Pork is one of the most diverse meats that you can buy.
You can roast it, broil it and grill it, making a delicious filling for a sandwich or a center dish of a large four-course meal.
But as many meat-lovers will be able to attest, probably the best way to prepare a ham is by firing up your barbeque and getting it smoked.
Nothing quite compares to the texture and flavor of smoked ham. The slow cooking process allows the ham to stew in its juices, the exterior caramelizing for that melt-in-the-mouth texture.
But smoking a ham properly is always a source of dispute amongst those who embark upon it.
Different people have different techniques and preparation methods that will tweak your ham’s flavor and texture.
So how can you get a fresh ham ready for smoking? What materials should you rub it with before sticking it in your smoker?
What wood is the best to use for smoking? How do you stop your precious meat from drying out?
Well, whether you’re new to meat smoking or have plenty of experience in the smoking game, there’ll be plenty in the article for you to improve your meat preparation and roasting.
We cover the best materials for basting your ham, along with some tried-and-tested smoking techniques, from putting it into the oven to getting it ready for the slice.
What You’ll Need To Smoke A Ham
If you’re new to ham smoking, then you’ll want to pay attention to this next section.
Before you even set out to pick up your joint, you might want to make sure you have some of the following:
A smoker - this should go without saying. You might want to do a bit of smoker research to find out the capabilities of your average meat roaster.
Charcoal - have a spare bag of charcoal ready so that you can maintain the heat of your smoker as and when you need to.
Ham - the ham is usually found at the rear of the pig and is sold in two halves: shank and butt. The shank is generally a lot more affordable and contains some bone although the butt has a lot more meat for your money. When it comes to smoking a ham, the size is not that important. You just need to know how much meat you’ll want.
Rubbing ingredients - there are numerous herbs and peppers to give your ham that sumptuous flavor, some of which include black pepper, kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, dried thyme and dried oregano.
Yellow mustard - for basting and adhering the spice rub.
An empty spray bottle
When it comes to wood chunks, many options will complement whatever flavors you have already added to your ham.
Hickory, cherry or apple wood is great for giving you ham that extra sweetness.
Apple and cherry sauce are traditionally ideal compliments for this type of dry, salty meat.
Get Some Heat Going
Raw ham needs roughly 15-20 minutes per round of cooking to get fully smoked, so you need to plan your cooking session as carefully as you can.
We would strongly recommend preheating your smoker to ensure that it is ready to cook as soon as you place it in. Once the charcoal has been scattered in your drum, you can light it. Wait until the charcoals have ashed over and you can see the inside of your coals glowing.
Now you can add your wood. Close the lid of your smoker and allow the flavored smoke to circulate inside.
Ideally, the temperature of your smoker should reach somewhere between 220-230 degrees. Make sure you’re withdrawing your ham regularly to check on the meat.
Make Sure The Ham Is Ready
While your smoker is firing up, you can take the opportunity to get your ham ready.
Using a sharp meat knife, cut a diamond pattern into the skin and fat of your ham, making sure not to go deeper than a quarter of an inch into the meat. You’re doing this to create more surface area to rub the spice in, as well as ensuring that the skin gets nice and crispy.
Coat the yellow mustard all over the entire ham. Even though it will add a degree of flavor, it is mainly to ensure that the spice will cling and rub into the ham as well as possible.
Mix all of your rubbing spices and coat the entirety of your slicked ham.
Smoking The Ham
Now, this is the bit you’ve been waiting for… smoking the ham! Make sure that you’re keeping the temperature regular, somewhere between 220-230 degrees, either by adding more charcoal or increasing the gas to your smoker. Also, make sure to add more damp wood if you want to increase the flavor.
Fill the spray bottle with the pineapple juice and spray the ham with it every hour, rubbing it down every time. This will add a little sugar and help the ham to caramelize.
Keeping An Eye On Your Ham
The core temperature of your ham needs to get to around 190 degrees to be ready to eat, although you want to make sure that your skin cools down to avoid burning the spice coating.
When you are two-thirds of the way through your smoking (roughly 15-20 minutes per pound of ham), then insert your thermometer to check the inner temperature. Once it has reached 160 degrees, then take the ham from the smoker and wrap it in a layer of tin foil, leaving a small opening to allow the smoke to continue infusing the meat.
Then replace it in the smoker until it reaches the desired 190 degrees.
The Big Slice
Once you have reached 190 degrees, remove it from the smoker and let it sit for around 25-30 minutes. This will allow the ham's juice to soak through the body of the meat and will prevent it from becoming dry.
Once you’ve passed 30 minutes, grab yourself a knife and start carving up your delicious smoked ham. Enjoy!