pan.
  3. Brush the glaze over the entire surface of the ham, using a pastry brush or a spoon.
  4. Place the ham in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the glaze is caramelized and bubbly.
  5. Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Tips for Success

  • Be careful not to burn the glaze. Keep an eye on your ham while it’s in the oven and adjust the temperature or time as needed.
  • Use a basting brush or spoon to apply the glaze evenly and avoid clumps.
  • Experiment with different glaze combinations to find your favorite flavor profile.
  • If you’re short on time, you can use a store-bought glaze or skip the glazing altogether.

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to glaze your smoked ham like a pro and impress your guests with your culinary skills.

Serving and Storing the Ham

Once your ham is smoked to perfection, it’s time to serve it up! Keep in mind that smoking a ham can take several hours, so make sure to plan accordingly. Here are some tips for serving and storing your delicious smoked ham:

  • Serving: Before serving your ham, let it rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Carve your ham into thin slices against the grain for maximum tenderness. Serve with your favorite sides, such as roasted potatoes, macaroni and cheese, or a fresh salad.

  • Leftovers: If you have any leftover ham, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also freeze your ham for up to 6 months. To thaw frozen ham, place it in the refrigerator overnight.

  • Potatoes and Macaroni: If you’re serving potatoes or macaroni with your ham, make sure to cook them separately. You don’t want the flavors to mix and create a strange taste.

  • Salads: A fresh salad is a great accompaniment to a smoked ham. Try a simple green salad with a vinaigrette dressing or a fruit salad with seasonal fruits.

  • Clean-up: Smoking a ham can be messy, so make sure to clean up any spills or drips as you go. Use a paper towel to wipe up any excess grease or marinade.

Overall, smoking a ham is a delicious way to add flavor to this classic dish. With these tips, you can serve and store your smoked ham with confidence and ease.


In conclusion, smoking a ham is a great way to add a delicious, smoky flavor to your meat. Whether you’re preparing it for a holiday meal or just a weekend breakfast, a smoked ham is sure to impress your guests.

When smoking a ham, it’s important to use an instant read thermometer to ensure that it reaches the recommended internal temperature of 140°F to 145°F. This will help ensure that any bacteria is killed and that the meat is safe to eat.

If you’re using a ham that is already fully cooked, you can still smoke it to add flavor. However, be sure to take into account the ham’s size and adjust your cooking time accordingly.

Brining your ham before smoking it can also help add flavor and moisture to the meat. Just be sure to use a brine that includes nitrite to help prevent bacteria growth.

While some people choose to wrap their ham in aluminum foil while smoking it, this can actually prevent the meat from developing a pink color and can also make it more difficult to achieve a crispy exterior.

Overall, smoking a ham can be a fun and rewarding experience, as long as you take the necessary precautions to ensure that your meat is safe to eat and that it turns out delicious.

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